Friday, July 15, 2016

...owls and Winter in July...

“The crow wished everything was black,
the owl, that everything was white.”
~William Blake

We love staying at the Williamsburg Lodge because it is so convenient to park and just walk everywhere in Colonial Williamsburg. A few years ago we ended up with the October room. This year, we ended up in the Winter room! The painting had an owl at the top which is one of my fella’s spirit animals. It seemed that this vacation the owl became one of the themes of our trip.
Owls are often symbolic for one’s intuition and the ability to see what others do not see. The presence of the owl announces change; and, we’ve seen a great deal of that lately. When the owl shows up, it usually is a reminder to pay attention to those winds of change. My fella and I have been doing this a great deal lately. Some of the changes are quite good. Soon, I will be returning to my 9-month contract where my main focus will return to teaching (yay!), scholarship (yay!), and service (by choice, yay!) I’m returning back to my old office this week and I handling over the keys to the next department chair. I can feel myself smiling just thinking about it. We’re also experiencing some what’s next changes that are scary and uncomfortable.
Owls are sometimes associated with departed souls. Some believe that owls are considered a bad omen signifying the imminent death of a close relative. The Romans believed an owl hooting announced the death of a public figure. Some even believe that owls carry the souls of the departed to the underworld. I prefer to think of the owl in a more positive way. He may be taking something negative away from us in order to make space for something new. 

“In the midst of winter,
I found there was, within me,
an invincible summer.”
~Albert Camus

It’s been a difficult year and this week, well Wednesday to be exact, all my work extra-contractual obligations ended. Faculty typically have 9 month contracts. Aside from summer school courses for additional pay, one can take on other quasi-administrator responsibilities that once you're in the position is challenging to get out. To be fair, most don't want to. For me, being in the classroom and teaching has always been the best part of my job. That along with being in an environment that nurtures an atmosphere of life-long learning. When one takes on these extra-contracts, you typically receive course releases until the next thing you know you're being asked to take on even more and you end up doing all the things you do not want to do and none of the ones that make your heart happy. This started in 2012 and continued to 2014 when a faculty member asked me to help out as a favor. I was trained and then he retired leaving me as the only one actually aware of the ins and outs of the task. I got myself stuck because I'm not great about saying no nor am I any good at sticking up for myself or being demanding in the workplace. Then last year, I *helped out* again by taking over the final year of the former department chair's term. I get it; some people like to be in leadership roles but I do not. I don't want to know who isn't doing their jobs; I don't want to do budget work and projections; I do not want to deal with scheduling everyone; and, honestly, I don't want to be the one contacting facilities each and every time something is wrong with a toilet in the building...or there are mice, or (fill in the blank). But this week, that changed. I said, "No," drew a line in the sand, and finally discovered that no one blows up when this happens. The world did not end; the response was flexibility. Yesterday was my first official day of vacation where I did not have to check email. Even when I'm been on a break before, I've still be connected through email; but now, I'm truly free. Or as I've been joking, I'm "free, free, free" as Kate Chopin writes in "The Story of an Hour," which apparently only English majors read now because when I've referenced it throughout the week even to other faculty members I receive a blank stare. If you haven't read the story, do. It's great! I've linked an online version to the title so click away and read like it's 1894. 

Taking on all the extras has not been good for my marriage and it has not been good for keeping quality friendships. Bless them all for being so accommodating. I could not have done it without their support. 

Now, I am noticing that I'm smiling much more; and, I've applied and been admitted into a graduate program in the fall for Public History. I'll be teaching a full course load, advising an internship and working with a student-teacher, and taking classes myself. And, I'll be writing a chapter, which I have not started because I'm finishing up another completely unrelated chapter. But, I cannot wait!  I feel free.

The laughter around the department is that three of us with literature Ph.D.s are heading back to school to focus on entirely different fields. I think it is amazing! The Public History credentials will help me focus on the development of my Dark Tourism course. The level of the course requires a community component a little bit like community service but instead of a focus on quantitative hours the focus is actually giving back to the community. I have the best, most super collaborative project in mind which I will share in the spring semester. Not to tease; I just have a great deal of learning to do before I get there.     
Along our vacation travels, I found this owl nesting dolls. He was so weird surrounded by so many bright and colorful Russian matryoshka dolls. I picked him up at the Christmas shop in Colonial Williamsburg. 

I also bought this owl bell pendant as a reminder of change. Here I have it pictured by a fleur de lis pendant I picked up in New Orleans last year; and, my latest Whitby Jet pendant.  While I like the pieces themselves, it is the personal messages about my journey behind each piece that I love the most.


  1. Ooh, I love the owl nesting dolls and all your pendants look great... especially the owl bell :)

    I'm so glad you finally decided enough was enough, and said no.
    Freedom sure is a great feeling ♥

  2. I always, always love and take away so much from your blog, and this wonderful owl filled post is no exception. They've been a key animal throughout my life and pepper my home and wardrobe alike.

    Many hugs & happy weekend wishes,
    ♥ Jessica

  3. I used to have nesting dolls that were owls too! Not as awesome as yours! Those eyebrows!

    Yes, organisation does not sound fun to me, I'm glad you escaped!