My lungs sucked in the moist, cool breeze in one delightful breath, but my brain struggled to comprehend that it had finally been liberated from the cesspool of muck on my desk. Like quicksand, the business of death had dragged me into its inescapable grasp for the past two months, and this was the first time I had come up to gulp air. My husband died abruptly and unexpectedly, yet I was the one who felt buried under the paperwork that woke me from my sleep and kept me robotically shifting from one day to the next. I had promised myself a reprieve from the languid desert heat of Phoenix with a trip to Monterey, California as soon as my ducks were in a row. I anticipated time to rejuvenate myself by playing with grandkids, walking along the beach, shopping and perhaps visiting the aquarium. However, it was something else, an unexpected turn of events, which tugged and pulled and illuminated my soul enough to let the healing begin – I fell in love.
It began innocently enough. His poetic late night whispers attracted me a like a magnet. I resisted at first but found it difficult to pull away. His voice penetrated deep into my soul, and a surge of renewal allowed me to feel again. A glimmer of hope escalated within me as the gaping hole in my heart began to fill with a measure of companionship. Courageously moving headlong into a whirlwind relationship took away the pain and inspired me to look outside myself again. I hadn’t felt this giddy since high school, a lifetime ago — forty years ago to be exact. I saw him on the plaza on Cannery Row against the backdrop of the crystal blue bay. The flowers were in bloom, and yummy smells wafted from nearby eateries. There he was, the man whose words had enamored me in the past and whose prose had rekindled a new flame in my soul. The John Steinbeck monument was in plain view now, and I tripped excitedly down the hill to take a closer look!
Once upon a time, I had read every Steinbeck novel cover to cover, but that was decades ago. Here I was in Monterey, the setting for many of his books. I decided to download some of his shorter works onto my Kindle Fire and reacquaint myself with his writing. While I admit that some of Steinbeck’s descriptive passages can lull the reader to sleep on a slow day, they can also portray the world better than paint on a canvas. As I read, I imagined this community when the odorous fish canneries held sardines and laborers rather than souvenirs. Steinbeck’s eloquence jarred me out of my pity party long enough to notice the local scenery such as the sand dunes of Seaside, the old Del Monte hotel, seals basking on rocks and otters playfully floating away their day near the aquarium. I pondered with a sense of admiration for this place.
While strolling along the tourist district of Cannery Row, I gasped as I found myself unexpectedly standing next to the building of the Pacific Biological Laboratories. Isn’t this where Doc patiently endured the antics of Mack and Hazel and Eddie? I gaze above the Row and deliberate about the possible neighborhoods of Tortilla Flat, and reminisce about Danny and his companions. These long lost friends had jumped off the Kindle screen like pop-up people on the pages of a children’s story book. How our own lives are reflected in their rationalizations as they participate in the human experience! These personalities reminded me to learn and grow and appreciate life and to be thankful for the blessings already within my reach. They fed my spirit with the realities of mortality and jolted me forward back into a life where I can find warmth and joy in simple things. My stay in Monterey was much too short, but it was long enough to enjoy the things that mean the most – grandchildren’s giggles and the companionship of family and friends.
© Patricia J. Angus 2014 to present
Pacific Biological Laboratories http://www.monterey.org/museums/CityMuseums/PacificBiologicalLaboratories.aspx
The Cannery Row Foundation http://www.canneryrow.org/
National Steinbeck Center http://www.steinbeck.org/