Where You’d Least Expect It…

The world is a complicated mess, which is where most of its charm comes from, if you think about it. Sure, there is all the out-front stuff – politics being the dominant mess of the day – but there are also myriad hidden gems, people and places that can only be stumbled upon, and in that moment of taking the stumble, we get to for a brief moment remember that life is much more than the usual, the planned, the to-be-expected. My dearest and I had one such of those unexpected encounters yesterday, when we ran into an amazing man, with an even more amazing hobby/business/avocation.

Myanmar, or as some still call it, Burma, has been in the news often because of it’s political repression by a military dictatorship, and more recently, for what on the surface at least appears to be a slowly changing situation for the better. What most in the West do NOT know about Myanmar is that the people keep trying to live decent, spirit-filled lives, often led by the Buddhist monks who have been a dominant social force in the country for centuries. Their monasteries abound throughout the country, and these monasteries are storehouses of both spiritual knowledge, and the essentials of the ancient and honorable Burmese culture as a whole, including the arts. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the architecture of the monasteries themselves.

The Hidden Monastery of the Singular Monk

This is the work of one David Van Leeuwen, and much more of his work can be seen at http://www.davidjaap.com, and I strongly urge you to visit his site. The gateway below is called the Lotus Flower Gateway, and is a copy of a 200-year-old monastery in Mandalay. He makes his gateways and other Burmese sculptures by taking rubber molds from actual wood carvings, and then pours them with reinforced concrete mortar, some with pigmentation added, and some with paint. He sells his sculptures and gateways as a way to raise funds to help build schools, water wells, and other community improvement projects in the small villages of Burma/Myanmar.

This copy of a gateway from a 200-year-old monastery sits among giant eucalyptus trees a world away from Myanmar.

Below is David, Standing inside one of his Dragon Gateways:

Does the dragon matter entering, or exiting through the gateway? And how will you change?

David is truly the embodiment of a world-changing artist, and I hope you take the time to get to know about him, and the amazing work he is doing to change it, one village at a time!! Come on, step through the Dragon’s Gate!! Just click on it, and you will be instantly transported. How cool is that!!??

Here Comes The Neighborhood

Gates and fences, as has been said, and as is quite obvious, started and often remain an element directed at security. The idea of keeping people out, except those the property-owner desires to enter, goes back to the very first fences, walls, and gates. But security comes in many colors, not the least of which is the idea of community. We would be correct to assume that physical security measures pre-date the security imposed by laws and the penalties that attach to their violation. But law, and the resultant cultures that are shaped by laws, have slowly, and in fits and starts, altered community itself, and all it implies and imparts.


Criminal acts will, sadly, be with us forever. But the numbers and nature of such acts have in some places diminished with time, and in other places shifted locations of greatest impact. Rural settings have markedly different crime rates as well as crime types. Cities also differ from each other based on a myriad of local factors – climate, local law and law enforcement efforts; cultural pressures; and most of all, community involvement. The more involved the community members are with life in their community, especially outside their own homes, where their physical visibility, and the visibility of their interactions with their neighbors, the less likely their neighborhood will be targeted by criminal elements.


It is within such neighborhoods that the nature of fences and gates change from pure physical barriers and access controls, to architectural complements to the home enclosed by them. This sort of change might seem subtle, but only due to how these elements support each others esthetics. Instead of relying on pure physical impermeability as their deterrence value, they rely on the historic mental image of a fence and gate as an unconscious reminder. Such fences and gates tell the passer-by to respect the property limits, while also relying on the pleasure of seeing an esthetically balanced view to engage that same passer-by in a different perspective – one of community, of neighborhood, of friendly people and places. By effecting a change in mind-set, one also reinforces the lowering of criminal intent by replacing it with a sense of belonging. Now, certainly this does not mean a total reduction in criminal behavior – the human species will always have its ner-do-well’s and miscreants. But these more subtle contributors to better security should not be under-valued: they represent a slow but historic shift in the evolution of communities.


So the next time you take a walk in the neighborhood, look at the fences and gates around the streets you are walking. Note how each either works esthetically with their house, or does not. Ask what the homeowner might have been thinking about, and how that might say something about how they view and interact with their own neighbors. Then, go home, and look at your own gate and fence. What are YOU communicating? How would you change it? And, why?


