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Looking out my Backdoor: We never know what the day might bring!


March 19, 2020

It’s probably been centuries since our world has been so united in purpose. We are concerned — concerned for our own health, our families, our neighbors, concerned for those around the other side of the globe.

A few weeks ago I bought tickets for a quick trip to Glendive. Let me modify that — there is no quick trip into Montana from Central Mexico. I bought tickets for the long trip, short stay. I felt I had little choice since on my birthday, my Montana Driver’s License expires.

While I no longer own a car, now and then I rent one or drive one of my children’s vehicles. I’m not quite ready, nor is it necessary (self-assessment), yet, that I give up the privilege of sitting behind the wheel and sailing down the road.

A few days ago my daughter called. After a brief greeting Dee said, “Mom, I don’t know how to say this … ” and here I interrupted her. “I know what you are going to say and I’m already there. I decided to cancel my flights and stay home. I cannot chance picking up the virus and carrying it to you or the grandbabies.”

She was worried about my advanced age (sage, as another friend would say) and vulnerability due to recent surgery.

Next I contacted my son whose daughter was to join him in Washington for a couple weeks of spring break. Lexi’s parents had canceled her flight, too.

I walked around the corner to Lani’s house to beg and plead with her to cancel her trip to Seattle, Hawaii and a road trip around several states. Lani is diabetic and even more vulnerable than me. No argument. She and her daughter had just come to the same agreement.

By the close of day, Crin and I were speaking about the possibility of Crin staying here in Mexico rather than flying back to Victoria, British Columbia, at the end of the month. Then we also rounded onto her sister Kathy, who with Richard were flying in to Guadalajara mid-April. That evening, Kathy wrote with mirrored thoughts.

Then along loped Josue, sooty smudges on his hastily washed face, ears rimmed in black, as he burst onto our scene from stage left, so to speak.

“I just got home from fighting fire. Miguel’s house burned. Everything is destroyed. Anything we can do to help is needed. He has nothing.”

“How?” I asked, looking around my own typical casita, built of brick, concrete, tile and exposed metal beams.

“His house had wooden beams on the roof. From a defective circuit to curtains to beams. The roof caved. Everything inside the walls is destroyed.”

Miguel has worked for Josue several years. We know Miguel, his cheerful wave and daily greeting.

Immediately we jumped into action, each of us gathering items to donate. We counted and divided our pesos, one for you, one for me. I gathered sheets and blankets, soap and toothpaste. Filled a plastic tub with spare necessities.

While dragging a chair to the curb for Josue to pick up, Crin joked that Miguel would end up with more than he lost and that might be so.

Miguel is going through a rough patch, separated from his family and has been living in a casita owned by his grandmother. Now the fire.

The old platitude is wrong. Sometimes life does bring us more than we can bear. We bear it anyway, with help.

Crin, concerned for her family, flew back to Victoria. Kathy and Richard canceled their flights into Mexico.

My friend Carol has wonky lungs. She and John are sitting in the on the fence. Stay put? Fly back? Drive back to Duluth? My newest neighbors, Tom and Janet, face the same quandary.

Josue and Miguel will rebuild his roof, rewire the casita. Family will pitch in with clean-up and salvage. In a few days, Miguel will be back in his home, surrounded with our cast-offs.

And surrounded with us, those few of us who remain. None of us are going anywhere soon!


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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