I woke up on New Year’s Eve filled with dread. It seems almost useless to force hope onto a change of calendar, though I understand when a year has swollen with loss, hanging a new calendar seems to promise better times. Often it does. (Ours portrays mules and faces our toilet.)

Though grief endures, whether we want it to or not though in a hollowed out, painful way, it connects us with the people who aren’t here. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love…It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with another may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain.”

But I didn’t want to post my dread in the obligatory Facebook New Year greeting, so I said,

“Who knows what doors will open or where they’ll lead or who will be waiting at the threshold?”

I think how doors opening to our homes with lamps fired up against the darkness, can be full of promise even as grief walks beside us, that promise as ordinary as a blanket and a good book, and as spectacular as wind clapping our backs as the sun throws pinks and oranges against clouds sitting along the horizon, that promise as kind as doors opening to a neighbor holding a casserole or offering to help put up hay.

I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.

If you’d like to hear me read this click here.

The weather has turned so cold that my fingers and toes and bottom ache for a good hour once I’ve come in the house. It’s a sterilizing cold. A kind of weather to push against, to make me feel that I am pushing past my comfort zone. But I come inside and want to go to sleep, a heavy leaden sleep. Christmas is past, the cats knocked over the Christmas tree, breaking a few Breyer ornaments, that have little sentimental value, except that I like looking at them during the Christmas season. The fake trees are put back in the shed, and our decorations stowed under the stairs. Towns and homes will be taking down lights that brightened those long nights. 

The month we spent treating our neighbors’ horse’s eye twice a day has come to an end. There was something in Mr. P’s ringing thank you as we were leaving that sang of true gratitude. I come away thinking that’s probably the best thing I’ve done all year. We have to draw water from the side of the house when the sun hits the spigot and thaws it. I stock pile water buckets in the guest bath, along with hay bags when they freeze. The hay bags smell like damp, fermented hay. My saddle, bridles and harness are in the pocket door room. In the winter the barn comes inside the house, including shavings and hay.

Morgen has stood at the gate missing our company, but with it this bitter I throw hay to keep her warm and get back in the house. She has stood at the gate moving her lips like she is hoping we’ll bring out the harness and drive her. When I do midday water chores she comes into the barn with a soft look in her eye. I do some carrot stretches but it’s too icy for me to try lunging her or in hand work. But when I leave she walks into the paddock, rolls, jumps up bucking and cantering to the backside of the barn. Looks like protest to me. 

Even though the sun is barely pushing against the night, and Morgen has begun to shed with the promise of spring, it’s a long run to Easter, with the fasting of Lent, and  the tracking mud before we get there. 

Doors, doors, doors sliding open to the morning sun. When I was young and ambitious I thought of doors opening like they a grand opportunity to publish my book or take a new job that would fill my need for significance. I thought of them in terms of moving to a new place, with all the excitement of new people, and new places. (But my enthusiasm for any of those has been dampened by the reality. People who are published by traditional publishers have said how grinding hard it is, how there is not much respect. The joy of a new job lasts for a few weeks until the reality of learning new systems sets in. There are always politics between people getting along. And moving to a new region can be disorienting and lonely. Everything needs to be set up from bank accounts to doctors to finding community. 

I love the doors on the farm, the doors looking out to the horizon, wood framing the sunset or the tree, or the moonrise. In To Bless the Space Between Us John O’ Donohue writes that thresholds can mark the line between before and after. As far as grief goes, he says, “It takes only a couple of seconds for a life to change irreversibly. Suddenly you stand on completely strange ground and a new course of life has to be embraced…You look back at the life you have lived up to a few hours before, and it suddenly  seems so far away” (49). It was that way when my mother died, and later my father and later still my brother. There was a before, when I was a daughter and a sister, their voices only a phone call away. And an after when no phone call could reach them. Years later a pastor preached at a funeral service, “If you are in Christ and they are in Christ, you are not far from each other”and so I find comfort. Even now my life steps out from that dreadful half decade when my family died. 

The early Christians believed that  death was a door that brought us into our full humanity. That we become the full human God had in mind when He made us. All that is “not of love’s kind,” all that is not worthy of God’s idea, is burned away, leaving the burnished bronze, clothed in white linen, shining like the sun glory.

Let me leave you with the celebration of doors in  Psalm 24:

Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.

I’m curious, what do doors mean to you? 

And that’s all I know. If you’d like to be on my regular mailing list click here: 

 

 

 

9 Comments

  • Mark says:

    “LOVE the pictures!” is my first thought.

    “Reminds me of John Ford’s opening in “The Searchers” or the homage paid to that scene in “Silverado.” is my next thought.

    What do doors mean to me?

    Wow. Heavy question.

    I thought of death, but Katie already mentioned what the early Christians thought, which is about the same as I was thinking, except the part about being fully human . . . THAT would be nice . . . the purgatory passage through fire to burn up all that is not of God, NOT so much. Although I SO need it.

    Is this next thought of God, “vaginas?”

    A vagina is a door.

    I was apparently so looped from the pain medication that they had given my mother right before I was born that they first thought that I was stillborn.

    What if I had been stillborn?

    That would have been two doors at the same time, huh, unless Camus was right, and there’s only the “benign indifference of the universe” awaiting us all after death.

    But why “benign?”

    Doesn’t that adjective betray a faith in the heart of this supposedly atheistic existentialist?

    If there really was no such thing as a Creator, then creation would only be “indifferent,” not also “benign.”

    And how did I go from vaginas to existentialism?

    Maybe my nearly lifelong desire to enter again that passage whence I came, not my mother’s because that’s impossible or, at least, impractical, even Nicodemus said that, but my wife’s, or any attractive woman’s if we’re gonna be spilling our guts here . . . but THAT desire is fading as my testosterone subsides its way to dust.

