A Meditation on Doors, Gates, Doors

IMG_0722
  • Pinterest

Doors, gates, doors, been thinking about doors for a month or so. I see the gate our neighbor closed to his 300 acres so cattle could walk in there and the five old, paneled, white doors and three steel doors in our house. We took out other doors asking the house to open up. I don’t like closed doors and will leave the bathroom door open, though in this house it swings shut. The cat and the dog, push through to be near me.

We closed the big barn door because it turned the barn into a wind tunnel. We fashioned a way for Morgen to walk in and out the smaller door. When the East wind howls, it’s a bitch because that’s the door Tessie comes in and there’s no blocking it. When I was a kid we rarely had an east wind, but here in Illinois it roars off the lake or swings around behind a low.

IMG_0870
  • Pinterest

img_0242
  • Pinterest

IMG_0206
  • Pinterest

I think about these doors, two of which Bruce made, how we made them to close out the wind and snow and rain. How the wind, even the wind of the Spirit can roar too loudly, too wildly. Though I have seen our trees reach for that wind and dance.

My current thoughts about doors started with reading about Cyrus King of Persia and how God himself was going to swing wide the gates. “Cyrus, whose right hand I will take hold of to subdue nations before him, and to strip kings of their armor, to open the doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down the bars of iron…” (NIV, Isa. 45: 1 b -2). I first saw this when I was a child reading the Bible in the barn, and I thought what a thing for God to open doors, cut through iron gates for a foreign king. Might he do as much for me? I’m not real clear on the desires of my heart back then, though I remember longing for my friends at school to accept Jesus and longing for a boyfriend and longing to write a vision of glory.

I worked with life coach Terri DeMeo for a couple sessions. I’d met her when she edited Martha Beck’s newsletter. She had responded to something I’d written about living a small life. At the time I knew I was blocked as far as sending out work while being  bound by desire for my novel to be published. She asked me what images came to mind. And I saw, I swear I saw, dimly and I was hesitant to tell her, these massive wood doors, with cast iron hinges, doors to a city, opening wide as I rode my horse in. There was no effort. The doors swung wide.

Now I don’t think those doors had to do with my writing because there’s been nothing but branches, even tree trunks laid in my path. I grew up in a silencing family and found poetry as a way to write my truths in code. Slowly I learned to simply say what I wanted to say. I learned how powerful simplicity could be. Learning my craft has been like untangling those branches one by one and moving them. Learning how to have an audience has been like dragging those branches off to the side. My readers have not bought the book. I paid a publisher to publish it and Facebook to boost my posts so my readers can see them, though it’s a pleasure in being read. The workshop folks toughening us for our critics only made scars that burn and keep me wary of other writers.

IMG_0610 (1)
  • Pinterest

For all I know these images could have been a brain burp, like the images we see as we fall asleep. But I am intrigued the idea of doors–open and shut. The term for opportunity in my faith background has been, “the door will open” or “if a door closes a window will open.”

Then there’s the well worn story of Jesus standing at the door and knocking, the door of our heart. It’s up to us to open sesame to a person just about everyone agrees embodied everything good about humans and none of the bad.

Laura Boggess in her blog post “The Top Five Lessons of 2015” says, “January may be named for the Roman god Janus—a name that comes from the Latin ianua, which means ‘door’”. Mythology has him the keeper of doors, gates, bridges, and passages.

“But this is the kind of door my God keeps—one made from parted waters, one that passes safely through tongues of flame, one that parts the heavens in a windstorm. These impossible, seemingly impassible doors; these narrow gates that the world whispers about, this is not the way, it is too hard—these are the kinds of doors my God keeps. He opens them wide and still, I squeeze through as if only a tiny crack.”

I guess I knew this, that Janus’ name came from door when I wrote in an introduction of The River Caught Sunlight that I later cut.

“As a devout adolescent, I found a boulder in the Normans Kill where I could sit and look upstream and downstream. The boulder had rolled out of the Adirondacks on the belly of the last glacier that shaped most of the Hudson Valley ten thousand years ago. 

“I sat on that rock stone cold against my butt and threw my grief at God, got his answer thrown back at me–something about my faith being more about rest than anything else; something I’m finally beginning to understand.

“During the time I was walking to the boulder, my mother brought me a bisque vase with two swans on either side. She said it was very old and came with a story. Her great grandmother had hidden it in her dress to keep for herself, when her husband was gambling away her dowry, their wealth, on the ship to America. It was all that was left of great wealth. My grandmother was raised with the rich girls, around wealth, but not having her own until she was well into adulthood. This vase must have reminded them of the wealth that was squandered, that they could have used, as well as how the people they worked for rubbed it in. This vase was something my grandmother wanted me to have.

