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Looking out my Backdoor: Seeing through other eyes


April 19, 2018

We don’t see ourselves. We aren’t able. Even surrounded by walls of mirrors, we only see glimpses and reflections. And I’m talking broad scope here. Not just the outside package of who I am. But the me beneath my skin and the life I create.

So I delight in being able to share bits of my daily life with friends from afar who come visit. Sunday morning Steve and Theresa from Washington arrived tired and bedraggled after an overnight flight.

Steve and Theresa are beneath the skin kind of friends; we’ve, over the years, shared blood, sweat and tears. We know where the bodies are buried. There is ease and comfort with this friendship that we’ve built simply, on daily life, no pretensions.

“Mi casa es su casa” means more than mere words to me. I delight when people walk in to my place and are as at home as in their own place.

From the entrance gate through the patio and into my casita, my friends were entranced. And, like other friends who’ve been here, one look and they quit worrying about me, quit thinking I might be stranded in a foreign land.

We are packing a few things into a few days. This is their “first” trip here. Next time, they said, after being here a mere day, they will stay at least a month.

Imagine, coffee, croissants and fruit on the patio in the mornings. Dinner at the plaza while a group of musicians from Guadalajara performed on a stage set up in the street. A drive up to the Mirador, the overlook on the mountain with a view of the whole valley. Eating shrimp beneath the palapa on the edge of Laguna Colorado out by San Juanito de Escobedo. Egrets, cranes and white pelicans fishing in the lake. Cattle grazing across the fence.

Come with us to the pyramid site of the ancient culture of Guachimontones. Afterward, a stop to see Carlos and Brenda and their reproductions of artifacts and musical instruments of several native cultures.

Or a day in San Marcos where we go, shop to shop, to Don Ramon, Don Chuy and Don Chonito, all masters of clay pottery, each with his slightly different style. The sadness is that none of these men’s children or grandchildren wish to carry on the culture. Technology and making real money is more exciting.

The obsidiana shop is a different story. Two young men use the old ways modified with a foot-powered grinder, to produce tools, reproductions of artifacts and jewelry from beautiful volcanic obsidian. They travel the area to festivals and events to display and market their wares.

I love to take my friends to Tonala, to the tianguis, the street market where artisans of every imaginable craft display their handcrafts alongside tourist-junk imports from China. Even when I say there is nothing I need, I always buy something, this trip no exception. I bought a half dozen large clay pots for replacements. Two of my older pots with cactus are cracked and one is falling apart.

We always try for a group gathering at Restaurante Don Luis, up on the mountainside. Kathy and Richard, Lani and Ariel, John and Carol join us for gab over huge plates of nachos.

The best times of the week were sitting on my patio in the evenings, quietly sharing our hopes and concerns. With the new moon just past, the sky is dark velvet with stars hovering like low-hanging fruit we could reach up and pluck.

Seeing myself through the eyes of Steve and Theresa makes me feel rich and blessed and warm and much loved.


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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