Fresh lemon-aid, here, come on inside the gate!

Cemetery Gates

To fence in and bolt a gate surrounding the dead seems almost absurd – they really aren’t going anywhere, and the days of grave robbers is pretty much behind us. Well, there is the zombie question, I suppose, but otherwise, not so much rational reason remains for this anachronism. But historically, there were many reasons.


It is likely the first walled or fenced graveyards occurred as a means to prevent carrion from digging up Mum and Pa and having at the entrails. And as the linkage between the dead and the gods and/or daemons became more prevalent, there grew a rationale that such walls might work both ways, and keep the ghosts of the dead from making excessive mischief. Almost simultaneously, graveyards began to be held as sacred grounds, and thus a wall and gate served to delineate the sacred from the encircling profane. And somewhere in that evolving concept, the gates, and in many instances the fences as well, began to grow more ornate, more imposing, more forbidding.

Cemetery gates have figured into film, cartoons, stories, and most importantly, ghost stories. The gates fronting the Addams Family mansion are quite clearly those of a cemetery. The strange thing is, they are almost always metal, and quite porous, and one must wonder how something as insubstantial as ghosts could possibly be held back by gates so ephemeral. And this also brings forth an eternal question:


How does the fog remain inside the cemetery without leaking out into the rest of the world?

Some More Famous Gates, Real and Imagined

Gates Opening, Gates Closing…

  • The entrance to the Dachau concentration camp, marked arbeit macht frei

  • Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station

  • The wardrobe portal to Narnia

  • The door to All Saints’ Church or Castle Church in Wittenberg, on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses

  • Rodin’s gorgeous sculpture The Gates of Hell, inspired by Dante’s “Inferno”

  • The Stargate of the Stargate movies, television series, and game releases.

The Ishtar Gate of Babylon

  • The Ishtar Gate (Arabic: بوابة عشتار‎) was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. It was constructed in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II on the north side of the city.

File:Ishtar Gate at Berlin Museum.jpg

  • The Gateway Arch in St. Louis

The golden doors of the Florence Baptistery, depicting The Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti

File:Abraham (Gates of Paradise) 01.JPG

Details of one panel of the work.


  • Door to No.10 Downing Street (Prime Minister’s residence)

  • All the doors in the movie, Monsters Inc.

The Brandenburger Tor, symbol of Berlin.

The Great Gate of Kiev

The Arch of Trajan, Ancona, Italy from the 1st century, common era.

The Colossus of Rhodes. Greece, 3rd century B.C.E., A statue of Helios, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World

Ianus Geminus/Porta Belli closed only in peacetime, in the Roman Forum


The Arch of Janus was not dedicated to the Roman god, and is the only triumphal arch with four front sides.

Tiananmen- the Gate of Heavenly Peace

File:Tiananmen 1901.jpg

The Columbus Door, US Capital

File:Bronze Door, Capitol, from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views.png

  • The Gates of Hell/Hades

The gates of the Imperial Palace (kokyo) in Tokyo.

File:Tokyo Imperial Palace East Gate.JPG

In Korea, Namdaemun – famous national icon.


Christo and Jean-Claude’s exhibit, “The Gates,” which displayed a few years ago in NYC’s Central Park.

Johnston Gate has been the main entrance to Harvard Yard since the 17th Century.

The gates to Hell in Dante’s Inferno: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here)

Buland Darwaza

The Buland Darwaza, Fatehpur Sikri is the highest gateway in the world.
  • Buland Darwaza (Hindi: बुलंद दरवाज़ा, Urdu: بُلند دروازه, pronounced [ˈbʊlənd̪ d̪ərˈʋaːzaː]), meaning ‘high’ or ‘great’ gate in Persian. It is located in Fatehpur Sikri which is located 43 km away from Agra, India. It is also known as the “Gate of Magnificence.” Buland Darwaza or the loft gateway was built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601 A.D. at Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar built the Buland Darwaza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. [1]


