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Looking out my Backdoor: I wanna be a tree

"In my next life, I want to be a tree."

"A tree? Why, Mom, would you want to be a tree?"

"Because they are more intelligent and kinder than humans."

"A sycamore, Mom. Be a sycamore. I don't even know what one looks like but that tree popped into my mind."

We each went to our computers and landed on the same site. Though we are 2,500 miles separated geographically, we are otherwise quite close.

"Holy guacamole, these trees are beautiful."

"Ooooh, I want to be a sycamore." I said, with appreciative awe.

Dee Dee said, "The sycamore symbolizes strength, protection, eternity and divinity."

"Oh," I said. "That's too beautiful." Pause for reflection.

"I'll probably be a Jack Pine, clinging to the side of a ravine, down by the Missouri in that area we call Blue Heaven. I'll be stunted, twisted and wind blasted, but I'll cling between the rocks."

"Don't be silly, Mom. If you are going to put in your order, put it in big."

We laughed.

"Where from come the glum?" she asked.

I didn't have an answer. I've always thought myself positive, upbeat, a glass running over kind of person. Could be, I'm not who I think I am. Could be, that is the story I like to tell myself.

Take this morning, for instance. May is our hottest month and we are setting heat records in this part of the country known for being not too hot, not too cold, but, just right, Goldilocks.

As I said, it was morning. Never mind that the thermometer hit 103 by 4:00. Mornings are mild, pretty perfect up until noonish. Then the climb. By 6:00 the temp begins descending the scale. Nights are generally tolerable to pleasant to light blanket.

Me? At 10:00 in the morning, I was moaning about the heat. The heat would not be intolerable for hours, at least four hours. Was I enjoying how lovely, how pleasantly perfect the morning happened to be? No, I was moaning the yet-to-come.

Who is this person who took over my body? I want to know.

This thing I did know-I needed to enter my private sensory deprivation tank for a reset. This magical isolation chamber is whatever and wherever I want it to be.

The next morning my world had transformed. Okay, my world was the exact same as the day before, so maybe the change was more personal, myself with freshly laundered eyeballs.

The same birds sang more gloriously. The same sun coated the morning in gold-dust. The same air refreshed my spirit. The same trees provided an encompassing umbrella. The same temperature/weather was pleasantly perfect, just as it always is this time of year, at least until noon. The same loving dog alongside, my wag-tailed companion.

Maybe, just maybe, I'd best keep my focus on being as kind as I am able to be in this human life I have today. I have to live this one to the finish before I need to be concerned about what's next.

Still, I want to be a tree in my next life. I'd love to be a sycamore, surrounded with the companionship of stately elms and gorgeous horse-chestnuts.

If I end up clinging to the side of a rocky ravine over-looking the Missouri, so be it.

Knowing myself, it won't matter. Whether I'm in the east or in the west, I'll still have days when I grumble that it is too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too crowded, too lonely. I will still be learning how to push my reset button.

Meanwhile the thermometer is climbing to 102 again. But I have a book, my feet propped on a stool, and a cold agua fressca at hand. Doesn't get much better than that.


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 Email [email protected].


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