It's been a year since I've sat in a classroom. I've missed it. Between the wedding and the rehab, there wasn't much time for extraneous activities. Only that which demanded my attention received it in 2012. GRIN got off the ground, numbness was banished, children were married, and novels were read. So many, many novels were read last year, and I can't say that I learned nothing from any of them. But, there were no facts, there was no analysis, there was no conversation surrounding them. I needed a classroom experience, and Ms Levine's kindergarten was not what I wanted.
I needed to feel challenged, to stretch my brain, to keep ideas and places and people in context. Amidst the plethora of opportunities presented by the University of Arizona's Humanities Seminars this semester, I found many smiles and one giant grin. Mike Lippman, who introduced me to Rome, is presenting Greece in 2013. My check was in the mail the day the brochure hit my desk.
I drove and parked and found a front row seat, smiling at old acquaintances and adjusting my book bag under my too-short-to-reach-the-floor-feet. No, I wasn't at the luncheon last March where a new classmate thought she'd met me. A quick trip back to January 8th brought her up to speed on the last two years of my life; it's nice to be less of a celebrity, to blend into the background, not to have everyone staring. Of course, my less-obvious-than-12-months-ago limp probably has a lot to do with that, too.
After introductions and explanations (you'd be amazed at how much can be said about a name tag), we started, as the syllabus stated, From the dawn of time. The Greeks had a Dark Ages, just as the Europeans had theirs. Our course begins as they emerge into the light of the 5th century before the birth of Christ.
It was a powerful hundred years, from Leonidas at Thermopylae to Pericles in Athens. Herodotus, Thucydides, Aeschylus, the Oerestia, Lysistrata... they're all in the curriculum. It's at once an over-view and an in-depth look at the birth of the humanities, using drama and history to tell the tale. Today's lecture was designed to bring us all up to speed, to be sure we were all at the same place, knowing the same actors, understanding the basic underpinnings of the polis.
I had to smile.
That book sits on Big Cuter's shelf, on Amster's kids' shelves, and on the shelves of every birthday boy or girl I've known, over the age of 8. The authors pull no punches; Cronos all but licks his chops as he devours his children. But the pictures are great, the story telling is mesmerizing, and if a UofA professor is assigning it to his students there just must be something to it.
I took notes, I nodded sagely, I raised a quizzical eyebrow now and then. It was a perfect morning in the classroom. I spent the early part of the afternoon with Herodotus and Plutarch, imagining those big Persian ships sloshing around in the tidal waters of Salamis, harassed by their more nimble Greek enemies. I marveled at Themistocles's arrogance and Xerxes's tolerance and wondered about bias in ancient texts. I studied maps of the Peloponnese and tried to trace rivers through mountain ranges.
I was in heaven.
There will be more, I am sure, throughout the semester. For now, treat yourself to an afternoon with the D'Aulaire's. I know you'll enjoy them. As for me, I'm going back to those maps. There is so much more to learn.