India Gate, New Delhi


Gateway of India, Mumbai

  • The Gateway of India is a monument built during the British Raj in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India.[2] Located on the waterfront in the Apollo Bunder area in South Mumbai, the monument overlooks the Arabian Sea.[3][4] The gateway is a basalt arch, 26 metres (85 feet) high. It lies at the end of Chhatrapati Shivaji Marg at the water’s edge in the harbor of Bombay.[5] Previously, it was a crude jetty used by the fishing community which was later renovated and used as a landing place for British governors and other prominent people. In earlier times, the gateway was the monument that visitors arriving by boat would have first seen in Mumbai.[6][7] The gateway has also been referred to as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai,[8] and is the city’s top tourist attraction.[9]The monument was erected to commemorate the landing on the Apollo Bunder of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary when they visited India in 1911. Built in Indo-Saracenic style, the foundation stone for the Gateway of India was laid on 31 March 1911. The final design of George Wittet was sanctioned in 1914 and the construction of the monument was completed in 1924. The gateway was latterly the ceremonial entrance to India for Viceroys and the new Governors of Bombay.[10] It served to allow entry and access to India.[11]


Auschwitz Concentration Camp

The gate of Auschwitz Concentration camp. The door was recently stolen.


Gates of Argonath, Lord of the Rings

Some of the gates of Paris date back to the days when Paris was a walled city.

  • Amsterdamse Poort

  • Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

  • Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem’s old city

  • Sungnyemun, or the South Gate, Seoul

  • The Traitor’s Gate, Tower of London

The Gates of Alexander

File:Darielpass 1906.jpg

  • The rabbit hole, In Alice’s adventure
  • The door to No. 10, Downing street

  • The Doors of Durin, or West-door, in “The Lord of the Rings”

The hot gates of Thermopylae.

by Massimo Taparelli d’ Azeglio

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoilein Paris

The Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon in 1806.

The door Mary Lennox discovers in The Secret Garden.

The door to Plato’s academy which said”

“Let no one ignorant of geometry enter”
See http://plato-dialogues.org/faq/f…


  • The wardrobe which acted as a door to Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and others in the series by CS Lewis.

  • The portals to prehistoric times in the TV series “Primeval”.


  • “Before the Law” (German: “Vor dem Gesetz”) is a parable in the novel The Trial (German: Der Prozess), by Franz Kafka. “Before the Law” was published in Kafka’s lifetime, while The Trial was not published until after Kafka’s death.
  • stands a doorkeeper. To this door-keeper there comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man thinks it over and then asks if he will be allowed in later. “It is possible,” says the doorkeeper, “but not at the moment.” Since the gate stands open, as usual, and the doorkeeper steps to one side, the man stoops to peer through the gateway into the interior. Observing that, the doorkeeper laughs and says: “If you are so drawn to it, just try to go in despite my veto. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the least of the door-keepers. From hall to hall there is one doorkeeper after another, each more powerful than the last. The third doorkeeper is already so terrible that even I cannot bear to look at him.” These are difficulties the man from the country has not expected; the Law, he thinks, should surely be accessible at all times and to everyone, but as he now takes a closer look at the doorkeeper in his fur coat, with his big sharp nose and long, thin, black Tar-tar beard, he decides that it is better to wait until he gets permission to enter. The doorkeeper gives him a stool and lets him sit down at one side of the door. There he sits for days and years. He makes many at-tempts to be admitted, and wearies the doorkeeper by his importunity. The doorkeeper frequently has little interviews with him, asking him questions about his home and many other things, but the questions are put indifferently, as great lords put them, and always finish with the statement that he cannot be let in yet. The man, who has furnished himself with many things for his journey, sacrifices all he has, however valuable, to bribe the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper accepts every- thing, but always with the remark: “I am only taking it to keep you from thinking you have omitted any- thing.” During these many years the man fixes his at-tention almost continuously on the doorkeeper. He for- gets the other doorkeepers, and this first one seems to him the sole obstacle preventing access to the Law. He curses his bad luck, in his early years boldly and loudly, later, as he grows old, he only grumbles to himself. He becomes childish, and since in his yearlong contempla-tion of the doorkeeper he has come to know even the fleas in his fur collar, he begs the fleas as well to help him and to change the doorkeeper’s mind. At length his eyesight begins to fail, and he does not know whether the world is really darker or whether his eyes are only deceiving him. Yet in his darkness he is now aware t of a radiance that streams inextinguishably from the gateway of the Law. Now he has not very long to live. Before he dies, all his experiences in these long years gather themselves in his head to one point, a ques-tion he has not yet asked the doorkeeper. He waves him nearer, since he can no longer raise his stiffening body. The doorkeeper has to bend low towards him, for the difference in height between them has altered much to the man’s disadvantage. “What do you want to know now?” asks the doorkeeper; “you are insati-able.” “Everyone strives to reach the Law,” says the man, “so how does it happen that for all these many years no one but myself has ever begged for admit-tance?” The doorkeeper recognizes that the man has reached his end, and to let his failing senses catch the words roars in his ear: “No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it.”

The gates of horn and ivory – the gates of dreams.

  • The gates of horn and ivory are a literary image used to distinguish true dreams (corresponding to factual occurrences) from false. The phrase originated in the Greek language, in which the word for “horn” is similar to that for “fulfil” and the word for “ivory” is similar to that for “deceive”. On the basis of that play on words, true dreams are spoken of as coming through the gates of horn, false dreams as coming through those of ivory.
  • These are found in Homer and many times since.  One gate lets in truthful dreams, the other deceptive.

  • Virgil borrowed the image of the two gates in lines 893-898 of Book 6 of his Aeneid, describing that of horn as the passageway for true shadows[7] and that of ivory as that through which the Manes in the underworld send false dreams up to the living.[8] Through the latter gate Virgil makes his hero Aeneas, accompanied by the Cumaean Sibyl, return from his visit to the underworld, where he has met, among others, his dead father Anchises:

    Two gates the silent house of Sleep adorn;
    Of polish’d ivory this, that of transparent horn:
    True visions thro’ transparent horn arise;
    Thro’ polish’d ivory pass deluding lies.
    Of various things discoursing as he pass’d,
    Anchises hither bends his steps at last.
    Then, thro’ the gate of iv’ry, he dismiss’d
    His valiant offspring and divining guest.[9]

Rashomon Gate

Rashomon Gate, made famous as the setting for Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon.


Tolkien’s Gates of Mordor

  • In J. R. R. Tolkien‘s fictional universe of Middle-earth, Mordor or Morhdorh (pronounced [ˈmɔr̥dɔr̥]; from Sindarin Black Land and Quenya Land of Shadow) was the dwelling place of Sauron, in the southeast of northwestern Middle-earth to the East of Anduin, the great river. Orodruin, a volcano in Mordor, was the destination of the Fellowship of the Ring (and later Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee) in the quest to destroy the One Ring. Mordor was unique because of the three enormous mountain ridges surrounding it, from the north, from the west and from the south. The mountains both protected the land from an unexpected invasion by any of the people living in those directions and kept those living in Mordor from escaping. Tolkien was reported to have identified Mordor with the volcano of Stromboli off Sicily.[1]

The Lion’s Gate in ancient Mycenae.

  • The Lions’ Gate (Hebrew: שער האריות‎ Sha’ar Ha’Arayot, Arabic: باب الأسباط‎, also St. Stephen’s Gate or Sheep Gate) is located in the Old City Walls of Jerusalem and is one of seven open Gates in Jerusalem’s Old City Walls.Located in the east wall, the entrance marks the beginning of the traditional Christian observance of the last walk of Jesus from prison to crucifixion, the Via Dolorosa. Near the gate’s crest are four figures of panthers, often mistaken for lions, two on the left and two on the right. They were placed there by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to celebrate the Ottoman defeat of the Mamluks in 1517. Legend has it that Suleiman’s predecessor Selim I was captured by lions that were going to eat him because of his plans to level the city. He was spared only after promising to protect the city by building a wall around it. This led to the lion becoming the heraldic symbol of Jerusalem.[2] However, Jerusalem already had been, from Biblical times, the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, whose emblem was a lion (Genesis 49:9).[3]

File:LionsGate Jerusalem.JPG

The Front Gate in Literature

The history of the front gate probably goes back to the first walled villages in ancient times. Walls were of course built to keep out the wild animals and the pillaging hoards from across the river. And of course whenever one builds a wall, one must build a gate, which is merely a moveable section of wall, after all. Egress and entrance being a necessity, being forced to clamber over a wall (or fence) is both impractical and seriously undignified. Hence the need for the gate.


