As my bedroom gradually becomes brighter with the glow of the rising sun, I open my eyes. Outside my large bedroom window is an expanse of land that seems to roll on forever to the South, with forest to the North. I smile and throw my arms overhead in a rolly-polly stretch, arching my back to and fro, stretching one leg over my hip, and then the other before my legs swing off the side of the bed and my feet greet the cool floor. I saunter out the door to the sun room where my yoga mat and meditation shrine live, accompanied by various hanging and potted plants, spending a good half hour stretching, praying, and smiling there, preparing for the day ahead.
On the way to the kitchen is Stella's door. Stella's door is covered with the drawings of whatever it may be that she is most passionate and proud of at the moment. My favorite is the poem she wrote using the letters of her name as the first letter of each sentence. I am enamored by her everyday, still, always. Stella's door is slightly ajar. Peeking in, I see her stretched across the entirety of the bed, her arms over her head and legs stretched as far as they could go, just like when she was a baby. I can't believe how fast she is growing. I am so incredibly proud of the person she is becoming. Her face is serene, deep in some wild and blissful dream. I stand there for a moment longer, I could stay forever, watching my daughter, Stella, sleep. A glow of maternal love consumes me and is radiated from my heart, I smile.
After doing some typical household chores, whistling, I might add, in my beautiful open layout bright and breezy somewhere between the mountains and town home, I start breakfast. Stella and I collected a new round of eggs from the chicken coop yesterday, and every cell in my body vibrates with satisfaction at the sound of the egg shell cracking against the frying pan rings out and yields a dark orange yolk sizzling onto the pan. The coffee pot gurgles, the rooster crows, and as I cook a sleepy eyed bed headed Stella plops down on a stool on the island behind me. "Good morning, honey bunches of oats. Did you have any dreams?". With a yawn and a stretch Stella begins to hazily recount her dream, growing more vibrant and awake as the details of the dream, or her morning story, intensify. I hand her her plate and sit down across from her with mine. She nips and bites at her breakfast between her description and analysis of her dream, barely hearing me when I remind her to finish chewing before she speaks. By time the meal is done Stella is in full force, ready for the day.
Once the dishes are done and we've finished brushing our teeth and getting dressed, we're off to feed the animals and tend the garden. We are a part of a co-op with a chicken coop, five goats, three alpacas, and a few cats that hang around, coming and going as they please. Every day these creatures bring joy, friendship, and a new adventure into our lives, not to mention the sustenance and nourishment we are able to share with the community in the form of eggs, goats milk and cheese(with herbs from our garden, of course, eventually honey from our bees), and wool. It can be hard-getting-your-hands-dirty-sweating-in-the-sun kind of work, but it's the kind of work I like, and the kind of work I can feel good about at the end of the day. I am happy to bring Stella up in an environment where she knows exactly where her food comes from, between our homestead and other members of the local community, where she is integrally connected to the entire process. Not to mention the lessons in work ethic, attitude, empathy, and responsibility. Whether or not she would continue this lifestyle is solely up to her, but I like to think the values will shape her character and help her make good decisions throughout the rest of her life.
When we arrive at the garden some of the other members of the co-op are there with their children of varying ages. We all talk and share as we work, Stella chattering excitedly and flitting about, fascinated by some bug or plant or cloud or the shape a vegetable has taken, perhaps taking interest in the care of the newest addition to the community or enamored by the childhood wisdom of one of the older kids. I am grateful for the diverse influences of the different people Stella has in her life. Before we know it, it's time for lunch. No amount of freshly picked green beans can surmount the rumble in the belly of a hard worker. Stella and I head back to the house with a some fresh veggies, our share for the day, waving good-bye to our friends, animal and human alike.
After a hearty lunch it's time to study. Stella attends a local Montessori hybrid school part time, and we continue the rest at home. History, math, science, literature, geography, languages. music, philosophy- I love how this style of education caters to Stella's individual interests and talents, challenging her adequately while encouraging her natural thirst for knowledge and wonderment with the world at large. I cherish spending this time with Stella, teaching her, learning from her, watching her grow. Once we've finished our lesson and it's time for some independent study/play, I move to the far corner of our living area where I have a little work station of my own. I read or paint or weave or write or research- and let's be real, fold some laundry- available to my daughter should she have a question, an idea she'd like to share, or is struggling with anything.
Once Stella is done with her work and I've wrapped up what I'm up to, we start dinner. Every month there is a communal dinner where everyone from the co op spends the day at the local park, engrossed in cooking and conversation and discussion about the successes and challenges of the co-op. For special celebrations, the women come together and make flower crowns to wear and dance in, celebrating each other and themselves throughout the whole process. Those congregations always end in a bonfire and music, the people of the community coming together in collective love, celebrating life and each other for all that it is and all as they are. Some evenings friends or family will come by and join us, but tonight it's just us. As I prep and cook the meal I integrate Stella in the process as much as her attention span that day will allow. We eat, we talk, we clean up, and now it's time for the evening walk. My favorite part of the day.
Sometimes we're joined by the neighbors or one of their dogs, but tonight it's just us. Stella will intermittently wander off, lost in her own train of thought or investigating something curious. Some nights we talk incessantly, some nights we don't speak at all. A vine riddled archway marks the end of our yard. We continue on the path up the hill, stop to check the gardens and the animals, and back down the hill to the woods and ravine. In the summer the line of the woods glitters with fireflies, resembling some kind of fairy wonderland with stone garden chairs and a table just passed a small foot bridge over the ravine. A fair bit passed the foot bridge and stone table, is a clearing where someone has built a labyrinth, a winding path marked by stone. We save our excursions to the labyrinth for special or evenings, or evenings where some internal struggle or questions needs resolve. The air smells like dirt and grass and leaves, like flowers in the spring. It glides over the hills and dances with the grass, with our noses and fingertips and hair. Water bubbles and gurgles in the distance, birds are making their last calls as the creatures of the night begin to stir.
By time we get back to the house it is nearly dark. We commence our nightly routine, and settle into bed. I read Stella her favorite story of the moment, or the next chapter of a classic novel, or my favorite, Stella tells me one of her stories. Once her eyes have hesitantly fluttered shut and she is asleep, I kiss her forehead and get up, shutting her light and taking another long gaze at her before I leave the room. My heart beams with pride and joy, warm in my core, whether a rough day or an ideal one. I am grateful.
I walk through the house straightening up, turning the lights low, lighting candles. The living area of the house has rounded archways, stucco walls, and wood beams protruding here and there. I might light up the fireplace and read, watch a movie, go back to my desk and continue a project from that afternoon or one long awaiting completion. I even might go to the barn in the yard and tinker with some welding, wood work, or a large weaving or painting. Tonight, I continue planning our month long road trip to big sur or into the desert, or our national park tour. When that's all done, I return to my meditation sanctuary to stretch and reflect, practice gratitude always, and meditate before bed.
As I settle in and my eyelids begin to get heavy, I smile and think...What a great day.