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Looking out my Backdoor: Symptoms of being human


Several of us here on Rancho Esperanza begin our days with Qi Gong, a Chinese energy-movement routine; good for balance, stretching and breathing. Breathing is a good thing.

We have learned the form, Soaring Crane. Most of us are in our seventh decade. Samantha, our teacher, goes through each of the five separate movements with grace and beauty. We do the best we can. I would say I look more like a Crippled Crane. But I keep going. It makes me feel good.

The last few weeks I’ve noticed flocks of birds flying over when we begin. In the second movement we arch backward, arms open to the sky. I watch the birds and keep my mouth closed. Each day there are more birds. Each day the birds fly closer.

Yesterday, I swear, they were laughing at us. “Look at those humans. They think they imitate birds. What a hoot.”

Laugh at me, they will. But I’ll continue my routine. Like I said, it makes me feel good.

One day Jim drove to Guadalajara and I rode shotgun. We’ve become good friends, use one another to bounce around ideas. He makes me laugh.

“It’s a good thing you are not my boyfriend or whatever we call it when we get this age,” I told him. “We are not compatible.”

Jim said, “Nobody is compatible. It’s a myth.”

He might be right. We agree that the best trait for friendship is tolerance. And maybe notions such as compatibility and that really strange new-age idea of soul-mates, are really nothing more than desperate wishes that eventually morph into myths.

The greater Guadalajara area is huge with a population of over six million. Every trip to the Big City is an adventure, to me. Our second stop was at Sundance Hot-tubs and Spas, to get information. I would like a small hot-tub for therapy. A hot water soak makes me feel good.

We found the address, finally, down the center of a dicey looking alley with Federales standing guard at each end. The entrance is a large metal slide-up door. We found it locked down. The store must be around on the main street, we reasoned. So we walked around the block — no such store front. It’s a mystery.

The auto shocks and brakes business next to where we thought the spa store should be was open. When I finally remembered to pronounce Sundance the Spanish way, soon-dawn-say, the man pointed us through his garage back to the alley. OK.

Back to the locked door we went. Using my Mexican cellphone, we called the number above the door. Immediately, I knew we needed help. The man who answered wanted to give me a different number and a name to call. I could understand that much. But he rattled on too quickly with even more information.

I know how to ask for help in Spanish. I went to the three Federale men standing next to the door, handed one of them my phone and a tablet and pen. The Man in Blue listened, wrote a name, a number and proxima semana. That means next week. The business will be open next week.

“Jim, we looked up the address online before we came. Why didn’t we call from home?” His answer, “That would be too easy.” I thought I heard a whisper, “Bird brain.”

With much thanks, we then asked to be pointed in the direction of a restaurant. They sent us to the street with restaurant supply stores. Two, three, four blocks of restaurant supply stores. That sort of defined the next eight blocks. We finally found a hole-in-the-wall taco place. The tacos were delicious. But they always are.

On the way home we had a fiery conversation about opinions and myths. “Where do people get their information?” I asked. “I think they make it up.”

Jim said, “Facebook.”


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 Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com. Email [email protected]


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