Over time, gates grew in size, strength, and were eventually joined by other gates – side and back, sluice and flood, gates to enlightenment, and gateways to reason, the soul, and sundry other places one might wish to enter, or to leave.


But it is the front gate that is prominent, most obvious, and, not surprising after millenniums of presence among us, so ubiquitous as to be hardly noticed at all, except as something we need to get through, to get to the other side. That is to say, an obstruction that must be dealt with, but hardly thought of once passed by.


It is perhaps a long way from the front gate of Troy to the front gate of one’s home, but many of the same rationale for such a barrier remains the same –to keep out, to regulate the passage through, to demarcate one’s boundaries from the rest of the world. We think today of the front gate through the lens of security, privacy, and less often, as the initial face of our domiciles to the approaching visitor.


It is to this last aspect this blog is dedicated – the manner in which our front gate welcomes, invites, makes a statement about what lies beyond. In these fear-filled times, such welcoming is heartening, gives small but needed hope to us in a small and hopeful way, extends our hand to the passers-by and the approaching visitor, says “yes, this is the boundary of what is mine, but allow me to welcome you across into my world, if only for a moment.”


Some gates are true barriers – solid, stolid, locked and impenetrable, while others are open, ephemeral, and easy to pass. Some are not present at all – more entry-way than gate-way, still, they serve to invite, entice, beguile, and tease, leading us into their embrace, coaxing us forward to the completion of our journey, or the beginning of the same.


There is no intent here to disparage the more common-appearing gate – the gate that merely continues the design of the fence itself – but to celebrate the gate and entryway that goes beyond the mere formalism of “gate” to become a small force to impel one onward, through the entrance, and into the small or endless beauty,  and comfort or adventure beyond. To celebrate the art of welcome, as I now welcome you, gentle neighbor, through the following portals, and into a friendly place.


Through here one may find welcome, and the heart be glad….


Front Gate in Literature – quotes and citations



“Don’t I know what it is to stand a-leanin’ over the front gate on a still spring mornin’, the smell of the lilacs in the air, and the brier roses. A dew sparklin’ on the grass under the maples, and the sunshine a-fleckin’ the ground between ’em, and the robins a-singin’ and the hummin’ birds a-hoverin’ round the honeysuckles at the door. And over all and through all, and above all clear and sweet, comin’ from fur off a-floatin’ through the Sabbath stillness, the sound of the bells, a-bringin’ to us sweet Sabbath messages of love and joy. Bringin’ memories too, of other mornin’s as fair and sweet, when other ears listened with us to the sound, other eyes looked out on the summer beauty, and smiled at the sound of the bells. Heavenly emotions, sweet emotions come to me on the melody of the bells, peaceful thoughts, inspirin’ thoughts of the countless multitude that has flocked together at the sound of the bells. The aged feet, the eager youthful feet, the children’s feet, all, all walkin’ to the sound of the bells. Thoughts of the happy youthful feet that set out to walk side by side, at their ringin’ sounds. Thoughts of the aged ones grown tired, and goin’ to their long dreamless sleep to their solemn sound. Thoughts of the brave hero’s who set out to protect us with their lives while the bells wuz ringin’ out their approval of such deeds. Thoughts of how they pealed out joyfully on their return bearin’ the form of Peace. Thoughts of how the bells filled the mornin’ and evenin’ air, havin’ throbbed and beat with every joy and every pain of our life, till they seem a part of us (as it were) and the old world would truly seem lonesome without ’em.



Samantha Among The Bretheren

Marietta Holley

Chapter 24


The place to take the test of a man is not the forum or field, not the marketplace
or the amen corner, but at his own fireside.  There he lays aside his mask
and you may judge whether he is imp or angel, king or cur, hero or humbug.
I care not what the world says of him, whether it crown him with bays
or pelt him with eggs; I care never a copper what his reputation or religion may be;
if his babes dread his homecoming and his better half has to swallow her heart
every time she asks him for a five dollar bill, he’s a fraud of the first water,
even though he prays night and morn until he is black in the face,
and howls hallelujah until he shakes the eternal hills.  But if his children rush
to the front gate meet him, and love’s own sunshine illumines the face
of his wife when she hears his footsteps, you may take it for granted
that he is true gold, for his home’s a heaven and the humbug
never got that close to the great white throne of God.


William Cowper Brann


I remember the evenings at my grandparents’ ranch, at Sagle, and how in the daytime we chased the barn cats and swung on the front gate and set off pitchy, bruising avalanches in the woodshed, and watched my grandmother scatter chicken seed from an apron with huge pockets in it, suffering the fractious contentment of town children rusticated. And then the cows came home and the wind came up and Venus burned through what little remained of atmosphere, and the dark and the emptiness stood over the old house like some unsought revelation.


Marilynne Robinson, “My Western Roots” (1993)



A visit to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery — not far from The Wayside and Orchard House — is a must because it is the final resting place of these famous Concord writers. Thoreau did the surveying for the cemetery’s pond and front gate, and his great friend, Emerson, gave the address at the formal consecration in 1855.

 “I learned this, at least, by my experiment, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in “Walden.”


A dog does not always bark at the front gate.

Spanish Proverb



  In this temper he emerged from behind the house nearest to his own, and, glancing toward the street, saw his mother standing with Eugene Morgan upon the cement path that led to the front gate. She was bareheaded, and Eugene held his hat and stick in his hand; evidently he had been calling upon her, and she had come from the house with him, continuing their conversation and delaying their parting.         52     

  They had paused in their slow walk from the front door to the gate, yet still stood side by side, their shoulders almost touching, as though neither Isabel nor Eugene quite realized that their feet had ceased to bear them forward; and they were not looking at each other, but at some indefinite point before them, as people do who consider together thoughtfully and in harmony. The conversation was evidently serious; his head was bent, and Isabel’s lifted left hand rested against her cheek; but all the significances of their thoughtful attitude denoted companionableness and a shared understanding. Yet, a stranger, passing, would not have thought them married: somewhere about Eugene, not quite to be located, there was a romantic gravity; and Isabel, tall and graceful, with high colour and absorbed eyes, was visibly no wife walking down to the gate with her husband.


Booth Tarkington (1838–1918).  The Magnificent Ambersons.  1918.       


How about you? Do you have any wonderful additions to this quotidian pile of quotations?


Front Gate Designs – The Why and Whereof

There are nearly as many possibilities for the design of a front gate as there are places for front gates to exist at all. But there are certain limitations – some rather obvious, and some not so – and yes, size does matter! The front gate of a small piece of property opening onto the front walk is going to be quite different than a front gate opening onto the drive of a 100-acre estate. A front gate for a business is going to be substantially different than a front gate opening onto a garden. But these are the obvious – what about the less-obvious design rationale?


Well, we can start with the purpose the owner of the gate starts with. If the primary purpose is security, design decisions, however esthetic, will be security-based first and foremost. Height, unclimbability, types of hinges and locks chosen, maybe even security cameras and alarms. And each of these considerations will impact the esthetic elements, which in turn will alter the ultimate perceptions of the visitor who approaches, and hopefully gains access to what this gate guards. Perhaps an example is in order?


I work in a field where I occasionally have to visit prisons and jails. In Dublin, California, there is a jail called Santa Rita, and the entire entryway is designed in such a manner as to let visitors know, from the moment they drive into the parking lot, that they have no control over anything until they successfully lave the premises. The lot is full of rather extreme speed humps, so closely spaced that you cannot reasonably go faster than five miles per hour, even less if you are driving an older model Cadillac. Then, as you approach the front visitor’s entrance, you have to walk up a very long, wide ramp, with perfectly manicured lawns on either side. The effect is like that experienced by Dorothy and her companions as they finally gain access to the Wizard’s chamber, and walk terrified toward a great and glorious Oz edifice, one which dwarves them to insignificance. This prison wants you to know at bone-deep level that you have no control, so don’t even think about it. The element of intimidation is perfectly in keeping with the purpose of the place, and thus, this is a gate, of sorts, that is doing precisely what it is designed to do.


