April 12, 2016

Monday, August 25, 2008

Amok in the Catskills: The Mansion of the Soul

When you dream about a house, it symbolizes the Mansion of your Soul. According to “The Dreamer’s Workbook” by Nerys Dee, each part of that house – even the hallways – represent parts of your psyche and different approaches to life. In literature, houses are more than a setting. They represent the people who live in them. I just finished “The Penderwicks on Gardam Street” by Jeanne Birdsall. I preferred the original “Penderwicks” novel, probably because the story is wrapped up in the four Penderwick sisters discovering beautiful Arundel Hall: its grounds and gardens, the contrasts between its comfortable cottages and intimidating grand house. We do become captured and captivated by houses. Last weekend, I was in the Catskill Mountains with my brother, Jason. We’ve had a family getaway there since I was in middle school and he was six. It’s a magical place for Jay. Our log cabin overlooking a small lake is the setting of his childhood adventures, pranks, parties…even his wedding. My mansion is the house my English grandparents owned. The Old Rectory sat between a working quarry and the edge of Sherwood Forest. My grandmother kept doves and chickens. I once helped build a fishpond in the yard. That’s the house I dream about. In children’s fiction, characters are often discovering their soul’s mansion for the first time (Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School, Culver School in “Looking for Alaska,” the Penderwick sisters’ Arundel Hall). In adult fiction, characters have a complicated relationship with these places. In Alice Hoffman’s “Here on Earth,” a woman returns to her childhood home and habits with disastrous results. Writers, let’s bump up those settings. Think about your protagonist’s Mansion of the Soul. What or where is it? What does the place reveal about your character? Recommended Reading: Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher;” Agatha Christie’s novel “Sleeping Murder;” Natalie Babbitt’s “Tuck Everlasting.” If you are a LOTR fan, notice how each setting symbolizes the people who live there (the Hobbits’ Shire, the Elves’ Rivendell, Sauron’s Mordor).


Tech Girl said...

What a beautiful post!! We just started going to the Catskills this past summer and were inspired to begin a second home search for all the reasons you mention. I have a three and a half year old son who just loves it there and I want him to have the very memories you write of...I agree that such a home must speak to your soul and goes beyond the actual physical appearance. We found an adorable farmhouse on a creek and had all those beautiful feelings about the home ---it was pure magic with the rambling creek right behind it. The yellow house was cute as a button! Unfortunatey for us, we lost the opportunity to buy it due to a bidding war (yes, even in a downward market--I guess this still can happen--especially in Sullivan County). I was feeling down about the whole experience as we were taken full advantage of (by the seller's agent and the owner himself) and the person getting the home is a travelling bachelor who is rarely in nyc (he actually paid $6,000 dollars above the appraised value of the home--a tidbit he doesn't know just yet as we had a private appraisal done). After reading your post I am now inspired again to keep my country dream alive :>) !! Thank you....

Author Amok said...

Thanks for your comment. You're a tech girl with a country heart!

Having a "mansion of the soul" can add an amazing sense of fulfillment to your life.

Our family retreat is between Hunter and Windham Mountains. It's a little too out of the way for me. I prefer the areas outside New Paltz and Red Hook (we have/had family in both places).

Have you read Jon Katz's books about Bedlam Farm & his dogs? He's at

Good luck finding your heart's home!