on sundays

For the first time I can remember, I am experiencing Sundays the way it seems they ought to be experienced: as a day of reflection, rest and rejuvenation.

As a student and especially while I was teaching, Sundays were more anxiety-ridden than relaxing. After waking up in what was often hungover misery, I whiled away hours trying to hang onto the freedom of the weekend and stave off the impending resumption of responsibilities, which always inevitably took the form of late nights in the library working on homework or trying (usually unsuccessfully) to come up with lesson plans. I remember the whole day feeling like a ticking time bomb, and my near constant anticipation of the clock reaching zero left me little space to enjoy what time I had.

Here, the nature of Sundays and the way that it fits into the flow and rhythm of the week is quite different.

We work on Saturdays until noon, so Sunday is the only full day we have off. It's holy. I like to do my town runs to pick up groceries and run other errands on Saturday afternoons, so that there aren't any "to-dos" burdening down the openness of Sundays. I try to preserve its sacredness.

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Sky the dog is a frequent companion on my Sunday strolls. She does her best to chase down jackrabbits and prairie dogs but never strays too far from me.

My ritual is this: I generally sleep until the ungodly hour of 7 or 8am, at which point the light in my room makes it impossible to stay in bed any longer. I make a pot of coffee, fill up a thermos, and walk out to say good morning to the horses. For the most part, whenever we see the horses during the week, it's because we have a task to do with them. Sundays are days of rest for them as well, and it's nice to simply be with them, observe them and enjoy their company for it's own sake. If they're lucky, I have a bag of carrots to share with them. I like to saunter around for at least an hour, enjoying the soft morning light as the sun warms up the sky. I think there's an element of worship in this practice.

As a side note, something unusual about my experience is the constancy of place: my place of work is also my home, so the weekend isn't a disruption of location. Everything stays the same except for the pace of time. This provides the opportunity to enjoy the things around us that we use as tools during the week--the animals and the land--in their natural states of being.

The heart of the day is spent working on personal projects. Zoe likes to paint, Kerstin works in the leathershop, I write this email. I edit photos to be posted on the ranch Facebook page. I read. Today I worked on my going-away present for Kerstin, who will fly home to Germany on Thanksgiving day. In the evening (weather permitting), I take another walk to say goodnight to both the sun and the horses.

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My Sunday angels. I'm completely in love with Cricket, the horse on the right. She is such a delight to ride.

During the workweek, I am almost always working alongside at least one other person on any given task--work is also highly social--but Sundays are private, which everyone here seems to appreciate and respect. While Headquarters functions as everyone's home base during the week, on Sundays we all retire to our individual homes on different parts of the ranch. For 24 hours, everyone disengages from the communal participation in ranch operations and moves in their own individual orbits, so that we may return Monday morning renewed and refocused.

The physically strenuous demands of the work week necessitate having this day of regeneration, just for the sake of the body. By Saturday mornings, coffee doesn't cut it and I'm eating candy for breakfast to be able to make it through the day. But this complete physical exhaustion has the parallel effect of engendering the possibility of mental as well as physical renewal. Resetting the body also resets the mind. Sunday functions as the release--the opportunity for recalibration after days of high energy expenditure--so the contrast of having an entirely leisurely, quiet day is all the more striking, and I find that it heightens its delight. Part of my contentment also comes from the very important fact that I don't dread Monday mornings, which I take to be a good sign. Sundays prime me to look forward to the adventures and experiences that the coming week will bring.

Of course, the type of Sunday we have here wouldn't be everyone's idea of fun. If you spent your week doing largely solitary work, in front of a computer, or indoors, you might need to rebalance on the weekend by spending time with friends, in highly stimulating environments, or by actually exhausting pent up reserves of energy. I can very clearly imagine some of you becoming antsy, bored or lonely on a Chico Sunday afternoon. Everyone requires something unique to reinvigorate their soul, depending on their own nature. What we have here is simply what suits me, and I'm grateful to have found it.