Looking out my backdoor: Tip-toeing through tulips metaphorical


Last updated 7/28/2022 at 7:23pm

Rain fell all night long. The ground was soggy, spongy. Flowers hung their heads from weight of water. The morning sky looked like moldy cottage cheese. Around noon, the sun broke through with promise.

Every morning I take a small basket out to my mango tree and fill it with what wants to be picked. Today I put another quart of mango pieces in my wee fridge-freezer. It is jam-packed, literally, since I made two batches of freezer jam and the remainder of the space is mango-mania. One more week and no more mangos until next year. To me, these fruits are treasure.

Anything else that needs to go to the freezer faces rejection. No room at the inn. Not to worry. Mango pie. Mango drinks. Mango sauce on waffles. Mango with ice cream. Plain mango pieces in a dish. Mmm, yes.

Last February I planted spinach in a baby bath tub, three tubs of which supplement five-gallon buckets which make up my garden. Since April, this tub has fed me and my neighbors. Really, how much spinach do you want to eat? Today I made the final harvest for a salad. I could have urged one more cutting, but determined that enough is enough. I’ll replant in September. Nothing leafy seems to want to be planted during the heavy rains.

Have you ever planted tomatillas? Last week I made my first batch of salsa verde, all with my own produce, except for the jalapeno. There is nothing better.

This is my first time to grow these little green globes. The plant itself is beautiful, bushy with branches and leaves to make a picture. Then it magically blows balloons of fragile green like paper lanterns within which the little green ball of fruit grows from babyhood until the paper turns brown, filled with the lovely tomato-like fruit.

I get so excited that you’d think I made it all happen. I didn’t make any of it happen. I’m not the creator. I’m a helper. Most of all, I’m just an observer.

I watch. I see. I ponder.

I’ve come to believe this is my job for this time of my living. To be an observer. To what purpose? I’ve not a clue.

All my life, until my health forced retirement, I’ve been a “do-er.” It is harder being a “be-er.”.

As an observer, yes, I get to appreciate things I used to take for granted. Beauty in nature was like elevator music, there, noticed but not focused. Now not a day passes without a “wow!” or several.

I’m also aware of things I wish I didn’t see, such as traits or behaviors that I know are not meant to be seen. So I keep duct tape across my lips. But I also look at myself and search out similar actions, whether lately or historical. I see both, now, and then, in a different light. My searchlight helps me hope the negative I observe both “over there” and “in here” get rooted out.

Yes, I’ve gone from growing a garden to highly personal without a hitch. How I see it is that the gardening and the personal are all one thing. It is all about what seed I plant and when I plant it and if I feed and water the seed and does it grow or should it be weeded out.

Did I tell you about my cotton tree? I tried to make it grow in three different spots before finding where it wanted to live. After three more years of severe pruning when the leaves fall, I have the absolutely most beautiful, most perfect, delight of a cotton tree, full of yellow flowers which turn to orange. The flowers then form cotton bolls. Flowers and bolls adorn the tree for months.

See what I mean? We are just like that cotton tree. We need the right light, the right amount of shade, judicious pruning, food and water for body and soul. We flourish.

Certainly a gardener, a do-er, takes care of the cotton tree. We have to be our own gardener. It is harder work.


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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