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Looking out my back door: Upstairs, downstairs, balance on the bannister

Like anyone, I have my “up” days and my “down” days. But, really, it is all about keeping life in perspective and finding balance.

Take today, for instance. I leave the house for my morning walk at first light. I like to greet the sun. And as thoughtful as those words sound, it is as much about walking in the cool of the day. Perspective. Balance.

Generally, I walk between 45 minutes and an hour. Don’t think I’m covering the miles. I am a mere two months away from hip-replacement surgery. I’m a turtle in the slow lane. Today I felt, well, shaky. I walked a mere half hour.

When my physical therapist, Arturo, came for my treatment and torture session, naturally, he asked how I was feeling. So I told him. “I feel pooky, down in the dumps. I’m two months from surgery today. Every day should be golden. Right?”

“Where do you hurt?” Arturo asked. “From my hip to my knee,” I answered. Understand, most days the past two or three weeks, I’ve had very little pain.

“You have inflammation.” I hate it when Arturo laughs at me. He proceeded to lecture — I hate it when people lecture me. He explained, almost cackling, that most of his clients who have just had this very difficult surgery, take six to eight months to show the progress I have shown. He said I am his star pupil.

True, I walk every day. I do my exercises five out of seven days. It is not in character for me to be so motivated. But I’m not about to analyze motivation.

I think I am a star pupil because a portion of every session we focus on Spanish language and cooking. Today I learned several new words and how to make three different cameron dishes. But best of all, Arturo gave me changed perspective; helped me find balance. Even pooky balance is better than being out of whack.

Friends have accused me of telling them only the good stuff about my life in this Pacific Paradise. For instance the other day I sent photos of my market bounty, heaps of fruits and veggies, all for a mere, schmear, 155 pesos, about $10 and a penny or two. If you could even find this selection in Havre, the till might total upward of $80.

So with balance and honesty in mind, I want to report that all life in Mazatlan is not perfection. For example, our city water is pumped to a jug of a reservoir on top of the house. This is true even at the posh resorts and finer homes. Turn the tap and water is delivered by gravity flow. Don’t expect to be pelted in the shower.

Our homes have no heat source. In places with more sophisticated systems, one might find a thermostat on the wall. It works only to run the fan and air conditioner. On a cold day turn the thermostat high, let imagination fly, shut the window and grab a sweater.

The national and city mail systems seem to work. But for international mail, spend the big bucks for Fed-Ex or UPS carrier. Letters, important documents, packages will most likely arrive, whether sending or receiving. I’ve received Christmas cards in March.

If it can rust, it will. Usually within six months or less. This is an immutable law of nature. Lime juice will remove rust. Limes are a valuable tool.

Purchase only plastic paper clips. Plastic is quite popular in Mexico. I’m beginning to understand why — see “rust” above.

Rubber bands have about a six-month life span. Elastic — a year.

While housing, utilities and food costs are a dream come true, anything electrical or electronic costs an astounding amount of money. I only go to Office Depot if desperate. Home Depot is more frightening than a Halloween Trick House.

But, understand, I am reporting from my flawed perspective. I realize magical thinking is foolish but I still believe in the Shoemaker’s Elves. I’m rather partial to the Easter Bunny, too. Some days I’m “up.” Some days I’m “down.” Some days I balance on the banister. Some days I slide all the way down, pick myself up, and climb back to the top. That’s fun, too.

(Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at Email [email protected].)


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