“The concrete highway was edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass, and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog’s coat, and foxtails to tangle in a horse’s fetlocks, and clover burrs to fasten in sheep’s wool, a sleeping life waiting to be spread and dispersed…”
- John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
I just finished reading The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah. It was a well-written, engaging, evocative tale of Dust Bowl times in Texas and California. Three-dimensional characters going through the kinds of transformation that make storytelling literature, page-turning narrative and a measured pace that made it all a pleasure. The author also wrote the equally engrossing The Nightingale as well as several others that I look forward to reading. In short, she is an excellent writer.
But there are writers and then there are writers.Having read almost everything else he’s written, I realized I had never actually read The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck’s treatment of the same moment in American history. So I dove in and immediately found myself in the soothing bath and refreshing stream of Steinbeck’s genius, his way of using language to bring the whole enterprise a few feet deeper and reach a few feet higher. Like Dickens, he is a master of character, narrative, dialogue, but touches it all with a poetic brush and humanitarian vision that goes beyond the norm.
I imagine this applies to just about every field— there are musicians and musicians, woodworkers and woodworkers, parents and parents. This is not to discourage the non-italic’ed amongst us, it’s not about the star system, more honing our ability to recognize the touches that take things beyond the usual and to enjoy being in the orbit of those who “have it.” These are the folks that take the time to walk through the “tangled, broken, dry grass” and become the vehicles of dispersal for the seeds of the Spirit to be spread throughout the land.
And so on this first day of June, in retreat with my extended family at Sea Ranch after my nephew’s glorious wedding and my sister and brother-in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary to be celebrated tonight, I awaken to sun quickly hidden by coastal fog and vow to renew the ongoing marriage of words and wonder, sounds and Soul, puzzles and pleasure, family and food, all in mutual non-masked community warmth and laughter. Onward!