IMG_0420
  • Pinterest

“Even after my parents were deceased, their notion of the wild Normans Kill people with their fierce ownership of the land took on a life of its own, somewhere between legend and curse. It was something my brother inherited, something that possessed his wife. As a young girl I was touched by it too, but I left home to go to college and to work. I saw the wildness from a distance, as if it became inch thick vines, draping from trees, choking the trees as they do on one of the slopes that drops to the river behind our house. They make walking very hard. They make the woods a dark, a dying place.

“Nearly every family has a story of how one person took most of the inheritance, that person usually the least deserving. Often it’s because the person loves the land to the point of forgetting their family ties.

“This is the story of the damn vase, which I can’t figure out is a blessing or a curse. It is how I lived up to my namesake, my grandmother’s name, Janus, not how I spell it, Janice, but the old Roman god’s name of gates and doorways–two faces looking in opposite directions. The valley of trouble a door of hope. The story of my life, how I walked through a trouble that is everything trouble can be, how I have broken through a door of hope into a house I can’t describe for how it is the deepest home I have ever known, walking with a man whose love pursued me into my deepest pain, pushed me into joy.

“It is a story of how I made peace with my choice to shuck the wildness, to accept my loss; how eventually I walked out of the woods, climbing away from my beloved Normanskill to a ridge line and a dirt path fit for the soles of my feet and by them round clay rings circled by rain, baked in the sun.”

Normanskill
  • Pinterest

Photo by Roberta Lawrence

 Since then I gave my grandmother’s vase to my cousin, who was mourning her parents, the loss of her family’s things. I am of an age to start placing prized possessions with others. Besides I was done with that story.

The thing is, this is a work that grabs my heart, to be a bridge person, a woman who stands in the gap, a person who helps people reconcile. Often I see both sides of an issue. What I care about is empathy, is people checking their prejudices, and listening to the other side, carefully, with an open heart. But I am not trained and have made a hash of things. Those honest conversations when conflict rises stop me dead. I mostly avoid them. I have been trained to make nice. And if I didn’t make nice, if I spoke out of my grief, I was rebuked or abandoned.

IMG_0438
  • Pinterest

The year Charismatic won the Kentucky Derby and broke down, I attended The Writers For Racing Project at Churchill Downs. We spent two weeks wandering around the backstretch and learning about horse racing. I became fascinated with the starting gates, how horses needed to be trained to walk in them, stay pent up enough to burst out when the gates opened and the bell ran, but also not to kill the jockey or the gate crew loading him. A horse could be disqualified from running if he didn’t load well.

I thought then I was at the beginning of being published because the gates swung open with eight agents and four New York editors asking to see the whole manuscript of my novel. One major LA agent even called the house. The track was wide and groomed before me. But nothing  came of this opportunity. I needed major work on my craft and my heart before the book was ready for readers. Branches laid down, that I had to clear stick by stick. Though once they cleared, I dumped into a peace, therapists often dream for their clients. By then the whole publishing industry had upended and I took the deal to pay to publish my book when it finally came.

Finally, thinking about doors, I remembered a poem I wrote, about a boyfriend in graduate school. Looking back I think it predicted Bruce.

God–become a cave

where I can hide from the man

whose fingers creep

like salamanders of light

slithering to penetrate the darkness

I sleep in.

 

But Lord–be the door to the barn

where I kneel. Swing open

with the fulness of weight

and oak beams to the man who carries

the stillness between bleats of his sheep

and lays it softly on my hand.

IMG_0645
  • Pinterest

 

 

6 Comments

  • laura says:

    I love that introduction, Katie. Is any of it autobiographical? I see that sweet swan vase. Life is full of many doors, isn’t it? Sometimes I can imagine a door like a hungry beast, biting at me with his jaw-hinges. It’s hard to know which doors to go through, especially in the publishing journey, I think. But you keep telling your lovely stories and I think the path will be made straight. Here’s to a fruitful New Year. Happy January, friend.

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you so much. I cut it back here for length but yes it is autobiographical. Though my name isn’t Janice. But it is Katiewilda. Pure/wild. And I was caught between those two natures. I have an essay about that tucked away…

      What a great image, that door like a hungry beast biting at you with his jaw–hinges…Open doors aren’t always so great are they?

