Exploring East of Eden

THIS DRIVE IS BECOMING MORE ROUTINE. 

I’m happy about that.

As I coast along the two-lane highway through the California haze, I think about how my life is changing.

I enjoy this time alone. All I must do is accelerate, turn, brake — movements that have become second nature after years.

The day passes like an old, grainy film. I drive speedily along the highway and stop to glance around at train crossings.

There’s no rush; I occasionally pull over along the route to take a few pictures.

All I can do is smile.

 

I enjoy exploring the distinct cities and pastoral interior of my home state. Golden hills rise and fall like rolling waves and extend as far as I can see.

This agricultural heartland is dotted with scattered black trees, reminiscent of stories by the 20th-century author John Steinbeck.

He called this East of Eden.

I feel like there’s much to reflect on. But in the car, I lose myself in the tales Steinbeck has intertwined with this barren earth.

East of Eden is a book about morals. It tells the story of two families growing up in the Salinas Valley beginning in the late 1800s and continuing for a handful of decades.

Adam Trask is a kind man who strives to live a life unlike his father’s. Adam raises his sons Cal and Aron on their Salinas ranch.

Yet by giving his kids the independence to pave their way, he realizes he hardly knows them at all.

Steinbeck paints a picture with his words of Central California and the early 1900s.

Cities such as King City, which I’ve generally regarded as not much more than a pit stop from Northern to Southern California, were cultural hubs in the early 20th-century.

According to Steinbeck, acres were given to anybody who wanted them, even if the land was unworkable.

After coming from the East Coast’s dense cities, people couldn’t believe they could get so much for so little. As I pass the endless fields now, I could imagine the freedom they must have felt.

It’s beautiful — this vast rural state. The more of it I see, the more I appreciate its history and unique scenery.

In East of Eden, the characters struggle to remain moral when regularly tempted to be otherwise.

Our consciousness is our constant companion; to keep it clear takes doing what isn’t always easy, but what feels right in our heart and soul.

Perhaps this is something which we’re born with, an inner moral compass that if left alone would guide us to a virtuous life.

The characters in the story long to be decent, yet they’re human beings with faults that arise from living on this earth.

Day in and day out, our moral compass is tested. We are challenged to keep our hands clean and our hearts pure.

This life is a battle — one worth fighting indefatigably for what we know is right.

East of Eden is a story of redemption, for no day is a wasted opportunity to be who we long to be. The Trask brothers Cal and Aron are based on the biblical brothers Cain and Abel.

Cal, based on Cain, wants more than anything to be noble, yet can’t seem to change his ways. Aron studies to become a priest, a leader among people, similar to a shepherd leading sheep. He’s compared to Abel, a “keeper of sheep” (Gen. 4:2).

As a reader, I felt like I grew with the brothers and could feel for them, not only seeing them for their mistakes but their desire to change.

Excellent writing provides this human connection. We don’t love characters who are perfect, as they’re difficult to relate to.

The best characters in stories grow and evolve; we too change as readers and can see why they may do what they do.

It’s only human to fall to temptation. Yet like the characters in the story who are genuinely good inside and desire to get better, we all deserve a chance at redemption.

No day, no moment, no life is a waste when our inner moral compass is challenged, yet we aspire to rise to the occasion.

I’m grateful to read stories about this place so close to my home. Steinbeck’s scenes and characters and endearing moments have stayed with me.

A great story becomes a part of you and blends realities; I look out into boundless fields and envision East of Eden.

As the sun rises again to illuminate the earth, each new day is a gift to be treasured. The possibility to be good and foster a life of peace is always within reach.

Drives inspire thoughts like these.

A subtle turn and a step on the gas takes me anywhere I want to go.

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