Galleon on Salt Billows

You have been interested in your shadow. Look instead directly at the sun. —Rumi

Salinas

Today, I spent the day in Salinas. I visited two major places: the Steinbeck House and the National Steinbeck Center.

The Steinbeck House, once John Steinbeck’s childhood home, now functions as a restaurant and gift shop. I had to get lunch from the Steinbeck House! It is run entirely by volunteers – the most precious elderly ladies (and gentleman!) that I’ve ever met in my life. The gentleman told this joke, which I found hilarious: “Everyone who works here is a volunteer, except for the cook because we can’t do that, and the dishwasher because we don’t want to! And the bookkeeper upstairs… we can’t do that either.” The ones who served the food wore Victorian era skirts that matched the window curtains, and I thought to myself that I would love to do something like this after I retire – just volunteer at the Steinbeck House. I had a Steinbeck Tea (which is a straight iced tea mixed with pink lemonade), confetti soup, a ham and leek quiche, and a creme brulee. Everything was wonderful, and I promptly bought those recipe cards from the gift shop downstairs. I also bought the Steinbeck House recipe book, which I plan to refer to often once I move into my new apartment. I want to return on Sunday for a tour, so I’ll leave the description of the house till then. I did poke my head into several of the rooms. They all still have such an antiquated beauty, and certain windows were left open to let in the most refreshing breeze. Downstairs in the cellar, which has been converted into a gift shop, I met an old lady who was also taking a road trip by herself! She had come up from Hollywood, and was celebrating her retirement. I told her that I can’t wait to retire, and she told me that the price of retirement was to be 70 years old. She was happy, and I was happy, and in that moment our shared joy of freedom made us kindred spirits.

After I had my lunch and threw an embarrassing amount of money at the gift shop, I left to visit the National Steinbeck Center. It’s a museum full of interactive exhibits featuring Steinbeck’s life and body of work. I was really excited that I could use my newly acquired student ID to receive a discount, and I proceeded to touch everything I could think to touch in the museum. I’ll post some pictures later, when I have a more passable internet connection. When I left, the lady at the entrance told me that I had spent a long time in the museum – which was a good thing, because she often saw many people who come in and leave very soon after. I cannot even fathom how anyone can leave this place so quickly. The suggested introductory videos alone were 40 minutes combined! The entire museum is so immersive; you feel like you’re inside the book, that you’re surrounded by a living form of literature. WHY COME IN THE FIRST PLACE IF YOU DON’T LOVE BEING SURROUNDED BY LITERATURE? When I left after about three hours, the parking garage charged me $1.50. Houston parking garages are robbing their patrons.

To end this post, I will describe the weather. The weather here in Salinas is perfect. The sun is shining, but it’s 75 degrees with a slight, crisp wind. I wish that I could capture this weather in a bottle and send a sample to every one of you readers. It’s elation, the thrill of flight, the sharp sense of a new beginning. I could bask in it forever.

So long, friends. Until next time.

On the Road

After driving for two and a half days, I’ve arrived in Salinas, CA. I haven’t had time to explore yet, so I’ll leave that for later. For now, I’ll share some scattered thoughts about being on the road.

On the first day, I drove the stretch of road from Houston, TX to Las Cruces, NM. The most remarkable thing about this stretch of road were the clouds. The clouds were amazing. Their heavy, fluffy layers allowed for the most extraordinary display of crepuscular rays. I’ll try to attach some pictures later; I haven’t been having the best luck with signal/wifi on this trip. Also, at some point on this day, T-Mobile informed me that I had entered Mexico. Sorry, T-Mobile, but you were mistaken.

The second day hid the clouds and replaced them with a glaring, unobscured sun. It was hotter than the first day; the high was 111 F, and that temperature stuck around for hours. Then, in the afternoon, the temperature dropped. The clear, blue sky became tinged with rust. New Mexico and Arizona are parched, dry states. For the first time in my life, I saw signs that warned of “Dust Storms” and “Strong Gusts”. I noticed patches of sand that blew across the roads and drove through some winds that threatened to rock my little car off its path. However, I managed (mostly) to stay on course. At night, around midnight, I stayed at Castaic, CA, just north of Los Angeles.

