Sunday Routine | Isabel Allende
Nurturing Her Family and Her Tribe
for The New York Times
Isabel Allende, with her husband, William Gordon, and their rescue dog, Olive, likes to have a full house on Sundays.
By TRACEY TAYLOR
Published: April 9, 2010
Isabel Allende always begins writing a new book on Jan. 8, a tradition that began in 1981 with a letter she wrote to her dying grandfather that would become the groundwork for her first novel, “The House of Spirits.” Since then, Ms. Allende has written 17 books, among them “Paula,” a memoir in the form of a letter to her daughter who died in 1992. Born in Chile in 1942, Ms. Allende fled to Venezuela when her family began receiving death threats after the military coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973. She is first cousin once removed to President Salvador Allende, who died in the coup. She lives in Marin County with her second husband, William Gordon. (Her words have been edited and condensed.) TRACEY TAYLOR
CANINE PRIORITIES The first hint of light through the curtains wakes up Olive, our dog, and then our day starts. She jumps on the bed and demands her breakfast. We rescued her, and now we serve her.
MORNING RITUALS Willie, my husband, brings me a big — really big — cup of coffee with milk in bed. I drink my coffee slowly, enjoying the moment. Then we take Olive for a walk, usually to Samuel P. Taylor State Park. I have a favorite trail where I always reflect or pray a little. It’s where we scattered my daughter’s ashes. We stop at Two Bird Cafe in West Marin or Comforts in San Anselmo for breakfast. Coffee and toast is good enough, sometimes oatmeal.
DAILY MISSIVE We do some chores, like Costco, or the Farmers’ Market. At home, Willie reads the paper while I write to my mother, who is 90 and lives in Chile. I write to her every day, and she responds with beautiful, handwritten letters.
NURTURING THE TRIBE In summer we may have a full house on Sunday. When I moved here, I missed my extended Chilean family, so slowly I put together my “tribe.” We are between 10 and 17 people. If the tribe is coming for dinner, I cook the main course and sometimes dessert. Willie cooks the rest of the week; Sunday is his day off. In winter I may cook a Chilean vegetable stew (charquicán) and filet mignon, or a coq au vin, or beef stew. For dessert, a Chilean flan de leche, my son’s favorite.
FAMILY TIME My Sundays are ideal, especially when the family is around. I love to have all the kids in the pool (five grandchildren plus their friends), the women in the kitchen cooking and gossiping, the men watching a game. It’s like an Italian movie.
A SCRIBE’S CALL I try not to work on Sundays, but if I am in my writing time (Jan. 8 to around May), I may sneak to my casita to work if we have no guests. The casita was meant to be the pool house, but it ended up being my studio. I’m working on another novel, and I’m very busy now.
EARLY RETIREMENT If we are alone, we may watch a movie in bed. If we have company, Willie and Olive go to bed early, often before the guests leave. I go to bed later.
A version of this article appeared in print on April 11, 2010, on page A25A of the National edition..