Years ago, when Ben and I lived in our first Costa Mesa house, a jewel box cottage tucked on the back of a lot, we read East of Eden aloud. We savored Steinbeck's descriptions of the poppies, seemingly illuminated from within, the soil, the wind, the landscape we already knew though it lay north of us. We cried when families broke and broke again, when babies died and brothers ached. We soaked in the stunning pain and beauty of living east of Eden.
On Saturday night we gathered with friends to say goodbye. (I pretended it was my birthday party to alleviate the gloom). After champagne, cups of soup, beautiful salads, cheeses, cake, we packed into our friend's living room, and told stories. Ben had words for each of his friends, but opened and closed with what follows. His words touch on much of what California has been for us, the people we've loved, the land we've made home:
Steinbeck borrowed the title of his book East of Eden from Genesis,Chapter 4, verse 16:
"And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden."
That place, to the East of Eden, full of extremes, both lush and barren,
a cake mix in a box that says "just add water", a place so close to paradise
but so far from perfection, a place for the broken but protected, this is Steinbeck's California.
It is the land of dangerous possibility -- a land of discriminate opportunity, disproportionate success --
delivering a future determined by free will, ambition, and lots of luck.
It is my home -- a land, east of Eden, full of wonderful characters, wildflowers blooming out of the desert.
California has been the greatest home I've ever known. The beach, the sun,
the weather, the people -- the greatest of these is the people.
You are my community; my friends; my family. You are impossible to replace. I mourn this loss.
His words remind me that we are here -- where we love and lose, where we must listen for the next call and walk on -- here, just outside of Eden.