For the final leg of my way up, I drove along Highway 101 up the coast of California. The path I chose took me through mountains that layered into themselves, sometimes posing as the backdrop to the acres of farmland that held rows of crops and ripe Napa oranges. The land was so fruitful that I couldn’t help but imagine how must it would have been during the Dust Bowl, the era depicted in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. There’s a lot more I could say here, but I will touch on them later. For now, there is one more thing I that I will share. On the way up the coast, I stopped by a little bakery in Los Alamos. There was a man working there. At some point when I was ordering, I smiled a little. He smiled back. It was a slight smile, like mine, but for some reason it got to me. It was the most heartwarming, genuine smile that I had seen in a long time. Very innocent, but striking, and soft. I think I am writing about this here so that I will remember.

The drive was long, but not tiring. Not really. Once the driving starts, it kind of gets into you. The road gets into you. Time breaks down into chunks. Between cities, time seems to stretch on and the drive is just one long, continuous string. But then you hit the next place, the next chunk, and then it’s as if time hadn’t passed at all. You’ve jumped from one point to the other, finished a chunk of the journey. It goes on like this, chunk by chunk, each one infinite in itself, but gone when you pass it. And soon you find yourself at the end. You’re not sure how you did it, but you did. Well, I did it. And just knowing that I could travel this far on my own brings me a certain sense of satisfaction.

That’s all, for now. I’ll hopefully return tomorrow with an update.

Pilgrimage for Steinbeck

There are some books that I never finish, and some shows that I cannot watch to the end.

However, this is not because they are bad. In fact, quite the opposite: they are too good to finish. I do not want them to ever end, because then the adventure is over, and that in itself is a heartbreak. If I leave before the ending, before the conflict resolves itself, the party is still together and the journey continues indefinitely. It is a little selfish, I admit, to ignore the author’s wish for the conclusion to take place at the end of the tale, but I allow myself these small indulgences. I have never claimed to be utterly selfless.

And then, in this same vein of logic, there are some books I do not read – not because they are bad, but because I am saving them for a special time in my life, a time during which their words would make the most impact. Now is one of those times.

Steinbeck, it is your turn to change my life.

If I were to be honest with myself, I would chalk it all up to restlessness. I just gave my notice at my job, and I start my MBA program in less than a month. I have two weeks to spend as I please before the overwhelming wave of the future sweeps me away. It is not the fear of drowning that gnaws at me, but rather the fear of getting lost. I don’t know if I will match up to my classmates. I don’t know if I will find a job I love. I don’t know if I will lose myself while I reconfigure my mindset to be that of a sharpened, young businesswoman.

I cannot help but think that this, truly, is my last free summer. In years to come, I can take vacations – but I will never again be this young and untethered.

Therefore, in the spirit of wanderlust, I shall embark upon a journey with my oldest and dearest friend. This volatile me of right now will travel with the me I’ve known all my life – a girl who’s always questioning, always searching, always chasing after some unknown ideal. We are currently one and the same, but I have a feeling that soon we will split. Probably, it is time to change.

But before this happens, we will make a pilgrimage to Steinbeck’s beautiful home in the Salinas. We will sit before the sunset on Monterey Bay with the wind in our hair and the smell of salt spray washing over our skin. We will listen for the voice of Steinbeck, and try to understand.

Maybe we will learn something new.

Cold Feet

It’s one of those nights again in which three layers of blankets over my feet have absolutely no effect. My feet can freeze water.

I believe and trust in science wholeheartedly, but seriously, thermodynamics sure isn’t working right now. When two bodies of matter are touching, heat should flow from the warmer object to the cooler one. Well, to be totally fair, thermodynamics is based on statistical probability and I guess in that case I’m experiencing the lim(x->0):x% chance that heat is reversing flow for an absurdly long period of time. Or maybe it’s just Maxwell’s Demon.

Maxwell’s Demon is laughing in my face from an alternate dimension and I’m just here composing the most pointless blog ever.

An Ideal Job

When I was young, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I knew one thing: I wanted a job that I would love doing day after day. I would never want to take vacations. I would never dream of leaving it for a better paying job. I would have the perfect life, and laugh at all those CEOs whose lives were for sure devoid of even the tiniest filament of joy.

Then, reality hit.

