Looking out my Backdoor: My head is in the clouds


Last updated 9/15/2023 at 12:30pm

Every morning these past few days, when Lola and I take our early morning walk, the clouds are rolling down the mountains. We move through the mist, feet on the ground, heads in the clouds.

Another hour and the sun burns the air crisp and brilliant with shadows of orange.

As happens, my day turned topsy turvy.

I was all self-hyped to go to Dr. Imelda, my dentista, to finally have my last crown set onto my tooth. This crown has been a process and practice in delay and patience. Dr. Imelda nixed the first attempt immediately.

Turns out that the trusted lab she has used for years had a machine break down. Please understand I’m telling this to the best of my Spanish to English understanding. The lab farmed the tooth crown out to another lab while awaiting their new machine.

Dr. Imelda also rejected the second attempt. The lab tech said new machine takes new skills and new learning. She filled my mouth with goops, 1, 2 and 3, yet again. Each goop a different color. Not fun. I have great respect for this woman for not accepting less than perfect.

The third attempt has arrived but Dr. Imelda’s son was very sick and she was nursing him. I understand. No problem. We are now into this process two months. Finally, today is the day. I gear myself up for the ordeal.

Then, while waiting for my ride, my dentist called from the hospital in Guadalajara where she accompanied her husband who is very ill. Another delay. What can I say. Please, take care of your husband, my tooth can wait. I’m happy to wait.

Back in the day, I learned to drive a stick shift. We all did. I have no problem shifting gears, actually or metaphorically. I had chilis and tomatillos and tomatoes and extra limes to deal with in the kitchen. I’ll have a jolly kitchen day.

Then Leo showed up to water the gasping, thirsty plants. “When I finish watering, I’ll hang your baskets and hearts. I need you to show me how you want them.”

Down shift a gear while I fill in the back story. Several years ago I bought baskets to hang on the rafters of my covered patio/outdoor kitchen. Each basket is a different, size, shape, color, all made with natural reeds. I don’t put light bulbs in mine for the same reason you probably would not light yours—mosquitoes. I don’t entertain at night. No reason for a well-lighted patio.

I live in farm country. While not in the middle of the corn field, dust is still a constant. Last week I had Leo take down the baskets and hose them clean, hang them on the gates to dry in the sun.

Another year I bought a multitude of colored blown-glass hearts, which I hung on the brick wall to the side of my house. Meanwhile a tiny ivy-like plant, purpose bought, grew and grew and grew, like Jack’s magic bean, until it completely covered my bare-naked wall, entwining and encompassing the hearts. I searched out the long-invisible hearts, cut them free and cleaned them.

Why not hang some of the large hearts from inside the baskets, and then hang the extra hearts on strings from the same beams? I question my ideas because I never know.

Today, we hung baskets, each with a large colored heart hanging from the center. We strung together the extras, five sizes, and hung them from the beams, blue, green, gold, aqua, red and orange. Baskets. Hearts. I like the colorful effect.

Back in the kitchen, I blanched the chili peppers; jalapenos, the long banana peppers, and the little scrunchy green ones, hotter than firecrackers, and put them in my freezer. Same process with tomatillos. I squeezed the limes to make limonada and aqua frescas.

I eye-balled my half bushel of tomatoes, knowing an equal amount or twice more is yet to come. I don’t eat that many tomatoes so why do I plant so many? My daughter, who is recuperating nicely, by the way, suggested I can my good tomato-apple catsup again. Yes, good idea. Out in the bodega, I counted the jars left from my last batch. I’ve at least enough for another year.

I bagged my tomatoes, kept a half-dozen for my own use, and handed Leo the bags to distribute to the neighbors and to his sisters.

We don’t know, do we? When I got up this morning, I was prepared to go to the dentist and spend the rest of the day, down-shifted to grandma gear, reading and napping, my usual routine on dental day. We just don’t know.


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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