Beyond Words
(Marshall’s column from January 2012 issue of Nashville Arts Magazine)

It’s that time of year again—January. Time for the post-New Year’s, post-Christmas blues, right? Come ye tired, ye poor, ye hung-over, ye sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder!

I feel your pain. January used to be the most depressing month of the year for me, for sure. Then, in the mid ’80s, I started going to Vanderbilt basketball games which seemed to help. The lights, the crowds and the excitement were the perfect antidote to my winter blues. And playing music, of course.

But these days I find I need something more. Something to stimulate my brain. So here’s my latest remedy: learn a new language! Preferably Spanish, since it’ll enable you to communicate with the fastest-growing minority right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. (Learning a new language will also mend a broken heart, so I’m told.)

I was a French major at Vanderbilt. People often laugh when I tell them that. “Why on earth would you major in French?” they ask. To which I reply, “Well, I didn’t want anybody to know what I was thinking in English!”

By senior year, I had fulfilled all my French requirements, having spent my junior year abroad with the Vanderbilt-in-France program. So on a whim, I signed up for “Intensive Italian.” The course lived up to its name. I learned more Italian in that one year than I did French in all ten previous years of study. The main reason for my success was my teacher. If teaching is an art, then Maxwell Lancaster is the Michelangelo of his profession. I simply loved learning in his classroom.

Fast-forward forty years to last summer. I am in San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. I am there to spend a month with plans that sort of fell through. So, with nothing but time on my hands, I signed up for Level I Spanish at the Warren Hardy School. It was my first classroom experience in over forty years. Initially, I was afraid my brain might have lost its learning juice. But, as usual, my fears were unfounded.

Now I am back in Nashville trying to survive another winter of short, gray days and long, dark nights. So … to keep my spirits up … estudio y practico mi español!