Finally, FINALLY I managed to get that 20 minutes to myself last night. (Actually, it was a whole hour! Luxury!) And I fulfilled my daydream and spent it in an armchair reading the Odyssey. I’m enjoying it. I’ve never read the Odyssey before (cue wails of astonishment from my East Coast educated brethren) and I’m reading it very slowly and intentionally.

The bit that caught my attention last night was a metaphor. I find it interesting to discover the root of some long-familiar phrases and metaphors. I find it equally interesting to discover which ones have not survived to be reused. One that really caught my attention was this:

“Then, as one who lives alone in the country, far from any neighbor, hides a brand as fire-seed in the ashes to save himself from having to get a light elsewhere, even so did Ulysses cover himself up with leaves;” (Book 5) (Also, my translation is better)

I had never really thought of this before. It evokes this vast loneliness. If you are far from neighbors and your fire goes out past relighting, what a dark and dire world it must be! I sometimes complain of the way nursing ties me tight to this schedule. In some ways this fire-holding must be worse. You must have something to burn. You must awaken, return, whatever is needed to keep the fire alight. I’m not sure how hard it would be to reignite the fire if you fail to keep it going, but obviously it is a barrier. On the other hand, how refreshing it must be to live with other people — to have a family who can share this responsibility, to have neighbors who can also be counted upon to have kept their fires alight.

It brings to me a new light to the idea of community, and what community meant.

Keep those home-fires burning, friends.


So I’m reading “The Odyssey” at a pace best described as glacial. I’m on Book 5, where Odysseus has sex with a goddess but doesn’t really enjoy it.

Anyway, many of you will know that my degree is in Medieval studies. What I really studied was early music and literature. I read Chaucer and Song of Roland and Spencer and Milton and Shakespeare and Chretien de Troyes and pretty much whatever I could get my hands on. (OK, that’s not entirely true. I’ve had “Piers Plowman” sitting on my bookshelf since Jr. Year and I still can’t bring myself to read it.)

During this whole time I idly wondered how these brilliant writers of yore shared this vast and unified command of Greek mythology. Shakespeare, Donne, Milton … they all refer to the same pantheon and clearly expect their readers to be familiar as well. They didn’t have Bullfinches mythology. (Where did that come from anyway?) They didn’t have some Greek Bible laying out the theology. They had some Aristotle and his philosiphia… basically, I idly wondered for a long time about this but never bothered to think hard about it or, you know, look it up or ask someone.

I suspect you see where this is going.



I really should’ve known that.

What about you? What’s something that played an important role in an area where you are theoretically an expert, but you just never figured out some incredibly obvious connection? Have you ever had something like this crop up with you?

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

John Keats