Ravens, Writing Desks, and this thing called Vanity

Image“Why is a raven like a writing-desk? Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.

“No, I give up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.


Neither do I yet this riddle from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland remains firmly planted in my mind… and leads to today’s rather random ramble: my writing desk, which, truth be told, isn’t a desk at all but a vanity. Yes, a vanity. Do they make these anymore? I don’t know. It used to belong to my grandma, complete with a mirror (now detached and down in the basement) and a cute little settee (also in the basement waiting to be reupholstered and reintroduced to society) with a wide center drawer and two drawers on each side and—my favorite part—claw feet, which both charm me and freak me out. (Because whoever thought of putting eagle talons on the legs of furniture? A mad hatter, that’s who.)

One of my fondest memories of visiting my “Milwaukee Grandparents” was sitting at this vanity and excavating the mine of Grandma’s jewelry collection. She did not have pierced ears but made up for it by having oodles of earrings, and not just sweet little dainty ones but big bulky, blingy, plasticy fun earrings. And since they were clip-ons my sister and I could try them all, which we did, along with a jillion beaded necklaces. We’d deck ourselves out and then admire ourselves in the vanity mirror—which seems to be an appropriate title for any mirror.

Anyway, now Grandma’s vanity holds copy paper and random bills and scribbled sticky notes that say things like Amber rents apartment, chapter 8, rework. And now the top of the vanity has a spot where the paint’s been scratched off from my mouse. And as I sit and contemplate and write at this vanity-turned-writing-desk, I am reminded of the vanity struggle, for everyone I suppose, but specifically the brand writers, probably all artists, face: the struggle to write from a place of honesty yet humility—to offer words that are vulnerable and true without being narcissistic and self-absorbed and maybe—can we even hope?—words that serve someone else. It’s a wrestling match, one that I’m finding I can only “win” by losing, giving up, giving to God, again and again and again saying your will, not mine. Your plan, not mine. Your glory, not mine. This is what I am learn-ing. I was learning it last year and I was learning it yesterday and I reckon I’ll be learning it tomorrow.


Oh! It came to me! In the middle of this ramble! The answer to the riddle. Why is a raven like a writing desk—at least my writing desk? The feet, the clawed feet for Pete’s sake! Oh Lewis Carroll, how did you know? Image


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