      Thank you for that deep encouragement. Happy January back to you too…

  • Sidetracksusie says:

    Just yesterday my youngest son commented how pretty the cover of your book was.
    I bought your book and enjoyed the story but wasn’t sure how to describe my reaction. I’ve been the person that puts their life in written form and listened or read others picking it apart as not developed, too wordy, unreal, incomplete, immature, good but uninteresting, or downright boring.
    It felt familiar; not because of the story but because I sensed something not said. Something cut out to protect before injury. Honest and open but cautiously so. Like a shy bride on her wedding night, excited, yet wearing a high collar flannel gown. Definitely familiar.
    I liked it. But I wanted more. I sensed more, sensed pages written and not included. The parts that might really matter, but it would be like the supposed fiction we write that’s really our lives, with the details that would identify us, cut out to protect the feelings of others.
    I have limited room in my house, limited bookshelves. I often buy books, read them and pass them along to others to read. Your book is not shelved. It sits on top of the full homemade bookcase. It’s at home there and in no danger of being shared even though I don’t share to be rid of books as much to just control the numbers of them. Some books are just “me”. Yours is one of them.
    I could and may be , way off base in my assessment. It’s just a feeling after all and sometimes I’m not good at feeling. Really I’m great at it, just not good at owning them and sharing them.
    While going through my dad’s belongings I found a newspaper clipping that was headlined,”Green eyed people are the most secretive”. I am the green eyed child and I fit the bill, unable to say, ask or tell with openness what is in dire need of being said. I am perfectly normal, I have come to realize, and I love myself as I am. I also love the other women who I see, or just know by their works and words, share my world.
    Katie you are a door standing open for others. Your writing is beautiful and honest. Forgive me for reading between the lines, for if there’s nothing there.
    And thank you for posting this. If I ever get my computer back, I’m going to print it out and tuck it, folded safely, into the book on top of the case.

    • katiewilda says:

      What a lovely and thoughtful comment. I am honored that my book as found a place on your home made bookcase and that my book is just “me”. I am so glad the book touched you that way.

      Yeah, I’m green eyed too and more private than I thought when I was a young girl. My mom used to tell me I talked too much and was too open, but that was a false story. There is a book Graywolf published called, The Private I that is a collection of essays about this, if you want to check it out. It was published a while ago.

      Yes you are right, I did hold back. The drafts before this explored the perspectives of the other characters. My personal rejections said the novel was like a radio with a signal that came and went. Somethings were clear. Some were full of static. I hired an editor and began listening to the voices of the other characters. Unfortunately I workshopped the novel with a teacher who encouraged me to cut out the other perspectives, so that’s what I did. What a lovely image: “A shy bride on her wedding night, excited, yet wearing a high collared flannel gown.” Yes.

      Part of the process of this book, and Facebook, for me, has been learning how to have an audience, how to be read.

      As far as your writing, let me tell you a story. I’ve been through a number of workshops, including some brutal ones in my MFA program. After that I commuted an hour and half every Monday evening to work with writers in Highland Park. But I realized I was getting a polished first chapter but not hearing the story’s voice to the end. So I left the group and it’s one of the most liberating things I’ve done. I hired an editor who undid the damage my MFA program did and helped me find the voices of my characters. Writers workshops that pick things apart can be counterproductive for some people.

      The next book continues the story, has a draft, and is two thirds of the way through the next draft. That one is written from various character’s perspectives. One day I may try to publish Lucian’s side of things.

      And you’re in good company because a well published author thought I should make this book twice as long, get an agent, etc. so you’re not alone in your sense of this book needing more. The sequel may deliver that. (It’s really part two of this one. But you can’t sell a 600 page book as a first time author.)

      Well, thank you for your thoughtful and heartfelt comments. Thank you for that blessing, “You are a door standing open for others.” I wish you the best for your own writing.

      • Sidetracksusie says:

        Thank you, Katie.
        Im excited that there will be more. I love stories of life. It’s not clean and perfect and the way we imagine it will be but real life and stories about it, leave me feeling that the ordinary person is truly heroic, if only for having endured and found peace with themselves.
        I will certainly look up Greywolf’s The Private I.
        Thank you again, my fellow green eyed friend.

        • katiewilda says:

          Yeah, I’ve got a couple sequels and two sequels. I need to hunker down and get to the sequel. I can feel that kind of work rising. This fall I was able to organize my office, so it feels like a good space, even though by most standards it’s quite cluttered. Well, thank you so much for stopping by and for your thoughtful comments and encouragement to get that book written and into the world.

Leave a Reply

* Checkbox GDPR is required

*

I agree

Pin It on Pinterest

%d bloggers like this: