On a May morning, Shiva Rose‘s lush backyard is humming with earth’s music. Birds sing, bees buzz around the lavender blooms and the winds from the Pacific Ocean rustle the leaves in the majestic eucalyptus trees. The temperature has already reached 85 degrees, but underneath the massive foliage the air is cool and breezy. “This is where I feel centered,” says the actress of her California haven, which sits in a canyon and borders a creek. “This is where I go to feel at peace.”
The past four years have been turbulent for Shiva, who divorced actor Dylan McDermott in 2010 and now raises their two daughters Colette, 18 and Charlotte, 8. “My life fell apart,” she says. “It was really difficult. But you know what? It was also very healing. It felt as if I was building something in the dark, and when I woke up I had somehow created the life I wanted.”
That life includes a mid-century home in Pacific Palisades, complete with an organic garden and a bee hive. “I didn’t take much with me from my marriage,” she says, “so I started from scratch.” Here, Shiva has created a space that is entirely her own, using fabric and furniture gathered from all over the world. Together with her daughters, she also grows vegetables and keeps two hens for eggs. “This life was born out of a place of despair,” she says, “but it has blossomed into something wonderful.”
In a touching interview, Shiva opens up about finding happiness, how she raises her daughters and her tips for living a healthy, holistic life.
Ulrica: Tell me how you arrived at the decision to live a simpler life.
Shiva: After my divorce, I instinctively sought out things that gave me peace. Nature and walks in the woods really comforted me. It felt good to be surrounded by trees! So when I found this house, it felt like a safe haven for my girls and I. I love the song [Anthem] by Leonard Cohen. There’s a line that goes, ‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’ I have returned to that line over and over again and thought, ‘Okay, it’s not so devastating.’
Ulrica: Your daughters get access to very little television, no plastic toys and no cellphones until 9th grade! I love that so much.
Shiva: I always gravitated towards that, even before there was all the research to back it up. Children get so bombarded with tons of toys and media, and it’s hard for them to find their own authentic voice. I wanted to make it easier for them. I wanted them to discover what they thought beautiful and interesting and fun, and not what someone else told them to. I believe imagination and a sense of self develops better if children can create things themselves. And in the long run, they turn into happier people.
The open floor plan combines the living room, the dining room and a kitchen that opens up to the garden.
Ulrica: What are your rules about television and computers?
Shiva: They don’t play video games and they never have. It’s never been an issue. They usually only watch television on the weekends, and then we like to watch movies together. We love Japanese film maker Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, such as Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Shiva stays away from plastic in her home, and keeps her food — including grains and cereals — in glass jars.
Ulrica: How did your 18-year-old daughter react when she didn’t get a cellphone until 9th grade?
Shiva: She wasn’t actually upset about it and she didn’t fight me on it. I think she liked that she was different, and I believe it helped her use her own imagination and listen to her own heart. Social media is so transient, and it’s about comparing what you have and don’t have. It comes from a place of lack instead of filling yourself up. It’s not good to be exposed to it before you’ve developed a strong sense of self. Now that she’s 18, she has a phone and a computer that she uses for school. But she’s not obsessed with either one. I still find her painting in the garden.
The main bedroom with its vintage vanity.
Ulrica: Since you spend so little time on “entertainment,” what do you and your girls do instead?
Shiva: We spend time in the garden together. We take walks and hikes, and we just got a dog so we go to the dog park. We like to bake. We paint and do projects, but like any mother, I never feel I do enough. I’m not the greatest at doing a lot of crafts. I never feel I do enough cooking! I think as mothers, we get down on ourselves and I’m no exception. I always think I can do more, and I never feel I have it all together. I guess it’s the nature of being a mother!
Shiva is drawn to pieces that have history and a story, and her living room is filled with books and eclectic furniture.
Ulrica: It’s been four years since your divorced was finalized. How long did it take before you felt comfortable in your new life?
Shiva: It took a few years to get into the groove of it. There are times when it’s wonderful to be a single parent. The three of us can jump into a car and take a road trip at any given moment, and there is a lot of freedom in that. But it can also be overwhelming. It would be nice to have an extra pair of hands, for one! And of course my daughters and I have our moments. But I try to explain my point of view to them, rather than what my mother used to do which is to demand it. I’ve learned that works better for us.
Shiva and Charlotte with their two hens.
Ulrica: You and your daughters keep an organic vegetable garden.
Shiva: We have carrots, kale, cabbage and herbs. I’m also planting tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, blueberries, mulberries and beets. I learned how to do it myself and it’s not that hard. You don’t need a lot of money to do it, and it makes me really happy. And if I don’t have time to go to the store, I can just go outside and pick something.
Ulrica: Have your daughters embraced the garden, too?
Shiva: My daughter Charlotte is a little earth mama. I think it’s important to show them where food comes from, so they have a relationship with the earth and understand how much goodness comes out of it.
Shiva’s organic vegetable and herb garden.
Ulrica: You’re in your 40s now. How do you feel?
Shiva: I feel physically the best I’ve ever felt in my life. I feel more energetic and vital. I had an autoimmune disease in my 20s, and I’ve always been careful about eating right. I was a strict vegetarian for 25 years. I’m still a vegetarian, but about twice a month I eat a piece of organic grass fed meat, usually lamb. That was hard for me at first, but I feel I need it for medical purposes. I don’t eat fish, but I do eat eggs and raw dairy.
Shiva with her first carrot of the year.
Ulrica: What other things do you eat to stay healthy?
Shiva: I use good fats, like coconut oil. I don’t drink coffee, except maybe a decaf once in a while because I think it tastes good. I take a mineral supplement called Ormus, which gives me energy and has a lot of other benefits. In the morning, I sometimes put coconut oil in my mouth to clear out bacteria. And every morning, I make a smoothie using almond milk, ground flax seeds, nibs of cacao, maca and frozen bananas for sweetness.
Ulrica: Do you want to find love again?
Shiva: I’m such a romantic that yes, I definitely do. I believe in love for sure! I also feel that I’ve learned so much about being in a relationship. I feel much wiser and mature, and not as reactive. I’m grateful that I’m in a place in my life where I don’t need anybody, but I would want to be with someone. These past years have been a healing process. But I’m in a great place, and I’m so excited about my life.
• Ulrica Wihlborg
All photographs by Ulrica Wihlborg ©2014.
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