sidebar
Logo Top Banner
Home
slogan Alaska Timeline Alaska Kids About
Peer Work
Family & Community
Family Collections

Barnett

Clark

Durtschi

Kerr

Lax

Mom G and Mary

Moore

Oswald Stratford

Sharp

Templeton

Van Dommelen

Family Features

History & Culture
Digital Archives
Narrative & Healing
Reading & Writing
Libraries & Booksellers
Teaching & Learning
Contact Us

  
Search Peer Work Only
Sign up for newsletter
  
Find us on Facebook
   ENews
   April 2011 E-News
March 2011 E-News
January 2011 E-News
September 2010 E-News
May 2010 E-News
March 2010 E-News
January 2010 E-News
November 2009 E-News
September 2009 E-News

Family and Community

Home  >  Family and Community  >  Family Collections  >  Lax
Living Literature: Travels in John Steinbeck's Wake
By Andromeda Romano-Lax Page 1 of 4   Next ยป

Books help the reader live vicariously, allowing one to travel — at least mentally — to new places and times. But occasionally, a book provides passage in a more literal sense, to new lands and experiences.

In 1940, the Pulitzer- and Nobel-prize winning author John Steinbeck voyaged to the Sea of Cortez, a "narrow, highly dangerous" body of water off Mexico's Baja Peninsula. His reasons for going: to rigorously study ocean life (he was an amateur biologist), to shake off marital troubles, to find new inspiration in a desert wilderness away from the brewing world war. With his friend, the Monterey biologist Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck wrote about that trip in The Log from the Sea of Cortez, now a classic prized both by ecologists and armchair travelers.

A manmade circle of tidal stones surrounds a natural hot spring on the shore of Bahia Concepcion, the starting point for the Lax family's Sea of Cortez adventure.
Two summers ago, my family and I — including my husband, Brian, and children Aryeh, age 5, and Tziporah, 2 — re-created that journey. It was a 4,000-mile odyssey by small sailboat, sea kayak, Mexican panga, car and thumb. On our best days, we paddled among whales, snorkeled coral reefs, searched for endangered sea cucumbers, and traveled remote waters with a Seri Indian guide. On our worst, we endured chronic seasickness, various mild injuries, and the mood-swings of a manic-depressive American boat captain.

Our plan was to re-live Steinbeck's Log. As weeks passed, we found ourselves re-living many of his books: from Cannery Row -- a book metaphorically enriched by Steinbeck's love of tidepool creatures. To The Grapes of Wrath -- the subject of which, immigration, related to human tragedies we encountered in the northern Cortez. To The Pearl -- a novella inspired by a Mexican fable.

Traveling the lands and meeting the people -- and marine organisms -- that were his subjects, we gained new respect for California's famous native son. The man, his concerns, his opinions and passions, become real to us. If I had ever relegated Steinbeck to the dusty shelves of "literature," and relegated "literature" to the role of passive diversion, then this trip shook off that dust. Literature came to seem more than mere entertainment, more even than reflection and amplification, but instead a way to participate in a vibrant world. Sometimes it seemed like more than that. It became a living beast: beautiful, unpredictable, occasionally dangerous. A few times, as in the condensed excerpt that follows, it was hard to tell where Steinbeck's writings ended and our own adventures began.

Listen to Audio
IBM Text to Speech

Related Articles
»
The Lax Family On Sharing
»
Reading, Not Ritalin
»
Reading Aloud
»
Some Poem Excerpts
»
Homemade Books and Other Projects

Next page:   Steinbeck's Sting Pages:  1 2  3  4 


sidebar
  Contact Us       LitSite Alaska, Copyright © 2000 - 2014. All rights reserved. University of Alaska Anchorage.
University of Alaska Anchorage