I was talking with a colleague of mine today who just hit a major milestone in his academic career. He earned tenure just a few short days ago. I asked him if he was going to celebrate the accomplishment. He laughed and said, “I am! I’m taking the time to clean up my office!” He was taking the time to rearrange his books, organize his class materials from a decade of teaching, and toss out the unnecessary accumulated “stuff” in order to set the stage for the next chapter of his career. It felt good and lighthearted to stand in the middle of his office, looking at his books on and by Shakespeare, Edith Warton, and his own published works. We both marveled at the power of books to command our attention and prompt reflection. I felt sad for today’s students who often, because of cost, but also because of preference, choose electronic books. I think, “you can’t hold those and feel the covers and the turn of the page…or the weight. You can’t visit your books, like we were doing at that moment.” Surrounded on three sides by his books, each of which meant something special, in a different way-for the ideas inside, or because it represented a certain period of time in his life, or his own creative process, or perhaps it was a gift from a friend, or was in his home growing up – we both marveled at the power, and he said “The magic of things!” … to evoke memories…this got me thinking about my own things and the magic they might hold for me.
This picture is a necklace I bought during a trip a few years ago with my husband to Asheville, NC. It was made by local artisans and I just love the colors which are reminiscent of the Smokey Mountains down there, but the colors also evoke memories of the shore…a treasured yearly trip with my 2 sisters. So I have to agree with him that there does exist a magic of things. There are many things that I could recycle or give away to simplify the extra stuff in my office or home, but there are those things that we’ll always keep – my dad’s shop glasses and my mom’s pretty gold compact from her college days. My beautiful bronze bell and my pearl necklace. These are some of the magical things that I would keep. What else and why? What magic do they hold?! I like this question, and I’ll spend more time pondering it!