• allisontgruber


Ain’t got much these days, but I’ve got rock n’ roll, and all the cancer meds I could ever dream of (or not), and plants. Lots and lots of plants. One of the many things I missed about the American Midwest, during my tenure in the American Southwest, was the lushness of the area. The way you can just accidentally drop a seed in summer et voila, it blooms.

My musings today on the wonders of Midwest Green do not account for climate change. My purpose here is to celebrate summer in the American Midwest, at its most idyllic. This is a partial nostalgia post, reader. Settle in.

On Spotify: Roscoe Gordon, “Let’s Get High.” Perfect for a hot June day in Chicagoland when there’s little for me to do but make a few phone calls, complete a few tasks, and rest my body which is pleasantly (and also unpleasantly) tired from last week’s trip to Iowa.

I grew up in the Suburbs of Chicago. My dad’s family mostly lives in Iowa. We spent a lot of time in the summer in Iowa. And I had a great time always. With sixteen first cousins, with forests, with running streams that they called “cricks” and I called “creeks,” it was hard for Child Me not to have a great time. I remember being wild and free and muddy and wet and sometimes cold and wet and sometimes covered in mosquito bites or poison ivy. Happy, though, always in Iowa.

I must note that this is a largely apolitical post. The politics of Iowa are not part of this post. This is a heal-body-mind post. Not a politics post, though I must pause here briefly to say “Yes, the Cold American Civil War has wreaked havoc on my relationships in Iowa, and I am damn grateful for the relationships that survived this ongoing war that I never wanted, and probably neither did you, reader.”

My parents, who have some American Means, but not the same kind of American Means my ex family had, have helped me create a very comfortable hermitage for myself in Chicagoland where I can be at peace and heal myself in the way I need to heal. Body. Mind. Spirit. I have been through too much. I can own this. I have been through too much. And I have survived. And I draw breath, and survive. And you draw breath, reader, and you survive right along with me.

Breathe out.

Breathe in lavender. Have you ever put your face in actual growing lavender? I have, reader. I do this every morning thanks to the urban herb garden I am growing on my patio in Chicagoland. Cup of coffee in one hand, face in the lavender. You just can’t quite replicate that smell, for it is truly the scent of Peace. I once dreamed of seeing the lavender fields of France, and I have let that dream go along with so very many others I had for my life, and this is not sad because this is not a sad post. This is a post about what is Good.

I must admit, reader, my body feels a little like shit today. I forget, sometimes, that I have metastatic breast cancer (henceforth my “Medical Condition”) and that I am on a great many medications for said Medical Condition. I forget this. Because I am forty-five and many of my friends tell me I am not old. They say I am young, and perhaps for some of my vintage this is statistically True. I do not think it is True for me nor does most medical science of the Present Era. I mean, I think I’ll be Okay for a minute yet here, but let’s be honest . . .

So I’m not “old” in the sense of an Average American Life Expectancy (what even is that anymore?), but my body reacts poorly when I exert it in a way that for many of my American Peers is normal, everyday, American Human exertion. And I forget this. And then Ibrance Exhaustion reminds me. And then I feel scared and cooped up and I can walk out onto my patio and stick my face in the lavender. So delectable.

The air today, in Chicagoland, is pregnant with the possibility of at least one thunderstorm. There were thunderstorms in the American Southwest, and they were some of the finest I have ever known, but nothing compares to a good Chicagoland storm. Nothing compares to catching that first whiff of ozone in the air as the clouds gather and conspire and turn. So good.

Last week I was in Iowa. I rode a riding mower, and it was such fun. Too bad I suck at mowing lawns. My vision is poorly. Always has been. Damn shame that, but glasses do exist. We’ve somehow managed to come that far as a Human Race. Like when you consider how deeply Stupid the majority of Humans are, it’s a wonder Lenscrafters exists.

But I digress.