Actually, no. Not so harsh. Reality knocked on the door lightly. Reality swept into my life like a gentle breeze.

I realized that there was nothing I’d want to do every day like clockwork. A year of working has taught me that. I can love doing something at first, but eventually all the little things will weigh me down. I’ll love it until I’m forced to do it. I’ll enjoy eating candy until it’s being force-fed to me meal after meal.

I’ve always thought that I wanted my career to be something I love love love. Something I couldn’t imagine not doing.

Now, I think that it’s enough to have a job that I just like (a lot), and have time left over to do what I love on the side. That way, I don’t feel forced. That way, I have free time that I can devote to my hobbies rather than to my job.

Yes, I think this is more perfect.

The Rush of the Days

* Racing against dawn, my alarm blares its tireless tirade. I dig under my pillow and push snooze, registering somewhere in a back niche of my mind that it is probably a bad decision. I am too comfortable to care. When I finally persuade myself otherwise, the alarm has rang for the tenth, fifteenth, twentieth time in five minute intervals. It is the worst type of nagging – the self-inflicted kind, the kind that works only after the deadline has passed.

The morning routine never changes. Breakfast, if I feel like being healthy.

The day begins.

The commute to work is either too long or too short. The lights don’t turn green when I’m late or red when I need to check on something. Before I know it, I’m stuck behind a truck that’s going a tiny fraction of the speed limit, and I resign myself to the inevitable pattern of morning traffic.

Eventually, I find myself thrust into the bustle of work. The general excitement of accomplishing tasks that, together, amount to something permeates the air like a patchy cloud. The lingering holes are filled instead with ceaseless thoughts, none of which have ever done me any good: I’m hungry, why is it so hot in here, when will I get a chance to do this or that.

The hours fly by fast when they’ve been forgotten, but creep along when they know they’re being watched – a sardonic sort of observer effect. A break for lunch squeezes itself haphazardly in there somehow, surrounded by various assignments that stack up like a pile of legos.

Work ends. I drive home, and eat either on the way or after I arrive. The cat wants to play, but always longer than I intend to keep him company. I lay flat on my stomach and catch up on the goings-on of internet. More time passes. The nightly routine also never changes. I lay still in bed, and allow the rush of the day to die down. My thoughts still fly around at terminal velocity. I try valiantly to push the residual noise out of my head.

But there. A moment before sleep —

My mind stills. I think about what is important to me.

My dreams and passions. The simple moments. Those I care about. The progress of humanity on this swiftly spinning Earth.

Perfect clarity.

My consciousness slips away like the final rosy hues of sunset, and I let go.

* Repeat.

Simple Truth

I encountered one simple truth today.

All religion aside, here is something I read on facebook this morning:

Image

Read it again.

And now, please allow me to highlight some things in here for you.

“I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the people who oppose same sex marriage or gay couples adopting would have adopted a black baby girl, born to a prostitute, drug-addicted mother and a father in prison for murder.”

I also could not help but wonder. And honestly, no – I don’t think the majority of these people who so ardently speak out against same sex marriage or gay couples would adopt a child like this. Of course I cannot speak for everyone. I am sure that some people who oppose ‘gay rights’ will adopt this kind of child out of love and mercy… but not most. I have lived and watched people long enough to know this to be a truth.

But here is another truth: this baby girl has done nothing to deserve her birthright. She was born blameless.

Let’s try another one:

“…these two men chose to make a change in the world and nurture a young person into a productive, lively young woman. And those men have such kind hearts, they actually consider themselves to be the lucky ones.”

They consider themselves the lucky ones. They love and want to care for this child so much that they consider themselves to be so lucky be have been given this opportunity.

A Jewish man and a Latin man fall in love and wished to be with each other for the rest of their lives. They adopt a black girl who was born on the underside of fortune’s wheel because they want so very much to raise her and to give her joy.

If this isn’t what the best of humanity looks like, I don’t know what is. I don’t know what we are fighting against. I don’t know if any human being can look at this family, truly understand everything that had to happen for them to reach where they stand today, and still be opposed to what they have together.

I am always grateful for people who see and speak the truth. Truth is easy to see. It’s obvious. It’s just that sometimes, humanity can be so blind.

