I borrowed the same book from the school library every week, until the librarian finally put her foot down. I don’t know if she wanted others to be able to enjoy the book, or she was just a proponent of children having a wide exposure to literature, but I was banned from signing out D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.
Without that book, I might never have experienced the canon of a classical education.* The Hannigan household was solidly blue-collar, evangelical protestant, and non-intellectual. Private schools didn’t exist as an option. I would never learn Latin, or Greek, and didn’t know anyone who had. But I had this huge, colorful book at my fingertips. From the Greek myths, I jumped quickly into their plagiarized versions in Rome, and then swung wildly north to frost giants and Asgard. Through these children’s texts, doors opened that led to understanding ancient history, grasping philosophy, and even failing at reading James Joyce.
I am drawn to the mythic, even as I am repulsed by religion. I sense the possibility of dryads in the oaks surrounding my house, and while waiting for Rufus’s nightly rituals, I think about them, and offer thanks for shade and comfort.
* I also have to say here that the King James Version of the Bible saved my ass in any English Lit class concerning texts predating the 19th century. It is perhaps the only silver lining to having grown up among the Bible-beaters that I absorbed the patterns of that language like a sponge.