Photos: Michael Orth
"Seven? You think seven is enough?" Cornelia asks. "How many are coming? About sixty? So maybe a few more pizzas. Ten, maybe ..."
It's just after nine a.m. on a Sunday morning in late April and everyone's already been busily working for a while to finalize the preparations for the first big event of Cornelia's Rim of Heaven foundation.
"Shortly after I moved from the city back into nature, to Malibu, in 2017, I'd had this thought of Rim of Heaven and that I'd love to invite children here for a nice day and workshops. Many children. I want to bring them here so they can experience what played such a big role in my childhood: spending time in nature, without schedule or obligations. And now it's finally happening."
Two more hours until the bog yellow school bus from Venice will bring sixty children, parents and caregivers to Cornelia's farm in Malibu.
For this inaugural event, Cornelia has picked the organization 826LA. "I used to volunteer for 826LA," says Elizabeth Dragga as she pours an armful of paints onto the table where the children will later be coloring rocks and twigs. Elizabeth regularly meets with Cornelia and her assistant Angie to figure out who the Rim of Heaven can support. 824LA is a nonprofit that supports students who are struggling by tutoring them and nurturing their creativity.
"What I like about 826LA," says Elizabeth, "is that their primary focus is to help children find joy in creativity. For example, they encourage their students to find their own voices through creative writing."
A perfect fit for the Rim of Heaven Foundation, through which Cornelia wants to support nature and animal conservation, as well as visual arts and storytelling.
But today is not primarily about writing, but about everyone being together and having a good time with the animals, sketching and drawing, and doing a scavenger hunt all across Cornelia's farm and the fields of her neighbors' Laurel and Larry's organic farm.
"Where can we find an avocado tree?" Dylan asks his buddy as they study the map Cornelia has drawn for the scavenger hunt. They already found the cacti field, and they learned that Cornelia named her donkeys Esperanza and Zorro. John and Samuel are still by the donkeys' paddock, drawing and scetching with the others. Some are using paper to create their art, and some the stones and twigs Cornelia had collected for them beforehand.
"This," Samuel is putting down the red crayon, "is Spiderman. The one next to him", he points at a sinister looking guy with a very angry face, "is Venom." Oppsite Samuel John is copying a bird from a guide book.
On the lawn by Cornelia's barn two girls are playing boccia while the grown-ups are having a lot of fun playing cornhole.
When Cornelia suggests taking the donkeys to their meadow, everyone drops what they're doing to join Cornelia as she leads Esperanza and Zorro to the big meadow up the hill.
"Don't walk too close behind them," Cornelia warns. "They don't like that, and they can kick very hard with their hind legs. The coyotes know that as well, which is why they leave the donkeys alone when they come through here at night."
Back from the meadow, Cornelia grabs a few crayons herself to draw the dragon Firedrake for her visitors. Every one of them will get a dragon to take home as a memento of their visit. Ricardo wants a red Firedrake, Araceli would prefer a green one, and Dafne's favorit color is blue – and so they all get their Firedrake in their favorite hue.
Just after two o'clock Joel, the director of 826LA announces they should stat heading back to their bus. "Already?" one of the children cries. But there's still time for a group pic. Everyone gathers on the lawn, standing, crouching, or sitting for the camera, and every face, Cornelia's included, beams with joy from the wonderful day they all had.
And here are some more impressions from the amazing 826LA visit at Cornelia's farm: