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Looking out my Backdoor: In my garden of earthly delights


Last updated 11/30/2020 at 9:16am

Editor’s note: Due to an editorial error, this column did not run before Thanksgiving.

My world is circumscribed by the boundaries of the gringo part of the rancho. I walk the lanes.

This morning when I arrived at my turn-around spot out by the entrance to the highway, I stopped to marvel. I saw, heading toward Ahualulco, a man on a three-wheel motorcycle, a custom job, wearing a modified helmet to resemble something from WWI, you know, Snoopy and the Red Baron.

The bike itself was black with silver trim. The front end, like an alligator snout, and I’m not familiar with biker terms, but I’d call it a “low-rider,” with high handlebars, high enough to make the driver reach upward to steer. The rear end, the part with two wheels, was made from the back of an ancient Volkswagon Beetle.

I know it sounds corny, but I had to shout my delight.

The next time I reached the turn-around, a young couple passed riding an ordinary Italian motorcycle, going toward town. I smiled and waved. “What a crazy woman,” the driver must have thought, but he looked back and chin waved.

Even though I am bound to Rancho Esperanza by the rampaging pandemic coronavirus, I am aware of activities in my outer community.

Every community can be identified by its odors. Of course, smells are dependent on seasons. This morning when I awoke, I thought I smelled cane fields burning. Now, six hours later, spirals of black ash fall onto my patio.

Cane harvest-time has arrived early this year, by at least two weeks. Leo told me that a week ago he saw engineers from the processing factory in Tala walking the fields, collecting stalks to take to the laboratory to test for sugar content. Our early harvest is a result of a dry, dry year.

In town, this is the day all the bands in Etzatlan gather in the Plaza to play in honor of Our Lady. In turn, the musicians receive special blessings for making music. This year is different, though. The bands march in and play, are blessed, and leave. No parades. No marching horses. No crowds of people, dancing in the street. No vendors hawking wares.

It is still warm here in this high valley but every day I drag my chair to a different spot chasing the shade. The sun seems to hug the horizon all the way from up to down, close to a 12 hour spread between light and dark. This is our winter light, low angles from now until February.

A small flock of yellow-heads, blackbirds, flew over, the first I’ve seen. Last year we saw hardly any. In former years, flocks blackened the sky with a prolonged loud whooooosh. I’m glad to see the small flock, hopefully a forerunner of more to come, flocks rejuvenated, the lost brought back into the fold.

Our gardener, Leo, brought me the last mandarinas and the first figs from Julie’s garden. Julie is in Minnesota, like many of us, awaiting a vaccine before travel.

My nose tells me the baked beans are ready to take out of the oven. I baked fresh bread this morning.

My son called to get directions to make sopa seca de fideo so I know he truly is recovering.

My grandson raised a 35 pound turkey. How will they shove it in the oven!

It is enough cause for Thanksgiving.


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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