Sunday, December 1, 2013


After reading my recent Fortnightly post

"The House You're Standing In . . .
or Holding in the Palm of Your Hand"

my friend Burnetta added the following intriguing comment:

"Kitti, I remember being in elementary school and loving the whatnots that came my way, putting them up on a shelf and carressing them with my eyes everyday. They meant something, something I still can't describe, but you come close to it in this essay. Interiority. I look at my shelves and see odds and ends, all valuable to me and no one else, even if a few are rare or valuable in dollars and cents. Thanks for the gingerbread house essay. I have never made one, but I can understand the art in it, and now the mystery as well, a little bit anyway. Love your essays."

Her reference to "whatnots"
reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut's clever observation that

“Like so many Americans, she was trying
to construct a life that made sense
from things she found in gift shops.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Slaughterhouse-Five, 39

Though I will always have the greatest respect for Vonnegut as one of the wisest writers I've ever read, I wonder if in this case he was underrating the validity of such a construct. Perhaps truth can be found in a gift shop. One just never knows where the meaning of life may be discovered, and a gift shop is certainly not the most unlikely place. It just might work, or at least help, or at least not hurt.

I understand that Vonnegut is warning us not to look for depth in the trivial; but it's equally important not to overlook the magic of interiority! Speaking of things found in gift shops, I was mesmerized by what my friend Jan Donley wrote in her journal and think you will be too:

House / 13 January 2012

You received it as a gift—a ceramic house to set on your mantle or on a shelf or on a table. You hold the house in the palm of your hand—a triangle roof and a square base. No windows. No doors. Just the shape. Simple. The house a child would draw if you said, “Draw a house.” Or the house in a dream with no entrance and no exit. You’re just suddenly there. In the box of it, or you’re looking at it from a distance. Or there it is in a coloring book. You color it blue or brown. Maybe you add windows and doors. Even a dormer. And then the house starts getting complicated, and you can no longer hold it in your hand or remember your childhood or even dream it. Suddenly the house becomes a cape or a colonial or a bungalow. And there are too many words to remember, and too many memories to hold onto, and too much loss. The world is no longer the world you knew, and houses stretch for miles: triangles atop boxes. And you want to hold one in your hand. More than anything, you want to hold a house in your hand. . . . [Click here to read more.]


  1. Kitti: I am so taken by this idea of interiority. I also love that my little house story evokes the concept. Traveling is not just where we go in the world; it is also where we go in our imaginations: little houses are just part of what makes that journey possible.