The Door In The Garden

It is still winter here in the great Northwest. The garden is a sodden wreck, the ground saturated and most of the plants are either dormant in the earth or stripped bare of their foliage. My banana trees are still wrapped in their winter cloak of black plastic and fiberglass insulation, and this most recent winter storm has covered everything in a soft wet layer of pine needles. Of course, even now in the midst of all this cold and wind, and rain, the bamboo is flourishing and vibrant.

So yesterday I bundled up against the gray and the damp of the morning, took my entourage of dogs and cats and went out to sit in the Teaspoon House. To keep my hands warm I had a large mug of Ceylon tea from the Kandy district of Sri Lanka. I like my tea sweet, with a good measure of milk for comfort and it makes me feel secure and thoughtful.

I spend a lot of time thinking about home and working on creating an atmosphere of sanctuary in my back yard that will make it seem more welcoming and private. There is a jumble of fountain, fern, and bamboo, all mixed up with the odd things I find at yard sales as well as my various art projects. As I sit out there, I feel a kind of belonging that is almost like an ache. There is a striving for home, a deep and profound urge for sanctuary. To create a magical and separate place far from the outside world.

In the back of my garden, half hidden in the bamboo, there is a red door. It was an idea that I picked up from someone else’s garden while going to yard sales somewhere down in Portland. Just a door standing by itself in the garden, like the suggestion of a welcome to some other place.

I found the door, of course at a yard sale and brought it home, where I painted it red and added brass fixtures. I put a peep hole in the door and embeded one of those little pocket slide viewers, that you can still buy at famous tourist destinations. If you walk right up to the door and peer through that hole, sometimes you might see a mountain in Japan or a wood nymph hiding in the woods, and sometimes you might the vast expanse of a blue ocean.

So yesterday, as I was sitting out in the Teaspoon House, I had one of those garden epiphanies… I was thinking, I don’t know, about the door, about where the bamboo will come up this year, or maybe even what might be on the other side, when it struck me. Suddenly the door reminded me of something, something deeper and more profound moving through my spirit like a warm current through a darkened sea. Beyond the garden, beyond partner, or friends, or job… There is the memory of parents. Of people who loved and accepted you, of the jangled days of youth and the hours spent exploring redwood forests and chanting in dark caves.

I realized, as I sat there viewing the garden, that the red door was very much like the front door of my parents house where I grew up. The pattern of the panels was quite similar. My parents door had a large round brass knocker right in the middle of it and the doorknob was huge. It was like a castle door, a grand portal and it captured my imagination. It was an entry into the love and imagination of my parents world. I can’t believe it took me so long to recognize the similarities. So many times as a young boy I stood outside that wonderful door and swung the knocker, just to hear the echoing boom inside the house. How many times, I wonder have I walked up to my red garden door and swung the big brass knocker in the same way? How could I have not noticed that my garden knocker is almost the same size as the one on my parents door or how big the doorknob felt in my hand?

So that’s what my sanctuary is all about.There is a memory of a time and place where I could go home to my parents and sit with them at the kitchen table and talk about nothing in particular, or sometimes even very particular things. To simply be there with the hanging pots and ancient stove and visit with those wonderful people who knew me so long and well.

There was a place where I could go when I was confused or harried, or even full of the glow of happiness and love… Where I could go and climb up onto the bed between them as they watched TV and simply sit with them. Honestly, right into adulthood. To simply sit with them and know that I was at home and safe.

Now that they are gone and the old family estate has changed and shelters other people who are busily making their own homes and their own memories, I find that even now late into my 50s, I am still seeking them. And they are there… They are the magic that hides behind the red door. The joy of watching new plants squeezing out of the ground, or eclectic artworks hidden among the bushes. The people who taught me and led me, who protected and offered me sanctuary.

So do come sometime, for tea, to meet the dogs, to peer through the peep hole in the door, to meet my parents.

Red Door In The Garden

Door found at yard sale

My Parents

The Teaspoon House

And no

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