Waking up every day at Elephant Belly Sanctuary is a miracle.
At dawn, Monroe, my little blonde Doodle, eats her early morning meal while I fill the light-blue Le Creuset tea kettle with the ice-cold well water and put it on the burner. Five tight scoops of blended coffee fall into the French press, and then Monroe and I head out to take care of the ladies.
The Chickenbergs, my family of rescued hens, are always excited to welcome the new day. I open their coop and they come pouring out with their soft baulk-baulks and feather shakes. I throw them a scoop of scratch, fill their water and feed, and do a quick check of their feet, combs, and eyes. I love how they all say good morning in their own way.
I head to the garage, fill the gray bucket with four scoops of black sunflower seeds and walk into the back yard. The first view of the heart-shaped mountains, the Hudson Highlands, is breathtaking. At this time of year, the trees are bare and the pink sunrise illuminates their vulnerability. The peaks stand strong, naked, and still. Taking a deep breath in, I feel like the mountains, alive and excited to feel the warmth of the morning sun.
The birds – black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, and downy woodpeckers – meet me on my way to the feeders. And the fat squirrels hide on the edge of the forest, waiting for their morning snack. I say hello with a smile and fill the feeders to the brim.
Before heading back inside, I am certain to check the cairns that mark the memory of our dear bunnies: The Roosevelts – Franklin, Eleanor, and Teddy. Rescued, deeply loved, and lost … I pause … my eyes still stinging with tears – and straighten the balancing stones.
Monroe and I head back inside, pour the boiling water into the press, warm the soy milk, hit the five-minute timer, and we sit for our morning love session. I pet her, kiss her, love her as she burrows her head into my lap. Her face so soft and smelly. Her blonde curls, wispy and cute. Her bumpy old body tight and little. We kiss and coo and cuddle. Smile and love and lay side by side, gazing into each other’s eyes.
The timer beeps and the coffee is ready. Once poured and prepared perfectly, I bring the two cups of liquid love into the bedroom – with my Doodle right behind me. My Love is sleeping soundly with her Chloe – a black and white Shih Tzu – curled around her head like a cat. Warm, still, breathing sweetly, they are one animal resting in a bed of cozy blankets and dreams. I set the coffee on her nightstand and whisper, “Good Morning, my love, your coffee is ready.”
There is a song we sing in the morning and it goes like this:
“It’s a beautiful day in Cold Spring, What a wonderful day in Cold Spring!
Gonna love my baby in Cold Spring, It’s gonna be a wonderful day.”
L Leeds Meyers, VLCE, is the Co-Founder of Elephant Belly Sanctuary, a vegan and sober community in Cold Spring, New York. L spends her days bringing the practice of compassionate leadership into her work as an executive in the nonprofit space. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal sanctuaries and advocates for freedom and peace for all living beings. Through her writing, L hopes to raise awareness of non-harming lifestyles, the importance of kindness, and repairing the health of our planet. Her website is lleedsmeyers.com and she may be contacted at email@example.com. The above is an excerpt from the manuscript, In the Heart of the Belly: Stories from Elephant Belly Sanctuary, by L Leeds Meyers