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Looking out my Backdoor: Every day a different day


January 10, 2019

This morning I walked down to Tony’s On The Beach for breakfast. I called it a walking meditation because naming it such makes me feel better about my small steps, snail pace.

Once again I am in Mazatlan. Kathy and Richard asked me if I would like to join them for a week on the beach. Who would say no?

It has been three years now since I lived in Mazatlan. Tony’s is in my old neighborhood. Oh, the changes. Each time I come, there are changes.

Economy is booming if one may judge by new construction; condo towers shooting up like corn stalks on every vacant beach lot. On the short walk to the restaurant I had to dodge around heavy construction equipment three times.

When I first came to Mazatlan years ago, all, and I mean all, the construction labor was manual. One seldom saw a simple backhoe. Men climbed makeshift ladders with buckets of concrete; descended with buckets of rubble. Now cranes replace an entire workcrew.

Today the body snatchers were out in force. Hector. Oscar. Rudy. Alberto. No, no, no, and no, I do not want to pay for my vacation with a morning sitting in a deadly shark-infested room listening to a time-share presentation. Politely, no. I walked on up the street.

Sitting at a table, plata de fruta y huevos mexicana in front of me, the ocean surf at my feet, I fall in love again with Mazatlan. I fall in love a lot. Most restaurants are family affairs. The same men serve my food who were here my first trip to Mexico.

I miss Mazatlan, my friends. I miss the street activity. I miss Jose with his bucket of shrimp for sale every Monday morning, the two little boys who push the camote — sweet potatoes — cart around the neighborhood each evening, the man with the cart of brooms, mops and impossibly long brushes, the elderly gent who pedals his bicycle by daily, searching the curbs for cardboard to recycle.

Each season, the beach changes shape. Hurricanes come and go. Water reconfigures, carves, piles up dunes or flattens the beach. Last summer, the beach was steep, difficult to walk unless one were a side-hill gouger. Today, the sandy beach is a table top, welcoming.

Fish are jumping close to shore. But where are the birds? No fisher birds, no pelicans in sight. No frigate birds sailing the wind waiting to pirate a flop of fish from the bill of an unwary pelican.

In the last couple weeks, I have learned that five people, each of whom meant something important to me, are gone. It is a hard and sad thing to lose people in such a close cluster. Francis, Juanita, Wanda, Tenny and Maxine.

I sit high above the beach alone in the room and remember how each touched my life, different times, in different ways, and it is good. The tuba from the oompah band below snakes into my consciousness and reminds me to smile. Yes, though some memories are fraught with tension, each person had his part in making me who I am.

Memory leads to memory leads to memory until an entire patchwork quilt unfurls before me, each piece alive and vibrant. Tuba says smile, be grateful, so I do, I am.

I lie in bed listening to the waves pound the sand, the distant call of a conch shell, the click of the refrigerator, people overhead moving the heavy marble coffee table across the floor.

Tomorrow Carlos will pick me up to go to the Migracion Officina to find when I need to show up next fall to complete my residente process. I snuggle into my blanket, breeze from the window on my face, thinking how I am happy. And that makes me feel kind of sad.


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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