Rediscovering an Old Joy: Steinbeck and Dr. Plastic Picker’s Wandering Mind
August 16, 2020
I’m rereading “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. I loved Steinbeck when I was a teen. I think I read his complete works. But at fourteen I was reading mostly for plot lines. I was and am generally a fast reader. I read every word, but Mr. Plastic Picker was always amazed how fast I read. He hardly believed that I read as much as a did, being a college student of English literature himself. Other than the number of children I have, I tend to be a prolific person. I take joy in the actual number of our networth, the number of posts I have written (273), and the number of bags of trash I have picked up (260). I also now have salvaged 940 items. I don’t mind being my chronologic age because it’s the number of years I’ve lived. My maternal grandfather died at 107.
But as I was cleaning the house and ordering all our books, I found my old high school copy of “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck and started reading. I fell in love with reading again. I have read during the last 25 years, but I’m not sure if I read with that entire being when my soul was transfixed into a novel. Modern adult life has an odd way of disrupting so many systems in your body, your circadian rhythms, endocrine system, and limbic systems. I think my systems were disrupted over the last few years. But it’s healing now and I’m 175 pages into East of Eden. I’m reading it slow and highlighting phrases and learning new vocabulary.
John Steinbeck was speaking to my soul yesterday. I don’t know how the 14 year old me understood him. By the 40+ year old me underscored these phrases. “At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe it? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?” (p 171). “By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced direction, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged . . . And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.” (p 171-172).
And with that, my mind wandered all over the place yesterday. I picked up two bags of plastic pollution yesterday, and sat below the sandcliffs and watched people and the waves. I perfected my first recipe of Vegan Flaxseed Muffins and used pureed pears for the first time. I made my first customized cold brew coffee/cacao leaf concoction, and will see if it taste okay this morning (this was a partial food waste project). I blogged but I think the picture wasn’t attention grabbing enough. Hence my attention grabbing picture today (that’s a found mask on the beach that I’ve washed). I emailed my mortgage broker and thinking about refinancing one of our rental properties still. I’m preparing to dive into another work project that is due on Thursday. And I made this piece for a friend who is the Director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Clinic. He hates vaping too as a pediatric pulmonologist.
And through all those environmental “chores” I was doing yesterday, I was reading Steinbeck on and off. We had vegan meatballs and pasta yesterday as a family, and watched “Pastafarian” movie. It was short and it was very funny. And then we all settled in for the night and I continued reading and naturally fell asleep. And I woke up this morning, and I feel well. Except for when I think about the environment, and below is how I feel when I think about the state of our earth. I will go get another bag of plastic pollution now while it’s still relatively cool. It’s 705AM on a Sunday morning, and I hope this post finds you well.