Looking out my Backdoor: Distracted


February 14, 2019

When our Rancho gardener comes in the morning, Leo often asks me, “Sondrita, how is your wonderful retired life?”

“Yes,” I say. We laugh. We both understand my meaning. “Yes, wonderful.”

Wonderful, beyond any plan I might have dreamed.

But, each day is filled with distractions. Take today, for instance. I get up, make my bed, drink two mugs of coffee, strong and hot, the way I like it. Order. Precision. On my mind is a vague desire to bake cookies. Oatmeal. Chocolate oatmeal. Vague desire firmed up. I set my empty mug in the sink, thinking to find my recipe. Out the window …

The sun, now an hour into the day sky, has taken away the shadow around my tiny backyard patio, under the jacaranda. I go outside to sit a few minutes, warm these bones, get inspiration for my column this week. I placed my blue metal rocking chair beneath a hummingbird nest, empty this past month.

This morning, a pair flits around the nest. I wonder if these are the fledglings which grew up in “my” nest. Checking property rights? Here and gone. I should go make cookies, then write.

Jim walks over, sits in a rocker. We both settle, silent. Eventually, Jim says, “Aren’t we a pair of sloths?”

“Contented is the word I’d use,” I counter.

Partridge doves have made a sloppy nest, disreputable housekeepers, in an air plant attached to the branch just over that way a bit. Tillandsia are everywhere, attached to branches, telephone and electric wires. The plants thrive on nutrients from the air and occasional rain.

“My doves aren’t very good parents,” I tell Jim. Because I sit out under the tree daily, I’ve learned to pick distinct pairs. “Maybe their clutch isn’t full yet,” Jim offers. “Maybe they get distracted,” I say. An hour passes in this desultory way.

“I came over for Qi Gong,” said Jim. “Instead we Qi talk,” I said.

Jim leaves. I go back to the house to bake cookies. I still don’t have a writing topic.

Before I can gather ingredients for cookies, I decide I should make a real meal. I’m hungry for my chicken potato salad. Gather potatoes, eggs, pickles, onion, cilantro, leftover chicken. Put eggs and potatoes on to cook. Now, where is that cookie recipe? Book or box? Chocolate cookies should be good for inspiration.

Oh, I haven’t watered the new plants today, the daisies, geraniums, lavender and kalanchoes we planted, to begin replacing my dead bulbs, victims of dastardly corn worms. Back outside, I hook up the hose and give new flowers a drink.

An iguana is feasting on a daisy. I shoot the iguana my version of evil eye. Ugly lizard gave it back. “Go ahead. Fatten on my flowers. I’ll grill you on the barby.”

Back to the kitchen. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. I wonder if the iguana would substitute for chicken in my salad. Mustard and mayo. Seasonings. Eat a small bowl and refrigerate the rest for later.

Leo comes by to ask if I need anything from town. “Leo, what does iguana taste like?”

“Chicken,” he answers with a straight face. “Sure,” I say.

I shuffle through my recipes and find no directions for preparing iguana.

A cup of tea sounds good. I take tea and a book out under my front patio in the shade. It is too nice outside to be inside. I read for an hour. Better get to the cookies.

Before I get to my door, I hear the bell on my gate jingle-jangle. Here comes Julie. “Do you have time to take a break?” “Of course. Let’s go around back and watch hummingbirds and tanagers in the bottle brush.

We drop into the red rockers on the strip of patio behind the house and smell the flowers. That is when we hear the distinctive call of the cuckoo bird. He is magnificent and large. I locate him in all his beauty in the top of the jacaranda, the cuckoo and an entire zoo of yellow warblers.

We sit until the sun drops behind the horizon. Tomorrow I’ll bake chocolate oatmeal cookies, as long as I don’t get distracted.


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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