Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seismic Shifts

I just pulled in the driveway after a full day at school.
I am in the middle of my fourth semester at Nassau Community College (NCC), and, as it should, after a year and a half, the workload has increased exponentially. I am loving the experience, still excited about learning new subjects and even more thrilled that my 58-year-old brain is retaining a fair amount of the material.

Such a time! My classes have been wildly varied. English 101 mixed with Logic and Set Theory. Stir in Journalism with The Bible As Literature, Women's Studies (honors), Human Sexuality (uh huh), add a dash of Environmental Resources, Psychology, Sociology, Algebra, Film Appreciation, Drawing, Voice, Communications, and Plate Tectonics, and, voila! You have the fantastic soup I call my college education!

Here is a composite school day. I pull into the eastern parking lot, where the spaces are bigger and my chances of not getting my doors dinged somewhat improved. A hopeful seagull eyes the coffee cup in my hand as I swing my overstuffed backpack over my shoulders. I power walk across the wind-swept brick promenade, past the library and the A-F clusters, the Tower, the CCB and G buildings. Then I make my diagonal way across Goose Poop Commons, walking a bit slower and more carefully now, until I hit North Hall, for my Women's Studies Class.

It is, not surprisingly, a class made up entirely of women, all young except for me and one senior observer. She is here for enrichment, not credit and does not have to do any of the homework. I hate her. Just kidding. In class we talk about women's issues ranging from the history of the Feminist Movement, to the present day global issues of women's health, equal and reproductive rights, to inequities in the workplace and in the home. The professor is a small soft-spoken woman with work-worn hands that look out of place coming from her academic sleeves. She guides the conversation fluidly, careful to land lightly on each head, as the members of this particular class span a range of socio-ethnic backgrounds. I am the only one in class (besides senior observer) who knows who Gloria Steinem is. They are much more cognizant of Rihanna's and Chris Brown's misadventures than they are of the efforts of Susan B. Anthony or Betty Friedan.

Class is over and I and my brain trek over to Cluster C for Beaches and Coastlines where my zany-but-brilliant professor will twirl around the room jabbering about divergent versus convergent plate boundaries, continental shifts, hotspots and how oceanic plates will always subduct and continental plates never will (because they are less dense and therefore more buoyant). How volcanoes form and how the seismic activity of the shifting plates causes earthquakes to occur. We have a test next week on Tectonics.

I hear the distant Tower Carillon warbling "You'll Never Walk Alone" in a pleasant, off-key sort of way, signaling another class change. Another brisk hike to the art wing of Building G to meet yet another eccentric-yet-brilliant professor. She charges in, curly black mop of hair bouncing over cat-shaped black-framed glasses. Even without her plum-colored lipstick and matching magenta man's tie, she awakens our sleepy post-lunch senses with animation and, yes, artistry. Today we have a live (read NUDE) model from whom to draw. He is an old man, who, I've gotta say, took a few moments to adjust to. But he was accommodating and game all the way and, after an exhausting couple of hours, I had a nicely improving set of sketches. Professor Plum approved.

I pull my lunch box from my book bag before leaving the studio to inhale a sandwich and a Diet Pepsi. Film Appreciation in South Hall (yep, across the poop again) is the last class of this day. Today we are watching Big Night, that wonderful Stanley Tucci/Tony Shaloub film from the '90s where two Italian brothers come to terms with living, working and relating in their newly adopted America. The lights are turned off and blinds drawn. I find myself nodding and shaking my head to stay awake, saying a silent prayer of thanks for the fact that I have already seen this one. The lights go back on and we discuss and dissect the meanings and symbols of every frame. The professor, one of my favorites, is the same woman who taught my Communications 101 class last semester. She is caring, careful and thorough. She is one of those special people who knows each student by name after one session.

Time to go. Jacket zipped, pack slung, I make a last pit stop and take my final lap across the field, through G up and onto the promenade, past the library, and down the path leading to the eastern lot. That same seagull (I swear!) is perched on the top of my car, happily pooping on the glass of my sun roof. He waves a jaunty farewell and flies off as I put it in drive and head for home.

If I could astral project and, after floating up to look objectively down at myself, I might marvel at the aging brain's ability to concentrate on such diverse topics, one after another. It is a big shift to delve into the humanities, jog over to science, switch over to art, film and literature, all in the span of one school day.
A big shift.
I'd even say a seismic shift.