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Looking out my Backdoor: Beginnings, mysteries and a mixed bag of nonsense


Last updated 1/7/2021 at 7:42am

Bob T, a long-time friend from my past, used to compare life to a battery. In order for it to work, life must have both positive and negative poles. I, of course, wanted only the positive, the easy, the serene. Ha! Wantin’ ain’t gettin’.

On my patio I have a vine that I potted some three years ago, a vine, but more branch than leaf. I don’t know why I’ve kept it; it is not a bit pretty, but rangy and the leaves fall off leaving naked brown stems. In the cold of this morning, that ugly step-sister plant had borne two beautiful blue trumpet flowers.

My son is on the mend following weeks of COVID and seizures. My daughter is down with COVID and pneumonia. My heart is wrung dry.

When I was 7, my dad bought the book “Heidi” for me. Going through e-book offerings, I thought, why not? I love children’s literature and like to read books from my past. How did my dad know that “Heidi” would be perfect for a 7-year old girl? It was a different world when I was 7.

Most years when the annual number changes, it takes me a month to write the correct year-date. Not this year.

I’ve been in Denial and it is more than a River in Egypt with frequent flood waters which spread pestilence and strange diseases along with rocking Baby Moses in the bulrushes.

My particular present form of denial has been concerning winter in Etzatlan. Until the lettuce leaves wilted, I pretended. “Nights are cold but I hope it doesn’t frost.” In actuality, we had frost several nights before this undeNileable Big Freeze. The weather dart board ahead looks grim. A real winter, for here.

But, hey, no competition. No comparison between our winter and a Montana winter. I sigh for insulation, double glazed windows and central heating. Where did I put my other sweater?

In a prescient moment mid-December, my daughter bought me a new ceramic heater, a cutie, in shape and look similar to a mottled, bronze flower vase. She shipped it to Jim, who drove here from Missouri. Today he, with my heater, arrived.

I already had Ralph, a tall, dark and stately column I bought a couple winters ago. Ralph worked hard but I still bundled up like the Good Year Blimp to get warm.

Running on low, this little gal puts out more heat than Ralph on high. I named her Glow-ria. I keep the two well separated. I see them eye-balling one another, both in heat. For the first time in two weeks I feel warm from the inside.

My cousin Nancie is returning to her home in Sedro Woolley, Washington. I dearly love Nancie and I’m glad she is going back. I sense it is safer for her, with Pat, up on their mountaintop, away from the world. She had envisioned hours of intimate cousinly story-telling, lunch in restaurants, sight-seeing, the usual tourist holiday. It’s not to be.

Sitting at my computer, I saw my reflection in the window behind the screen. Without thought, the next minute I stood at the bathroom mirror, scissors in hand and chopped what needed chopping for too many weeks.

In order to do this, it is handy to have a certain amount of “it doesn’t matter” in one’s character. At any rate, I no longer have a fringe covering my eyeballs. There is no possible way that, without spaghetti arms, I can make both sides even and who knows what the back looks like, but “it doesn’t matter.”

For the next three days “it doesn’t matter” will be my mantra as I grab scissors trying to even out the mess. A shorn sheep comes to mind. Or an escapee from a 1950’s asylum.

I’m so thankful for my friends, for people with whom I can share triumphs, the boring and the terrifying. In my note to Michelle today I apologized for being so negative. She wrote back that she alternates between being a bag of mush and a pillar of steel. Yes.

My very adult children handle things so differently. Ben thinks, “Don’t tell Mom. She’ll just worry.” Dee knows to keep in touch regularly, no matter how sick she is. One thing I’ve learned about myself through this is that a specific worry is less troubling than a blanket worry. We all fear the unknown.

Thank you, my friends, for letting me blather on, for letting me share the good, the bad and the ugly. I could not handle the unknown in these troubling times without you. You keep my battery charged.


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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