Ruminations from the Arizona Room is a series by Dr. Elizabeth Oakes, a former Shakespeare professor, a spiritual writer, and an award winning poet. A Sedonian of four years, she will share the thoughts that arise as she sits in the literal Arizona room in her home as well as the metaphorical “Arizona room” that is Sedona.
By Elizabeth Oakes
(June 5, 2017)
I met William Shakespeare in high school, in Mr. Young’s English class. I wasn’t sure what he was saying; after all, he was an older man, too old for me. We met again in college, and I understood. He knew everything, I thought. He wooed me.
During our courtship I hung on his every word (a thesis and a dissertation), and we married among English style buildings and ivy, I in my cap and gown. We had kids – lots of them, each class I taught as a Shakespeare professor.
We went to conferences in faraway places, such as Tokyo, where he was celebrated and I was the adoring spouse, as were a multitude of others, but they didn’t matter.
Leaving him was a process. At first I cheated on him with Emily Dickinson. I became enthralled with her, visited her home, taught a class on her poems, and wrote a book of poems about her. I was, it seems, bi-textual.
Then burn-out, tune-out. I gave books, posters of Shakespeare films, videos, Shakespeare kitsch to the English Club to sell. They made a fortune! Then I threw away my research from the Folger Shakespeare Library (our home away from home) for papers I no longer wanted to write. It was like throwing his clothes out the upstairs windows.
I kept the love letters – all the things I’d learned from my time with him and who I was because of it.
As in any break-up, there were Signs, with a capital S, strange ones. My university keys stopped working. The #8 key that opened the outside doors and the mail room stuck in the slot. Even my #54 key, the one to my office, was hard to maneuver. Everyone else’s worked. My. keys. stopped. working.
The owl is my totem, although I’ve rarely seen one or heard one. However, as I was driving home at dusk after teaching my very last class, ahead of me a white owl swooped down and sat in the very middle of the highway for several minutes, looking at me, before flying away.
Then it was the deadline to turn in my retirement letter to the department head. I swear to you it was only later that I noticed that it was April 23rd, celebrated as Shakespeare’s birthday.
And mine, in a way, in many ways –