February 02, 2011

Steinbeck Country

Rolling hills along the way
John Steinbeck was born in the Salinas Valley and this area, the San Joaquin and the Monterey Bay area are all referred to as "Steinbeck Country."  I can't go there without recalling the literature that Steinbeck produced which has enriched my experience: Tortilla Flat; The Grapes of Wrath; Of Mice and Men; Cannery Row; East of Eden; Log From the Sea of Cortez, etc.  Just being in Monterey for the day on Tuesday to see some friends, makes me want to reread Steinbeck, maybe not all, but some of the works that influenced me, the kind of books one never forgets.
First glimpse of ocean from the car 

Restaurant at Monterey Wharf
You don't see cactus growing outside
like this in the Pacific Northwest
Because the terrain is unique, you feel truly rooted in a sense of place which Steinbeck brought to his work.  The hot, dry farmland of the Salinas Valley brings out a nostalgia in me since I was reading Steinbeck when I first moved to California and was changed by its beauty and strength.  Steinbeck's subjects are often the problems of migrant workers, immigrants, the
Dust Bowl, plots set in the Great Depression.  During summer and fall if you drive through the Salinas Valley and you see farm workers bent over rows and rows of crops in hot sun, you feel the echoes of Steinbeck and the workers become people who touch you with whole lives who feel and sweat and cry and sing.  Because they do that backbreaking, stinging work, we can eat.

Fishermen at Monterey Bay
The route from Oakland to Monterey also follows the Mission Trail and passes by San Jose de Guadelupe, Santa Clara de Asis, and San Juan Bautista all beautiful places however much they remind of a difficult history.  I didn't take the time to stop on this journey, only that I remembered where they were and recall the many times I stopped to experience the surroundings.