Category Archives: Steinbeck

It is as Easy as Herding Turtles!

I think I truly am becoming a literature nut.  Recently, our family volunteered at a local state park – Wekiwa State Park.

wekiwa turtles

It was an unusual opportunity assisting with a turtle count in a stretch of the local springs.  The family needed to be experienced paddling a canoe and willing to hold a turtle.  Check and check!  Totally sounds like us!! Why the fascination with turtles, you ask? My family is die hard Maryland Terrapin fans.  For the uneducated in Marylandese.. a terrapin is a turtle indigenous to the Maryland region and the state reptile.

Maryland Terrapin

And best of all the mascot of the GREAT – University of Maryland.

Fear the Turtle

Anything to save or aid the world of turtles, we are in!  I did not hesitate to sign us up.  We experienced a fabulous day of canoeing and being taxis for turtles.  As the researchers found turtles we paddled to the snorkeler, grabbed the turtle and placed in the canoe.  We then paddled the canoe to the follow on boat  and passed off the turtle to be held in a bin.  The bin was marked by the section of the spring the turtle was found in so he or she could be placed back in their area of the spring.  It was grand fun and a beautiful day to be on the river.

As I was paddling and thinking about turtles, I began to reflect on the turtle chapter in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  The chapter describes the tenacity of the turtle as it attempts to cross a road, up a hill, over a curb and across a dirt road.  The turtle was determined and did not give up.  Symbolic of the Okies pursuit of work and maintaining the family during the great depression and the dust bowl.  As I watched the turtles in our canoe, I was amazed at the strength and speed of the turtles.  Yes, SPEED!  They were fast little boogers.  Each of them, no matter the size kept trying to find a way out of the canoe.  Just like in the chapter of the angry fruit book.  So the tome project is now moving into thoughts of my daily life.  Pretty cool, eh?  I am now a literary volunteer!!

Grab a book, any book and READ!  (and maybe paddle and enjoy a few turtles, too!)

Angry Fruit

angry-fruit_thumbnailI researched a bit about the next book in our series – The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and I was intrigued.  First, a lot of people I discuss books with speak very fondly of Steinbeck as a writer.  Second, it takes place in Oklahoma.  I won’t burst out in song as in the musical, don’t worry.  Although audio clips may be a nice addition to the blog.  Mmmm?  Any who…. Oklahoma is a state you don’t hear too much about really other than it is shaped really funny, like a frying pan.  (I can’t cast stone I grew up in Maryland and I won’t even say what that shape reminds me of!)  So there you have it, a writer there is buzz about and a state that there is no buzz about.  I am so in!!

Let’s dig a bit deeper on two fronts:  1) what’s with the name? and 2)  Andi’s paternal grandparents grew up in OK during this time.

First, I thought we would be reading about wine makers, or survival of the fittest fruit.  Boy was I wrong!  The Grapes of Wrath, comes from a line in the “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.  I know the tune being a marching band member.  When I read that the title came from The Battle Hymn…  I looked it up.  Of course I know the first line, who doesn’t, the rest escaped me.  The first verse of the song is as follows:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:

His truth is marching on.


Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth is marching on.

After reading this book, this first verse and the title are ever so powerful.  “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stores”.  If only it were true.  The question that came to mind was:  Whose wrath?  I decided it depended on the point of view.  There was a lot of wrath in this novel.  The Californians were furious at the Oklahomans for coming to their state.  The Okies were angry at being thrown off their land.  Women were mad at men.  Old versus young.  Men ticked off at the weather.  And much more.  I find the title brilliantly tied to the prose.  Fantastic!

Now for the “Let’s learn more about Andi” portion of our blog posting.  My father’s family comes from Oklahoma, both my Grandma and Granddaddy were born and raised there.  It opened lots of questions to my Dad.  (Hi DAD!)

Why did Grandaddy and Grandma leave Oklahoma?  What age were they when they left?  Did they every talk about it? Any other family impacted (we still have relatives in OK)?  Dad said he didn’t know about Grandaddy and Grandma but he does remember his cousin talking about heading to CA just like in Grapes of Wrath.  He didn’t know the details but yes our family was displaced.  (as an aside the family returned to OK eventually)

Can you imagine?  Your entire way of living being stripped from you.  You have nothing but the items in your homemade truck, hardly any money, heading to a state you know nothing about, to find a job.  Holy schmoley, bat man.  That this happened boggles my mind.   I can’t even begin to empathize with the people in this book.  Talk about digging deep and forging ahead – but if you had no other choice….  I am not sure I would be strong enough.  If one word could be used to describe this story, it would be perseverance.  Despite everything this family held together, supported each other and kept going.  They refused to give up hope and gave everything they had to help others in need.

Amazingly, this happened within the last 100 years!  I pondered if this could happen today – I don’t believe so.  We had many disasters over the years and Roosevelt’s New Deal is standing the test of time.  We all owe to the greater good, to help take care of our fellow man.  Thank God that people of the United States do not need to be in this situation anymore and I truly hope it stays that way.