I had stumbled, bleary-eyed off the bus the other day as I usually do and trundled up to the mall where I work, putting the little earphones of my MP3 player in my ears. I sat inside on a bench (it was cloudy and a bit miserable outside the huge wall of glass that is the entrance) and lost myself in the tales of Odysseus for a while. Homer's writing is really quite vivid. I always imagined somehow it would be dry and difficult, but I have found it interesting in too many ways to count.
I learnt about epics backwards. In high school drama classes, I learned about Brecht's "epic theatre" of the twentieth century, in which the whole story is told beforehand so that suspense can be no distraction from the importance of the content of the story, the action all happens in episodes and repetitive phrases were used frequently throughout. The Odyssey - the original epic - has all these aspects. The events described in the epic are all told by characters to assemblies of other characters in the style of a kind of oral poetry. The repeated phrases in the Odyssey become as beautiful as a litany. "Dawn came, fresh and rosy-fingered" is probably my favourite. Homer - when he rather than one of his characters is telling the story - also takes great care to describe the small and personal actions of his characters. The care with which Telemachus' (Odysseus' son) nurse extinguishes the lamp in his room and does other perfectly ordinary yet perfectly wonderful actions when he goes to sleep at night is simply and lovingly described. Homer actually becomes so attached to one of his characters (a loyal and humble swineherd) that he addresses him directly throughout the story.
I glanced up from my book and because I had forgotten my cellphone at home (it was that kind of morning) I wanted to wait outside to see if anyone else was at work. I put the book back in my bag carefully, but I left the music playing in my ears. I walked out towards the parking lot through the glass doors, and when I walked out I walked out into something sublime.
A vast expanse of concrete was splashed with shining remains of the the rain, the water reflecting the blue panorama and gargantuan white-grey clouds above. The wind gushed around me, making everything fresh and it seemed like you could do anything or be anything in that space. It reminded me of all the times I walked across parking lots with dear friends, exploring worlds with our words and escaping the homes and shops and other people. Seeing that wide, exciting expanse was like a promise that although those other times may be past, new explorations await. I can experience my own odyssey, and live to tell the tales carefully and lovingly.