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Looking out my Backdoor: All my oceans lie westward


April 18, 2019

I felt lost the whole week. I had absolutely no sense of direction. How could I tell? I have long been able to orient myself to water. I sense the presence of a body of water.

On our last day, luggage packed for return, I stood on the balcony over the Caribbean. “I got it!” I said to myself. Sometimes I am a slow learner. The Caribbean Sea is to the east, not the west. No wonder I have felt so disoriented. I had spent the entire week upside-down, so to speak, heading in the wrong direction.

But what a week! We four, Kathy, Richard, Leo and I, wallowed in wretched excess of luxury in a resort on the beach outside of Cancun. The resort is isolated, in that it is not in a town or part of a town. To get there we drove down a stick-straight stretch of highway, bordered by a wall of green jungle with billboards. View was nil.

Once at the resort, that all changed. The sea is stunning, even if it is on the wrong side. And the landscaping, a modified jungle made beautiful rather than impenetrable; I went gaga over the variety of plants and ideas.

“Leo,” I said. “Let’s take out the back lawn and put in a pond like this, with a fountain in the center.” Or, “Leo, look at this beautiful tree. I want one.” Or, “I know. Let’s plant all these dozen kind of palms and make our own jungle.” Leo, friend and gardener, just raised an eyebrow in answer.

I’ve no idea how many pools of swimming variety the resort has, plus the turquoise sea lapping the shore, but we basically ignored the water options in favor of exploration. We went to Cancun (a most modern city), to Puerto Morelas, a fishing village turned tourist trap, and to Playa del Carmen with a beautiful white sand beach (ditto on tourists). I stayed in my room, content with solitude, while the others explored Tulum and the ancient Mayan ruins.

And we took a ferry across the waters from Cancun to the Isla de las Mujeres. We rented the oldest golf cart on the island and chugged with frequent backfire blasts around the island. We ate a meal of the most expensive (and delicious) tacos de pescado (fish) made by man.

But the funny or odd part of this day was that we three gringos had interesting expectations of an ancient isle untouched by time. I suspect we wanted the island as it might have been 50 years ago. We would have been pleased with a village similar to Etzatlan where we now live. Leo had been there twice. He knew. We adjusted.

What else did we do while on our exotic and surreal holiday at the resort? We ate. We went to every kind of restaurant, Asian, seafood, French, Italian, Mexican. We could even have hamburgers, but why? Every meal was sumptuous, rich, satisfying. Unfortunately. I’m fairly certain the plane returning carried more weight that the plane going to Cancun.

Home. Yes, we were ready to come home, back to reality, back to our known environment, back to simple foods, back to a simple life.

Kathy called this past week our “Ultimate Blowout Vacation” and it certainly did not disappoint.

For dinner tonight, I sliced a tomato and a cucumber, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and treasured the simple pleasures.

It surely feels good to be home, where east is east and north is north and the Ocean is on the proper side of the continent, even if it is several hours away over two mountain ranges.


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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