Sorry, Blog

Blog, is that you? You’re still here? Of course I didn’t forget…

Okay, fine. You got me. I am a terrible person. I won’t forget you anymore.

The thing is… I have so many things to write here, but I’m too lazy to compile my thoughts and create posts! I know. Bad. I will change.

I’ll post again soon, blog. No, for real this time. I promise! Stop glaring at me with skepticism! You’ll see. YOU’LL SEE.

I’ll be back.

childhood over

He Said: “Don’t Turn Out Like Me.”

The first day I saw him, I told him that the new school policy allows facial hair. He told me months later that this news had made his day.

The first day he sat in my classroom, I asked everyone what they would regret not doing before they died. He answered on that index card that he would regret not seeing his grandmother one last time before she passed away. That answer stuck with me.

This is my first year teaching high school. It is also, for the time being, my last.

Yesterday, this boy told me something that settled heavy over my mind and my heart. However, it was not only what he told me that kept me from sleep; it was the way he insisted on telling me, despite my lighthearted attempts to decline this piece of information he offered. I have a curious habit of running from difficulty. I like to live without burden, barely glancing over the surface of any unpleasantry. This time, as if he knew how desperately I wished to avoid the matter, this boy pushed me, forced me into a territory I try to avoid.

He said: “Don’t turn out like me.” And he said it repeatedly, once every few sentences. As if he needed to tell me. As if in telling me, he could repent for his wrong. As if in telling me, he could share his burden with someone he could trust, someone who will understand.

He can trust me and I will understand. But I don’t want this burden. It is selfish for me to think this way, but it was also selfish for him to tell me. I am not angry and I forgive him, for it is human nature to be selfish – and who better to be selfish toward than people who you trust to understand you?

He told me that he needed to fill out this form before the end of the day, but how could he if he didn’t know her birthday? I asked to look at the piece of paper he held in his hands, and he let me – though he said he was ashamed. It was a court document, with a large watermark that said “SAMPLE” printed diagonally. On the top of the paper, I saw that he had written his name. Above that, I read one word: “paternity”. I pretended I hadn’t and gave the paper back to him.

I laughed a little more than I should have. “This is a sample,” I told him jokingly. “You can’t submit this in court.”

“It’s not the real one. They don’t let you take that to school,” he said in the way he usually says things. A classmate asked what it was for, but he didn’t share the information with him. “Don’t turn out like me,” he said again to me.

I gave him a sidelong glance and asked, “What are you talking about?”

“You saw what it said.”

“All I saw was SAMPLE,” I lied.

“How could you not see? It was in bold letters at the top of the page.”

“Because she’s not nosy,” said another student who was nearby. I blushed inwardly. He was coming to defend my lie.

The boy gave me the paper again and told me to read it.

“I don’t want to know,” I told him.

“Read it,” he insisted.

I had to. So I took it. And I read the entire line. He had to establish paternity.

“Oh,” I told him, in a voice what jokingly suggested that he was in trouble. How else could I react?

Class was almost over. We talked a bit more, and I did not try to give him any advice. I thought if I should, but I hadn’t really prepared for this. What could I tell him? To be brave? To live honestly? To call the girl and ask her for the baby’s birthday? Then, the bell rang. Class was over.

I wish that I could have helped him in some way, but I didn’t know what he wanted from me. Did he want advice, or just someone to learn and share in his burden? I can only imagine how lost or troubled he might feel. For the rest of the day, this knowledge weighed heavily over me.

But beneath all my feelings of unease and futility, a small voice within me asks a question. It is persistent, and won’t let me rest. It is an abstract question – more of an emotion, and I can’t quite put it into words – but let me try to phrase it the best I can:

How must he view himself to say something like ‘don’t turn out like me’? It is a sad phrase, one that he should not be saying or feeling.

The way I see him must be different from the way he now sees himself. I see a boy who is still so young, who tries to make good decisions, who respects others around him. I see a boy with heart, a drive to succeed, and a willingness to do good in the world. I see a warm-blooded youth who has waded a little too deep into the waters of life and wishes that he had stayed closer to shore. He is trying to make his way back.

I want to reach out and grab his hand, but I cannot. The school year is almost over. I won’t see him again, not like this, not in the intimate connection of teacher and student. I hope that he finds his way.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.