Doors Made Into Windows

I’ve always loved beautiful doorways.

Especially when they are exterior doors — with one side facing the world and one side inside a private space — I’m forever pulling out a camera or a phone to photograph them. They are, of course, artful ways to say “keep out.”

In biblical times, nomads were considered the most generous when, deep in the desert, they opened their tents on all sides to welcome the stranger. In fact, welcoming the stranger is one of the most valued traits in the lessons of the Old Testament. It is all the more perplexing and, in fact, heartbreaking, that the doors of the biblical land of Israel are among the most beautiful I’ve seen in the world.

ein-kerem-doors In 2012, with six and nine year old daughters at our side, my husband and I went again to Israel. We were the parents of schoolgirls, little girls who took up the bulk of my time and energy. On our first night there, in the midst of a restless, jet lagged sleep, my little daughter woke me. She was disoriented and anxious and, on a whim, I offered her some food. She was, we know now, in the midst of the mysterious meanderings in her chest of an aorta that snaked across her gullet, but that night at 1am, she sat at a foreign table and ate a bagel and cream cheese and  a bowl of fruit. Then I wrapped myself around her on the couch and we fell asleep, cheeks flecked with the sticky juice of fresh tomatoes, me wondering if Israel could cure my little one of her tiny, unsatisfying appetite.

The next morning, we took the bus to Ein Kerem, home of Mary’s Spring, home of gelato shops and ruins and desert wildflowers, and every arched doorway seemed full of hope. On this side, desert; on the other side, roses.

We trekked through desert trails and up hills; back in Jerusalem, we walked paved, modern roads and cobblestone paths; we entered our rented apartment through a metal door that felt hot in the afternoon sun. One day in the old city, a scampering group of boys raced past us into a door made of exquisite wrought-iron, labeled “for prayer only,” and we heard the call to worship echo as the gate closed. In every way, whatever was behind that door was not intended for me: a woman, not a Muslim, not a word of Arabic in my head. I didn’t even peek.

mosque-of-omar

In the middle of our trip, we came to the city of the most magnificent doors: Sfat; or Tzfat; or Tsfat; or Safed; the city of mystery and mysticism. What did these doors mean, here, where everything means something? The hills were high, and we traveled with distant cousins whose English was as poor as our Hebrew. I couldn’t ask them about the doors, and maybe they wouldn’t know either. I think of my own hometown, the abundance of painted-lady houses scattered among grand courtyard apartment buildings, all for reasons I’ve never known. What is the history of these styles? I don’t know. Our cousins ambled ahead as I snapped photo after photo after photo of the doorways in Tzfat.

tsfat-doors

As we return to Israel this summer with daughters suddenly 13 and 17 years old, I am more awake than ever to the genetic memory of tents with open sides and the modern knowledge of regional violence and local fear. I know my children — both of them now healthy and strong — will wake in the night and, perhaps, make their own snacks, return to sleep without my arms around them, and explore ahead on the trail. I will look at the closed doors and gates and wonder not why these are the faces they show to the world, but what beauty is hidden away inside. I’ll wonder less why my traveling companions can’t show me and, I hope, go out after the knowledge on my own. And, the greatest gift of parenting so far, I will arrive after my oldest daughter has explored with other young people for three weeks, and have so much to learn from her that I can sit with her, in or out of one of these beautiful entryways, and find out what she knows. I am the mother of young women, now, who are ready to walk through beautiful doors to places I may or may not ever see.

Doors hold in, and they keep out. I will be photographing everything I can.

 


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, with this week’s photo prompt and word prompt (“Open Door”) provided by the fabulous Mardra of MardraSikora.com and also hosted by Kristi of FindingNinee.com.

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5 thoughts on “Doors Made Into Windows

  1. It’s such a strange concept of our children growing and walking through doors that lead them to experiences and sights we may never see. Strange and beautiful, too. Each door in your photographs is stunning – I love the colors and patterns. Your trip sounds amazing and wow – three weeks there before you. What a gift (and good thinking of meeting up with her after her experience without you).

  2. The door pictures are beautiful- ornate and bursting with ‘notice-me’ color. Your post reminds me of how fleeting a mom’s time is with her small children. Once they were 6 and 9; now 13 and 17 (Gulp). What a gift it is to experience them as young women and to have the older one guide you with her view of what she’s seen. How beautiful.

  3. Just gorgeous. I love how we both wrote about returning to places that helped shape our stories.
    My kids are six and nine now.. and I fear I hold them too closely. They’ve never experienced anything like a trip to Israel, or somewhere nowhere near home.
    And I want them too – both with me – and to enter and exit doors I’ll never see.

  4. though surely there is an obvious architectural imperative for the arch in doorways that I’m over-looking, that said, there is something about them that is fundamentally attractive.
    (On a way more mundane level than ancient portals in a timeless land, I see this feature in homes built at a certain point in the past. At least in my part of southern New England. And it’s not the oldest of houses that have this type of door/passageway. Mostly homes of the ’40s and ’50s. There will be an arched entrance, usually between living room and kitchen. Almost as if the builders were trying to recover some of the elegance that disappeared when style and construction materials made an arch ‘non-necessary’.)
    Thought-provoking post you have written for this week’s FTSF.

  5. So many doors, each with open and secret histories. And to walk those paths!
    Another great set of moments you’ve woven history and ambitions about the next adventure together.

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