1) NATIVITY CRECHE
I bought this tiny wooden Nativity creche at Playa del Carmen in Mexico. I adore miniature objects, and especially very small religious icons.
I picked up this stone gargoyle at a Paris souvenir shop in the 1980s. Later I learned that it’s a copy of Little Dedo, a famous gargoyle on Notre Dame Cathedral. According to legend, a nun visiting Paris in the 1160s objected to the scary gargoyles on the newly built cathedral. She disguised herself as a stonecutter, carved a cute little monster, and secretly stowed him on the cathedral roof. Centuries later, a little boy tumbled off the roof and into the safe arms of Little Dedo.
Appropriately, my gargoyle has propped up hundreds of books about the Middle Ages!
3) "GIFT BASKET" PRINT
I acquired this print over 25 years ago from a Czech artist, Jan Otava, on the Charles Bridge in Prague. It’s called "Dárkový koš,” or “gift basket”. A souvenir is, of course, a memory—one that has the ability to transport the most magnificent of cities in the humblest of containers.
4) A MASQUE OF POETS
I was named after the poet Emily Dickinson and collect books of her poetry. My daughter and I sometimes have “Dickinson slams,” in which we compete to see who has memorized the most poems. A Masque of Poets (1878) is a fascinating collection of poems published anonymously. It invites readers simply to enjoy the poetry without worrying about the reputation of their unnamed authors. Ironically, I bought this book because I did know the name of one of the poets: Emily Dickinson, who submitted the last poem in the volume.
5) GLASS APPLE
A dear family friend gave me this Tiffany glass apple in honor of my first day at Penn in 1999. Wherever I place it, it reflects my surroundings and reminds me that I am first and foremost a teacher.
What can I say about this loyal shelter dog, my faithful writing companion? Everyone knows that dogs rescue you and not the other way around.