    Holy crap! Did the early Christians think THESE thoughts? I’ll bet some did.

    OK. OK! DOORS! Focus, you idiot, FOCUS!

    Take that 65 year old, ADHD-addled, COVID-infected, Narcissistic Personality Disordered-likely brain out of an imaginary vagina and answer Katie’s question with a little more reverence IF that’s possible for you to do, dammit!

    “Door” . . . what?

    Death.

    Birth.

    Sex.

    The order is a little jumbled here, but that’s about it.

    That’s all I got.

    Top THAT if you can.

    • Mark, considering we just finished the Christmas season and the emphasis on the incarnation of Jesus, I think your comment is insightful. You take a good angle that shows us the bodily nature of doors for us, as we are born into this world. That’s an amazing story the docs thought you were stillborn! So glad you proved otherwise. Good point about Camus. The universe certainly isn’t benign, especially in the face of our deaths. At any rate I find your comment insightful. Thank you for sharing your train of thought.

  • Mark says:

    OR don’t even try, Katie!

    Feel completely free to delete my stream of consciousness answer to your question which juxtoposition is so incongruous with the beautiful Psalm of King David . . . who also thought a little too much about what I just wrote at least once in his life and probably more times than that.

    https://youtu.be/NFeUko-lQHg

    • Nah. I found your comment insightful and honoring of our earthiness. Remember the Song of Songs is in Holy Writ and there are echoes of it in the Apocalypse of John. Yes on David,a man after God’s own heart…

      • Mark says:

        Whew! Thanks, Katie.

        I was afraid that I might have gone too far with that particular comment.

        I’m still hoping that my beautiful bride of almost 42 years doesn’t happen to read it, but if she does . . . well, it won’t be too shocking for her that I thought this, just that I wrote about it here!

        By the way, did you like the link to the Doors, “Break On Through (To The Other Side)!” https://youtu.be/NFeUko-lQHg Click on the link, if you haven’t already and give it a listen.

        Whatever this other dead poet was singing about, it sounds like another passageway metaphor, huh?

        You know the day destroys the night
        Night divides the day
        Tried to run
        Tried to hide
        Break on through to the other side
        Break on through to the other side
        Break on through to the other side, yeah
        We chased our pleasures here
        Dug our treasures there
        But can you still recall
        The time we cried
        Break on through to the other side
        Break on through to the other side
        Yeah
        C’mon, yeah
        Everybody loves my baby
        Everybody loves my baby
        She get high
        She get high
        She get high
        She get high, yeah
        I found an island in your arms
        Country in your eyes
        Arms that chain us
        Eyes that lie
        Break on through to the other side
        Break on through to the other side
        Break on through, ow
        Oh, yeah
        Made the scene
        Week to week
        Day to day
        Hour to hour
        The gate is straight
        Deep and wide
        Break on through to the other side
        Break on through to the other side
        Break on through
        Break on through
        Break on through
        Break on through
        Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

        Maybe he’s talking about Hell when he thought he’d found Heaven.

        Maybe he’s trying to . . . what, “break on through to the other side?”

        Yeah?

        • Mark, your comment was fine, earthy and insightful. Thanks for including the lyrics on that song because I generally don’t go over to You Tube to listen to stuff because we’re watching TV and I don’t want to disturb Bruce. It’s easier to see what’s being said with these. It does sound like another talk about doors, though the break on through to the other side sounds on the forceful side. “The gate is straight, deep and wide” seems to echo the narrow is the way that leads to eternal life, broad is the way that leads to destruction that Jesus talked about. I’m not sure what the other side he’s trying to break through to. Maybe you’re right. He’s wanting to get out of his own hellish life…We should do a zoom one of these days soon.

  • Mark says:

    Your interpretation of “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” was exactly what I was thinking, Katie. I’m not sure that Jim Morrison was intending to allude to what Jesus said about the road to perdition, but I think probably that he did.

    A Navy admiral’s son, estranged from his father and family, he died at 27 from a heroin overdose, having done what his father had predicted he could never do when the father told the son that he had no talent and would never succeed in music. In the Morrison household, the parents eschewed corporal punishment for their children and, instead, gave each child a military-style “dressing down,” employing verbal abuse until the child was reduced to tears and admitted the wrong behavior.

    It’s too bad that you didn’t listen to the song that starts out all hippie “peace and love” groovy but ends with a hard driving beat that sounds like a psychedelic berating . . . or rape. Morrison did “break on through to the other side” only to find the lie in the ultimate rebel’s pathetic cry, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

    Had I not found the gentle “Door” of Jesus Christ when I was twenty years old, I’d have most likely wound up where James Douglas Morrison went in his short life. No woman could save him, nor drugs, nor worldly pleasures or treasures even. I can only hope that the wild poet saw Jesus Christ crucified in his last thought and breathed out this final prayer that he must have learned in his lost childhood, “Remember ME, Lord, when You come in Your Kingdom.”

    • Well, I did listen to part of the song. I wonder if Morrison’s cry to “break through to the other side” was a cry of seeking the Lord. How could he come to know God the father’s love when he was so abused? I have a friend who suffered terribly from an abusive father and she has a terrible time trusting God the Father. I don’t think God stopped pursuing Morrison just because he died. Look up Brad Jersak’s A Gospel in Chairs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7FKhHScgUQ The Psalmist says, “If I descend to the depths of Sheol you are there…”

      At any rate, I’m so glad that you met Jesus at twenty and that you are making Christ known to the world around you Yes, Zooming on Sunday sounds good. Let me know what time via text…And Happy Birthday ahead of time.

  • Mark says:

    And yes, let’s zoom soon, maybe on my birthday this Sunday!

    This was either a helluva conversation we’ve had here or a heavenly one . . .
    depending on the “door.”