The blue door | Inquirer News

The blue door

/ 08:27 AM August 25, 2013

Before it was turned into a subdivision, the field across the road from our village was overrun by weeds and wild flowers. It sloped down gently and then rose up to disappear into a thicket. I often stood on the roadside to view its gradual fall and rise and wonder what it was that lay behind the copse on the hill.

But what most caught my attention was a gate at the edge of the field next to the highway. Since there was no fence on either side, and anyone could enter the open land, it seemed to serve no purpose other than as a trellis for the morning glory and the like. There were just two concrete posts, which might have been intended for other than a gate — such as to support a workout bar or as goal posts for an anonymous game — but, and I came to this inference after stepping back and squatting for a second opinion, they did seem proposed as a sort of gate.

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I found support for this in a poem by Cecil Day Lewis, entitled, “The Gate.”

The poem contemplates a similar situation — cream-white flowers in the foreground, then a green path that leads to a gate that divides the green from a brown field, and after that, “[b]y steps of mustard and sainfoin-pink, the distance / Climbs right-handed away / Up to an olive hilltop and the sky.”

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To the poet, the gate lies in the “dead-centre,” holding the whole together like a brooch, as though everything is arranged for its sake.

Here the focus shifts as the poet considers the white flowers, how they seem to crane their necks, like a crowd holding itself back from surging forward, as though expecting the arrival of someone acclaimed, of an exalted or  glorious status, and somehow they manage to remain on their point of balance while swaying on “[t]he airy brink of whatever it is they await.”

The poet makes a guess list of the one expected–summer, a human event, a ghost who might often pass that way.  But it could not be summer or else why are there flowers, or a human event because there is no path to the gate. As to the ghost, oh well.

What the flowers probably want, the poet surmises, is that the gate just stand there, as a focal point, to hold the colors together, for the flowers expect nothing–they just wait, a pure waiting being their kind of worship.

This is a gate in the midst of flowers, which just happens to be there, and acquires no purpose other than as part and enhancer of the scene. It is the kind of gate that artists–painters, photographers, and even poets–regard, especially those who adhere to the maxim, “Ars gratia artis,” which holds that true art is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function.

As with gates, so with doors. I once had our backdoor painted blue, for no reason other than that  the phrase “blue door” reverberated in my mind. The wife objected, but after she saw the finished product, agreed with my choice of color.

Doors have no meaning apart from their function– to open  and close after people passing, and so also as metaphor for choice, big or small.

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This was what Jesus meant when, in answer to someone who asked him while they were journeying to Jerusalem–“Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”–he said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door…”

One’s tendency, of course, is to choose the wide door, the one that fetches with its color and trimmings, which speak of the promise that lies ahead–of ease, diversion and indulgence.

Thus, Jesus’ advice–the narrow door: the way of patient, self-giving love.

Which dimension is lacking in Day Lewis’ poem. If flowers wait, it is to be picked–for someone who lives behind the hill, who might be sick, old or in love. That’s the kind of waiting and worship they should be taught. To be given is the flowers’–and every person’s–narrow gate and salvation.

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TAGS: belief, faith, Religion
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