(Doorway in the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, California.)
Doors are more than wood or metal, more than hinges, pivots, fulcrums, locks. They are places that can become turning points — either you pass through them, or they block your path. You discover your own limits and thresholds.
~ Gary Thorp
I’m currently reading the book Sweeping Changes: Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Tasks by Gary Thorp. I bought the book several years ago and have started it more than a few times but for some reason I can’t fathom, I’ve never finished it. It is not a particularly long book and every time I start it I think, “What a delightful and interesting book.” It is the kind of book that changes my perspective on things, especially the everyday things (since that is what the book is primarily about).
The first chapter of the book is titled “Crossing the Threshold.” It is a short chapter about the doorways and thresholds in your house and in your life. The author suggests:
As you walk from room to room in your own home, try to really experience the transition of traveling from one place to another. Notice the differences between motion and stillness. Sense how you relate to various enclosures and open spaces. Feel the differences between entering and leaving, if there are differences. Contemplate the thoughts that become caught between places, in the doorways themselves, and think of the people who have walked these paths before you. While you’re thinking of others, the doors of your household begin to become the gates of compassion.
For as far back as I can remember, doors, gates, windows, pathways, thresholds, and other portals have always figured prominently in my photography. Even as a kid I took a lot of pictures of doorways and windows. Lately my altered journal work has included a lot of doorways, paths, gates, and windows.
Portals of various kinds show up a lot in myths, folklore, and fairy tales. Doors and thresholds can represent the passages we make in life as we go from one age to another or from one experience in life to another. Sometimes circumstances force us to move through a door, slamming it shut behind us. Sometimes we willingly walk through and close the door, leaving behind something that we no longer need. And sometimes we get stuck on the threshold, not yet ready to step through to something new.
(Somewhere in the Lake District in England.)
I wrote a little piece called Pathways over at Bountiful Healing. It briefly explores how I feel about pathways, doors, gates, and other portals. You can also find one of my favorite “doors” in a post aptly titled Doors. M and I were taking a fall hike in the woods nearby when I spotted this “door.” It reminded me a little of a hobbit door although I’m not sure anyone else sees the resemblance. That post also contains one of my favorite quotes.
One of the reasons I am reading Sweeping Changes now is because I’ve been working on my big goal for the year which is to simplify my home and my life. As part of that project I cleaned out a box that has been sitting in the corner of my bedroom ever since we moved in to this house. The box contained books. Lots of books that were written to change perspective or transform one’s life or something to that effect. There were exercise books, diet books, a variety of self-help and self-transformation type of books, and quite a few on meditation, yoga, and mindfulness.
Sweeping Changes is a good book for me to be reading now as I think it will help me see things around my home in a different light. I also think it will help me explore as I think about changes I want to make.
I took the camera along with me as I explored the doors and thresholds in my home, and a few outside of my home as well (such as the barn doors).
It was an interesting experiment. There are parts of the house I thought I wanted to change (paint, redecorate in some way) but now find I want to simply de-clutter and otherwise leave as it is. There are other parts that could certainly use a good cleaning.
The tour of the doors and thresholds also gave me some idea of how much fall cleaning I’ll be doing over the next few weeks. There is a another cold front coming tonight and that will mean fresh, cool, clean air, the kind I find perfect for throwing open the house and getting things aired out and cleaned. As much as I hate to bring up the W word, it’s time to start getting ready for colder weather and for winter.
I was surprised by the number of doors and thresholds we have in our home. The house is not that big compared to homes we’ve owned in the past (or compared to our neighbors who live in McMansions). It’s a 3-bedroom ranch-style home that was built in the 1960’s. Even when it was a wreck, I’ve always felt welcome in this house, as if I belong here. I felt the same way today as I took my journey through the doors and thresholds.
I am looking forward to continuing my way through the book and through my home, looking at it all from a Zen perspective. I might spend a day or two contemplating doors and thresholds. But no longer than that as I believe that may be the reason I haven’t finished the book in the past: I got caught up (or stuck) in the doorways and thresholds.
Every doorway, every intersection has a story.
~ Katherine Dunn