I love Thursdays. I never write about Thursdays here. It's because, at the end of a Thursday, I feel so happy and relaxed that I feel no need to write about Thursday. So tonight, as I anticipate another Thursday, I will share with you why Thursdays are so special.
Thursday - it's such a synaesthetically-to-me pretty word - it's a deep deep blue with a deep violet undertone and a shimmer of lilac on top, with the tiniest bit of clear at the end. The day itself is more of a periwinkle blue, but of the same intensity. In case anyone is interested.
Thursdays are like mini retreats for me. A mini retreat each week; how lucky am I? (On a side note, I've distracted myself - talking about the colors is making me see the colors much more consciously, and I keep stopping while I type to look at them.)
In the morning I audit a Master's level English class on images in John Milton's work. We're going through Paradise Lost book by book, and we'll finish the semester with Samson Agonistes. It's in English, which is a nice relaxing atmosphere for me, and the class seems to have cohered well (the people, I mean). But reading Milton is such a treat. I attended a Shakespeare camp the summer I was 13 (yes, I was one of those kids), and it was one of the most formative experiences of my life. Seriously. Because I was taught how to read Shakespearean writing, starting with finding the period (thus identifying the whole sentence without paying attention to the line breaks), then finding the verb, then finding the subject, after which all the extra phrases and descriptors fall into line.
Reading Milton involves the same process, and I am just so, so glad that I know how to do this. Most people never learn to do this, and I can't imagine the trouble it must be to read early modern English poetry without being able to move freely within the language.
I love the prof who teaches the Milton course too, she's just fantastic. And I love to listen to the different accents of everyone in the class. And for the first time in my life, I'm enjoying picking apart and analyzing the little bits and pieces of poetry, putting things into linguistic and historical context, trying to think as Milton thought, trying to tease out all of the little nuances that he slips into the text. Every other class in which I've had to do stuff like this, it always felt so contrived and stupid. But in this class, it isn't, and it's really, really great.
I read the books from Milton the day before, and it's like retreating into a different world. In fact, I learned last week that I can't go down to the beautiful spot by the river and read, because I get sensory overload - there's too much beauty happening both outside and inside that I can't handle it. I get lost in the poetry, and I feel the words roll around in my mouth like smooth marbles. It's a meditative exercise, getting into Milton. I have to make the conscious effort to engage with the imagery, texture, and rhythm of the text, or else I get lost and just pass over the words, and I can't see anything. So I have to take the time to slip into it, to slide below the surface of the writing and locate myself within his world. It's like if you slowly slid into a swimming pool, only to find that, once under water, you aren't actually in water at all, but rather in a beautiful, shimmering, pulsating, intensely hyper-colored alternate world, where time and space are not the same as here, and so you can see and hear things that should be too far away, and move three miles in a step, and take in the vastness of a landscape in one glance.
It reminds me of an exercise I did once on a retreat day. The woman giving the talk was going to explain lectio divina, and to start she passed around a box of fancy chocolates and told us to take one, but don't eat it yet. She had us sniff it, and then really smell it. Roll it around in our fingers, feel the shape, look at the design. Smell it again. Then take one small bite. Roll it around your tongue, pay attention to all the different tastes, see how they interact with each other in your mouth. Then swallow, and smell again. Repeat.
And that, my friends, is how I read Milton. And for an hour and a half every Thursday morning, I get to do this with other people. We wallow in it, except it's whatever the positive version of "wallow" is (can someone please provide me with this word?). And I surface from that pool, perfectly dry, and totally refreshed. Amazing, amazing.
And that's only Thursday morning.