My kaleidoscopic variegated shifting scenes of life


I don’t understand the concept of boredom. As a child my family made sure that if I even looked bored, I got handed a do-list. I distinctly remember a time, when I was single-not-by-choice and raising my kids, when I prayed daily, please, let me experience boring. While I wasn’t exactly operating on the crisis of the moment, every day was hand-to-mouth and I certainly had tapped into the fast moving physics of cause/effect. My requests for boring were denied. I got “different” instead. I never got to know boredom.

I remember one long-ago day when my oldest child complained, “I’m bored.” With a gleam in my eye, I found her a dozen ways to avoid boredom, and she never complained again. That tactic worked with my youngest too. To my credit, I didn’t hand them just a list of jobs but mingled the chores with fun things to do.

Mother Nature seems to work under a similar principle that keeps each day full and different from the previous. One rainy day we in Harlem were under flood advisory, our water and sewer usage restricted. Our dated waste-water system could not handle the run-off, not with every sump pump in town adding to the flow. But the next day the sun was shining and all was well. Then the following day, after two more inches of rain, we hovered anxiously on the banks of the Milk River, watching the roiling waters rise. Life as usual on the Hi-Line. Certainly not boring.

It had never occurred to me that my yard work might keep my friends and neighbors entertained. In an effort to avoid watering and mowing and watering and mowing the lawn, ad infinitum, a few years ago I had 15 yards of bark chips delivered to my driveway and spread them over my seeming-500 acres of grass. That mountain of chips was the talk of the town, but once spread, the bark chips eliminated the grass and most of the weeds. I planted fruit trees and flowering shrubs and made my yard beautiful.

In my process of downsizing my life (Phase Two), it occurred to me that if I put my house on the market, I might do well to re-install a lawn in front, even if that means water, mow, water, ad infinitum, or until the house sells, whichever comes first. So I hired a man to rake up all the bark chips and move them to the back yard, where the chips look perfectly wonderful in and around the fruit trees, which needed new chips this year anyway.

The other day my cousin Shirley said to me, “Everybody in town is asking me, ‘What is Sondra doing with her yard?’” Of course, nobody asked me. In our small town way, everybody wants to know but nobody wants to be nosey. I don’t mind. You may knock on my door any time to ask me what I am doing. My life is mundane, but it fascinates me and I’ll share it with you. Soon a truck and crew will show up with sod and I will have instant lawn. I could set up chairs and charge admission, serve lemonade.

Just this morning at 6:30 coffee with the boys at the City Shop, Chuck asked me if I had a real estate sale sign in my front yard. “No,” I answered with lifted brow and a questioning look. I hadn’t told anybody that I had just signed papers the day before. “Oh, I heard you did.” Mis-information travels faster than the speed of rumor in this small town.

I had agonized for months over selling my house. House and yard get larger and more demanding every year. One day soon the realtor will show up and pound a “For Sale” sign in my front yard, the yard with instant grass.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep working, trying to take each day one step at a time. I’m not the most patient person on the planet. I want my life mapped out. Nobody wants to know what tomorrow will bring more than I. But since life never has worked that way for me, I have learned not to push the river. That doesn’t mean I don’t jump in from time to time and try to divert the flow into a different channel, one I think looks more promising. A couple times I’ve woken in the dark night screaming at myself, “What do you think you are doing!” Eventually I come to my senses and allow the river to flow without my help. Tomorrow will be what it will be, neither better nor worse than today, but it will be different, not boring.

(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little diffeent. Keep in touch with her at


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