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Looking out my Backdoor: Adept in the ways of sloth


November 7, 2019

Nobody told us. Well, nobody told me. I’m from a family of workers, obsessive workers, one might say. In my family, sloth is a mere breath removed from slovenly and slatternly. Nobody ever said choices were available. Not that I would have availed myself of other choices, probably, life being what it is. Work being a necessity for survival.

Until the day I retired myself to a quiet corner of another country. Thus removed from everyday obligations of my former life, I’ve time and opportunity to explore other options for being.

It’s not easy to shift gears. I’ve not seen any self-help books toward a lazier way of being. There are no gurus pointing the way to this so-called lesser life, none that I’ve seen.

In fact, quite the opposite. The words “sloth” and “lazy’ are rife with negative connotations. The notion of inactivity is sneered at, considered unhealthy, un-American, sinful, never mind the flowers of the field which neither sow nor reap.

On particularly lazy days, I struggle with guilt. I try not to let it bother me. Generally I manage to overcome it.

I could whitewash my sluggardly ways with more socially acceptable terms: meditation, prayer, contemplation, rumination, reverie, cogitation (I like that one), study. But, no, I’m becoming a master at simple, unadorned sloth.

My home is acceptably clean. My garden is no more overgrown than my neighbors’. Despite my sluggardly ways, I finish daily chores of seeming importance.

Projects of various kinds linger in the wings, awaiting their time to take center stage. Like today, for instance. Lingering on my ironing board is a piece I’ve quilted plus backing, patiently waiting for me to pick it up and transform it into pillow coverings. In the kitchen I’m drying tarragon. Soon I’ll pluck the slender leaves and share its goodness with neighbors. I’ve two pair of capri pants that I intend to dye with dark, dark coffee.

None of my projects are urgent. None of these projects take much time. And herein lies the key to sloth. Time.

In this land of “mañana,” time is my friend. Mañana might mean tomorrow. Or it could be used for next week. Or any number of days hence.

So I prioritize what is most important to me at the moment. Other parts of my life are directed purely by whim and interruptions.

Today, Samantha came over to ask for help with curtains, help I’m glad to give. Kathy and Richard leave tomorrow, not to return before April. So I walk over to their casa for a last visit. Nancie and Pat are coming over in an hour just to sit for a visit under the jacaranda.

And so my days go, filled with friends, filled with sloth, filled with butterflies.

In the cracks and crevices between these above important things, I go to town to put pesos on my Mexican cell phone. I buy my bus ticket for a three-day jaunt to Mazatlan. I pack my suitcase.

Next week I might make my pillow slips. I might dye my pants. I might strip dry leaves from my tarragon.

For sure I’ll visit my friends. For sure I’ll read books. For sure I’ll set aside time for lizards, hibiscus the size of dinner plates, and the butterflies, ah, the pretty whirling butterflies.


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 http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com/. Email [email protected]


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