Looking out my backdoor: 'Tis the season of wretched excess


Last updated 12/9/2021 at 9:55am

Well, it is, you know. The season of too much. Christmas begins in August in the stores. There are too many presents under the tree. Excessive decorating until what would have been pretty becomes tasteless. Too much spending. Too much eating. Too much guilt.

As you might surmise, I have managed to pare down my life even more. Here on the Rancho, every year we exchange little gifts. In one breath I announced that nobody was going to get a gift from me and begged my neighbors to not give me any.

After a year of so many deaths in town, there are families with not enough food to eat. This year we who have everything will not buy scented soaps or cutesy coffee mugs. Some families in town will now have enough to eat.

I have three healthy poinsettia bushes, former Christmas gifts, planted in pots so I can keep them pruned down to the size of currant bushes. They constitute my designated Christmas trees, naturally decorated by nature.

Three of my neighbors have poinsettia trees, yes, tall trees, once the small Christmas plants that we all know, now grown up, tall and stately, dressed in flashy red glory.

I am not dreaming of a White Christmas. Contrarily, I bless every sunny warm afternoon with gratitude. We are in the mountains, in a high plateau valley, nestled in the foothills. It could snow.

Last week my dog, Lola, got her vaccination shot. My friends who rescue dogs, who gave me Lola, had to put one of theirs down today. They have nursed another back to health and have two more who are sick. With hawk eyes we are watching our dogs for any sign or symptom of sickness. Leo’s nieces had a sweet little Chihuahua who died this week, too, same thing. It looks like it might be the coronavirus.

The virus is taking its toll on people and animals. Here in Mexico we have young people anxious to get their first vaccine. The problem is not hesitancy but lack of access to vaccine.

And some of us older ones are hoping for the booster, sooner or later. However, it is more important to get those youngsters vaccinated. They are more active and more social. I can easily continue with my own restrictions. It’s hardly an imposition.

Yesterday was my neighbor Janet’s birthday. Nancie baked a cake and invited everybody around to celebrate. I sent best wishes to Janet, and my regrets. I am not comfortable to mingle in crowds at this time. Besides, they need somebody to talk about.

From the joyous sounds coming from Nancie’s yard, I’d say the party was a great success. I’m glad my friends do feel comfortable to celebrate together.

The way I figure it is that if I have 15 contacts, which is all of us here at the rancho and each one of those 15 friends have 15 contacts, which is a pared down number since all of them are more out in the world than me, that makes 225 people in an area rather than 15. I am not ready to rub elbows with 225 people. Plus one gregarious dog.

I don’t hide away, though it may seem like I do. I visit, one or two people at a time, avoiding the crowds.

So what are you giving yourself for Christmas? Wait, don’t you know? You cannot rely on your nearest and dearest to read your mind, even if you make your wishes and wants public, written in prominent places. Trust me.

“Well, yes, honey, I saw your list but I thought you’d really rather have this five-speed chain saw.”

I recall a Christmas when I received a skillet and another when I got camping cookware. I didn’t camp but my husband did. I was not thrilled. I was younger then.

Remember, only one person has such an exquisite sense of style and good taste and knows your real down-deep heart’s desire. You! So make sure in the pile under the tree, there is a gift from your best self to you. Then anything else is a bonus.

A couple months ago I bought myself a waffle iron for my Christmas gift. I’m older now and my wants have changed. I’m thrilled like a kid in a candy store.

’Tis the season of wretched excess. Might as well enjoy it.


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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