the lazy grub-hunters of the Salinas valley

On a Friday afternoon in the second week of warm weather after the week of freezing that came after the first week of warm weather, it rained, and the mosquitoes were born. It’s still a summertime eden in the land of air and light, but now there are these fumbling fat and fragile insects, stumbling through the air, made of little enough that they can put a hair in your pore and suck blood out of it. I saw the very first ones, this evening, when I went on a walk down by the slough where I saw the grizzly tracks. The slough is filled with water, now, after the rain, and the water is stagnant and brown, and the flies came up out of it, and populated the earth. And then after I got home I sat on the back steps to read in the eleven p.m. light in front of the shed where the raven with only one wing lives, and they came out of the ether to greet my forehead, bump, bump. I’m reading East of Eden, or rather I’ve started. Or rather I read the introduction, which is some terrible vomit of academia that claims in the space of twenty pages and in the most inaccessible language possible that Steinbeck wrote the book as a way to cast his “evil, unfaithful, cold and un-nurturing” ex-wife, quite literally, as a whore, and also compares the book, again and again, to the bible. And so afterwards it was with great apprehension that I started the first chapter. And then on the second or third page (I don’t remember which) Steinbeck (in this autobiographical history of his family) describes the Native people of the Salinas valley as “an inferior breed without energy, inventiveness, or culture, a people that lived on grubs and grasshoppers and shellfish, too lazy to hunt and fish.” And Steinbeck was supposed to be some sort of perceptive person? With, like, a broad understanding of the history of a place, and the nature of man? Gimme a break. I am so sick of living in a world where crap like this exists. And for some perspective, this was 1952, not 1852. No, wait, there is no excuse for stupid crap like that. Seeing as the rest of the book is, as far as I can tell, about what a hard time white immigrants had even surviving in the valley they had colonized, it’s a little hypocritical to write off the people who managed to thrive there for thousands of years before you came. Vomit!

But I am going to try and read it anyways. Because I like epic family histories more than almost anything, and The Grapes of Wrath is one of my favorite books of all time, and Ann Marie says that East of Eden is even better.

Tomorrow! It is the weekend. I took a nap today after work, a three-hour nap during which I dreamed of living all the summer long without a watch, on some land somewhere in the Interior, and catching fish and drying them and canning them and putting them away and getting all ready, like a squirrel, for the wintertime. And what would that be like? I can only imagine it, because I do not have it, yet. But Tomorrow! I will do some putting away, I am going to make a huge bubbling caribou stew and can it in the fresh new mason jars that Debbie picked up for me in town. I want to make more jerky, too, and dry it in the sun- the sun!

River came through today and brought some halibut, she’d gone halibut fishing in the deep ocean and so I fried some up and ate it with ketchup, and River made an eggplant stew with caribou and beet greens and we ate that too, and injera.

Now it’s nearly midnite and the birds are singing like it’s four a.m., the sky a pale blue, the sun dropped low behind the river. There is no time here, no time- a cornucopia of time, the longest day of your life, with eight hour naps between banquets of sun.

So much happiness!

the land of air and light

the land of air and light

3 thoughts on “the lazy grub-hunters of the Salinas valley

  1. No time is a wonderful thing.
    Hopefully in the coming years none of us will wear watches.
    All we are and all we need to know comes from the sun.

  2. I have read all of Steinbeck’s work without finding a trace of bias directed toward the so-called “common man.”

    Personal opinion, I don’t think East of Eden was his best work. Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday were fantastic. The Wayward Bus was incredibly well-written.

  3. Buffalo- no, so far in East of Eden, he hasn’t had any beef with the “common man”. Only Native people, and women, who are cast as heartless, loveless, inhuman, one-sided robots without complex personalities.

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