This morning I walked to the Whole Foods Market in my neighbourhood (OMG there’s a WFM in my neighbourhood!).
That is neighbourhood relatively speaking.
It’s about six miles away. And I decided to walk for two reasons:
1. I don’t have any other choice, and
2. if I walk I have to carry everything back and this means I won’t get carried away in my favourite American store.
The Chicago morning was warm. And windy. And whether or not this is true I have no idea, but a native told me yesterday that Chicago is not known as ‘the windy city’ for its weather, but for its gas-bagging politicians.
Nonetheless, this morning was warm and windy.
I walked along the wide streets, thankful for the intermittent shade from the trees along the sidewalk.
There was something about the air . . . that reminded me . . . of something.
Something about the smell of the warmth . . . the sunshine on my skin . . . the still quiet heat . . .
Darwin! Not Darwin, Katherine! A teenage girl, 18 and pregnant, on an outback station four hours down a long, straight dirt road from Katherine. Anyone who knows Australia’s Northern Territory knows that is a long long way from nowhere. And I was, in every way.
Eighteen and pregnant, with little patience and just about no respect for anyone expecting me to do anything I didn’t want to do, I had accepted a job as a ‘governess’, as they called them in those days, although god only knows what they call them these days, to two small children and housekeeper to one commanding mother in the house. Of course, I had been employed only as a governess. The housekeeping was a surprise sprung on me one day when I was reading in my spare time among the scattered shade of a gum tree outside the house. Turns out there was no such thing as spare time four hours down a long dirt road from Katherine.
I smile with the memory. That was a weird situation. And march on through suburban Chicago to the WFM.
Where, heaven, I am hungry. I have had no breakfast. I try to make it a rule not to shop on an empty stomach. Especially when I have to carry everything on the train tomorrow. Which is the primary reason for the shop – I am not eatin’ train food for 48 hours to Seattle. I am not eating train food period.
I start with the juicy green grapes. They’ll be nice for a change. Roma tomatoes, yes! I’ll make a jar of Mediterranean salad. Basil – five bucks! I’m not paying $5 for basil – okay, I’ll buy the plant, $2.49. Oooo, sweet potato. Fancy that, they call them yams. Yum, one for dinner tonight and the other for the train. Double oooo, fresh organic rocket. Greens! I cannot resist. And apples, of course, lovely crunchy apples. I can’t decide which will be the crunchier so the grocer guy cuts two up for me so I can make an educated choice. I take two of each – and wander around eating my beautifully sliced apples from a container in the trolley.
I wander on – blue corn chips, delicious salsa. The raw ginger cookie-like snacks I’ve taken a liking to. Okay, I’ll have the pumpkin ones too. Oh, dammit, olive oil. I was hoping not to have to carry any more bottles. I am, after all, already carrying apple cider vinegar and balsamic, organic and loaded with their mothers. I muse for hours over oils in small jars, but they are refined. I like my oil cold pressed. There is only a large bottle. For the sake of my Mediterranean salad I take it.
Oooo, smoked salmon, wild caught. I’ll have bagels for lunch! Sprouted wheat bagels. And I’ll toast all six of them up, one for breakfast and the rest for the train, and hope the nice person in the snack bar lets me put my salmon in the train fridge. Fresh mozzarella, for the salad and the bagels. Olives, aw yum, kalimata and ooo I can’t resist, a delicious compote of pretty olives as well. The cheese! Aged gouda – I settle on 18 months. And chocolate, the yummy yummy chilli and cherry chocolate and the almond and sea salt chocolate I’ve really really taken a liking to. Three bars will do.
Water! Fiji water on sale, two for $3. And look at that lovely WFM cold bag – just what I need for my picnic on the train, with its soft wide strap for the shoulders.
Two hundred dollars later I limp out of the store with two bags on my shoulders and one in each hand into the warm and windy day, and stare at the parking lot. I have a long way to walk home. And in my defence, $78 of that $200 was lovely new face cream, face serum and something or other else. I’ve been a woman denying myself for quite some time now, forsaking ‘frivolities’ for reduced weight, and in Chicago I’m making it all up to myself. Besides, traveling is hard on the skin.
It’s a make hay while the sun shines kinda day, when one puts on a brave face and dances with disappointment . . . though what that plummeting disappointment is I have an idea, but nothing of import . . . at least public import. It’s a soul thing. A reckoning thing. A 48 hours on the train and the least I can do is feast thing.
I stagger past a McDonald’s sign that stands about 10 feet high. This is noteworthy, those golden arches on a small brick wall in a country that raises them 75 feet as if they are the only thing worth seeing for a hundred miles, as if they were proclaiming a cultural icon, like the Grand Canyon, or Uluru, or a pyramid – something that beckons from afar and gathers a crowd.
A boy is kicked off a bus because he’s not allowed to use his school pass in the holidays. I yell ‘hold up’ and give him the two bucks so he can get back on board.
I wish like hell one of the hundred cars that passes me in the 90 minutes it takes to walk home will offer me a lift.
An hour later, after many many rests in the shade of the trees on the sidewalk, I stagger in the front door at Oak Park, sweating, hot, damp, exhausted – my pilgrimage to food satisfied, my desire for delicious fulfilled – straight into the air conditioning.
For the ten thousandth time in my life I am puzzled by our need to control our environment so absolutely. I understand the need to ease severe discomfort – but there is something depressing for me about our habitual refusal to simply entertain life as it is. On Earth. The heat. What are we missing by refusing to allow ourselves the heat of the day? The delicious sigh of putting our feet up. The easy smile that comes with the languorous inability to move quickly. Sensuous possibilities that entertain more than our minds.
I give thanks for effort, and living, breathing heat.