I rode a riding mower, I went into town with my Aunt to buy goods from the Amish who call us The English which makes sense because back when, we were The English. As in, from England. And the Amish were from, originally, I think Switzerland. Could be wrong. Doesn’t matter for our purposes, reader. Google does exist. Again, a wonder. (Speaking of Google, did you catch this?) And when I, an English, was out among the Amish last week, I kept noticing how strong the forearms of Amish women are. Like you would not want to have to fight an Amish woman. Their forearms are massive from labor. Made my forearms seems like the useless, pale, noodly objects attached to women in European Renaissance Art.

What I noticed, driving with my Aunt between the Amish stores, was the green. Green for as far as my eyes could see. Green. Amish children in their bonnets and hats, boarding horse-drawn buggies, speaking in Pennsylvania Dutch, laughing and messing around like all Human Kids do. And I think, “this would be a nice way to live.” And then I get home, to my American Apartment, on a muggy 90 degree day in Chicagoland, and I think, “How the fuck do the Amish do that shit?”

And my ladies, if you are looking to build up those forearms, go Amish for a year. Churn butter. Feed horses. Pull some plows. Knead bread and lift babies all day . . .

I was reading a little book my Aunt had purchased from the Amish, it advised “one hour of rest in the morning, and one hour of rest in the evening.” I could not be Amish.

One thing I’ve never seen Amish do, and I’ve spent a little time throughout my life in their presence, is “multitask.” They do one thing at a time. We English notice this in their stores. They don’t run to help the customer if the English (or Amish, for that matter) walks in when the Amish is, say, in the middle of saddling a horse. The customer waits until there is time for the customer. And everyone is just okay with that, even the English, because we’re on Amish territory now and we have to be.

As a Buddhist, as a person who is trying to Heal, I appreciate this about the Amish. One thing at a fuckin’ time. My problem, and maybe you share this reader, is that my brain wants to do all of the things, or intensely one of the things, so that I end up being unable to do any of the things, and sometimes I completely forget to pause and do the Correct Thing. Like eat a little lunch, make my bed, sit outside by the herbs and wait for thunderstorms.

And I know, today, that I have everything I need. And more. Definitely more than if I was Amish.

On days like this, on days when the body must be at rest, the mind does wander to the past, to how things could have gone differently, could have been better, if only they, or if only she, or if only he, or if only I . . . And it’s hard, particularly on days like this, when I don’t feel my best not to think of my ex spouse, our vows, all that shit, and wonder, “And where are you now?”

Alas, I save myself. I always do. I smell the lavender. I make myself a gray smoothie (they always turn out gray if I put the Correct Ingredients in), drink the smoothie while doing nothing other than drinking my smoothie until it is done. Then I feel better. Always. (Blueberries, kale, avocado, honey, pecans, oat milk . . . no recipe: just throw shit in blender. Blend. Add whatever. Subtract whatever. Eat something, for God’s sake.) Appetite isn’t great today, over exerted myself having fun in Iowa.

So today’s Ibrance Flu is an excuse to rest more. This is good. Rest, even in American “work yourself to death” culture, is good. And I love myself enough now that I can find room to let myself heal properly. Eat the fucking gray smoothie. Take the pills, even if they make you feel a little gross. Listen to The Blues. American music. Kept in good company by - counting ‘em - eighteen varieties of plant. Some have flowers. Others do not. All have green. Green in such damn abundance.

I tried to garden in Arizona. Mostly failed. One year got a quarter-colanderful of arugula. One year grew marigolds. Wanted so desperately to grow our own food, even if only the salad portions, but ended up always at farmer’s markets for what I needed to cook for us. Now I just cook for me. I throw blueberries and kale and shit in a blender. I blend. I drink while looking at all my plants. The sun feels good. The plants agree.

Wouldn’t mind a thunderstorm, but I’m trying not to get greedy.

And so there is sunshine, and plants, and Blues and Rock n’ Roll still in this world, and blueberries still in this world, and books, and art with Art Powers still in this world. Go stick your face in a lavender plant. You won’t regret it.

Be good, hooligans.

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