A couple of people have asked me just what it’s like. I guess the question is: What do I do all day? I don’t know either. But here is a travel through a day, and through the hours. I don’t usually look at a watch, unless it is Wednesday night, when Milo and I have Tae Kwon Do, or Sunday morning. Who needs a watch, when you live in a sundial? A yurt is that, you know; it’s a round thing with a hole in the top. We can tell time by the sun. And this life — the life that I so lovingly and fearfully pursue — is more bound by the travel of the orbs than by the chiming of the hour. The order that is not the order of the engineer…
One: Vigil into Dawn
The rooster crows in the dark. Stella says, “The rooster is making a mistake.” But the rooster knows. Dawn is coming. I hear the rooster several times before I get up. I’m watching for something else. That faint light growing in the window. Inside I might need a flashlight to find my shoes. But outside there is plenty of light to start the chores, and only half a dozen stars. I feed the dog, the ducks, the chickens. I open their doors. I fill their water dishes. I get water in buckets from the pond and put it on the garden. By now there is color in the eastern sky. I sit on a packing blanket and do Shamatha meditation until the sun breaks over the opposite ridge.
Two: Dawn into Terce (Morning)
I get a little writing time in the mornings. Sometimes it is only a half hour. Sometimes it is an hour and a half. I go to a meadow a tenth of a mile away from the yurt and sit on a tree stump, or in my car. Or I drive a mile down to a neighbor’s house and use the Internet. Sometimes I work on this blog, but just as often I am working on revising the manuscript in which I tell the story of my year without the Internet. It’s the best writing environment I’ve ever had. Tall trees and sky. I breathe deep. Nick is feeding everybody breakfast.
Three: Terce into Noon
I get back to the yurt and trade my monastery for a zoo. Sadie cackles at me and tries to crawl up my pant legs. Stella and Milo are talking at once. Nick goes to work on something, sometimes a job away from home, sometimes a project on the property, sometimes just to drink coffee and sharpen his chainsaw. I eat by myself and wash up. Now it’s full light in the yurt, and the sun spot travels down the west wall and across the kitchen counter while I do two hours of “school” with the kids. Some days I am Pollyanna positive and prepared and a wonderful teacher. And other days, not.
Four: Noon into Afternoon
When the sun spot hits the floor it’s time for lunch. Sadie naps. The rest of us eat peanut butter sandwiches and applesauce and I drink the last of the coffee out of the thermos. We strip off our long-sleeved shirts and do the midday chores. Stella collects the eggs. We let the chickens out. I spread chips, chop wood, collect debris, harvest from our little test garden. Sometimes I help Nick with a project. Or, on very lucky days, the kids will help Nick with a project, and I’ll sit in the rocking chair and read a book.
Five: Afternoon into Vespers
When the sun spot starts to climb the bunk beds we have to go somewhere. The yurt is stuffy. And we’re all a little sun-crazy. The kids are probably fighting. Maybe we go down to visit a neighbor. Or we drive to the church garden and collect produce, watching out for the rattlesnakes in the piles of lava rock. Or we just walk down our own road and name things. Mouse Pond. Orange Tree. Pine Moon. Round Circle. By the time we get back the deck is shaded again and the garden is cool.
Six: Vespers into Compline
Sadie takes another nap, which is enough for me to get a gravity-fed shower and start the dinner, if I plan it right. I roll out egg noodles about every other day, and once a week we eat meat. The other days are beans and rice. And whatever vegetables we have. After dinner the sky is already fading into gray, and I know all the work has to get done before the light is gone. (This is the true judge of a day. If I can’t get my work put away by night I have done too much. And I am always doing too much.) We wash up the dishes. We put away the tools. And toys. I try not to bark at the children, but I am working against a deep instinct of fear. Night in the woods is not a joke. We feed the dog again. We lock up the chickens and the ducks. Usually we do get it all done by darkness. And if we don’t, we finish up with flashlights…grace. The kids get into pajamas, brush their teeth, hear stories piled in the rocking chair, and climb up into their bed, where they will sleep head to foot like sardines.
Seven: Compline into Vigil
I light a candle and set it on the kitchen table and then I sit on my bed and nurse Sadie while each of the big kids gets to request one bedtime song and one prayer. Sadie falls asleep. The big kids don’t. They will giggle at each other, or fight, or make shadows on the ceiling for at least another twenty minutes while Nick and I sit in camp chairs up by the sandbox and look at the stars. Sometimes we play the guitar. Sometimes we just talk about stuff. Then we blow out the candle and lie down and trust (because what else can you do, but trust?) that the rooster and the dawn will start it all again.