The precise opposite would be the front gate of a home in a typical New England town, where the walls or fences surrounding the property is more often than not low, and hardly intimidating. One could almost step across such fences. And the gates opening such fences and walls tend to be decorative or simple, but make it clear it’s esthetic is of far greater importance than any notion of security. These are gates and fences that seek to delineate one’s small but loved kingdom, while extending a message of welcome, and well met! These are boundaries more amenable to neighbors standing on either side with a glass of lemonade in hand and the talk of weather and community gossip being the focus. It is evident such walls and fences won’t keep out varmints, and may only be effective at keeping in such critters as the family Corgi. Beyond that, they have scant utility. Esthetics, and a statement to the world about the personalities and desires of the tenants. is all that matters.




There are other factors which determine gate design, as well, such as location. gates in the countryside are almost always further from the house, and are more often situated at the main entrance to the property, and thus are gates for vehicles first and foremost. There would be little need for a pedestrian gate in such a location. Cultural circumstances also determine design – a gate in a relatively crime-free small town will have a very different purpose than a gate in a city where security nearly always trumps esthetics. No surprise to this, of course, but one might argue that the design of a gate in response to security concerns may in fact, when amalgamated with all other factors, actually add to the sense of insecurity and threat, by adding to the over-all visual landscape of threat and fear. One must see design as both response and contribution, never as one thing alone. This is not to argue one must neglect the issue of security, especially in places where it is duly warranted, but rather, to pay even more attention to esthetic, so as to better disguise the security elements, and not by extension contribute to the over-all sense of alienation that often predominates in such places.


In other words, to paraphrase the Cold War ethic: you are welcome, but I intend to verify your trustworthiness, first.


Time’s Change Everything


Yet another factor determining design for gates is time itself – historic forces always impact design – nothing new there – but for gates and fences this is particularly true. Two hundred years ago, America was small town, and rural, and there was a higher degree of trust that one’s neighbor’s weren’t going to make off with the family jewels or livestock. And even where such was a fear, as in the West of cattle and sheep ranching, fences and gates were focused more on the enclosure of livestock than on preventing the rustler from getting access. It was not that difficult to cut a wire fence.
As America became more about the big city and the suburb, fences, walls, and gates became more about the security they provided, and less about the look of the property, and whatever sense of welcome one might wish to extend. This shows best with the metal security gates found in many cities, often as a second door into a house or apartment dwelling. Here, utility found its calling. But esthetics, after a long period of decline, slowly became of interest again in the late part of the Twentieth century. Still, there are limits, especially with prefabricated designs. Whereas with custom designs, there are many more design possibilities.

Beyond the utility of metal security elements, esthetics can still predominate.

What is a Gate, Anyway?

The word “gate” derives from old Norse “gata”, meaning road or path, and originally referred to the gap in the wall or fence, rather than a barrier which which closed it. Other terms for gate includes yett, and port, from which we get “portal,” and through which we pass when a gate includes an archway or similar overhead accessorization.

Gates occur in many situations, some not even connected to houses, or property, or fences at all, such as logic gates, a term that refers to transistors, among other components, and serve to control the flow of logical operations in computers. Then there are the gates of awareness, of consciousness, as exemplified in the Sanskrit “Heart Sutra”, whose central mantra is “

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Para Sam gate Bodhi svaha

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Para Sam gate Bodhi svaha

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Para Sam gate Bodhisvaha.

Bodhi Svaha “

which in English reads:

Gone, Gone, Gone beyond Gone utterly beyond

Gone, Gone, Gone beyond Gone utterly beyond

Gone, Gone, Gone beyond Gone utterly beyond

Oh what an Awakening

Note that one goes beyond the gate, is gone, and hence has left from the mundane plane of existence and engaged in the great journey of Awakening. Buddah, in this and many other senses, is thus a gate through which one finds Awakening, or enlightenment.


There is an ancient Sufi practice, called the Four Gates of Speech, that asks the speaker to consider the following four questions before speaking:

Are these words true?
Are they necessary?
Are they beneficial?
Are they kind?

If the answer is no, then the speaker is cautioned to reconsider what they are about to say.

Gates, it seems, are much more than physical means of entry or exit from a space enclosed by fences or walls. They are also portals philosophical, metaphoric, spiritual, poetic. Where physical gates are locked with physical locks or latches, these other forms of gates are locked with both ignorance and wisdom – one keeps these gates closed, and the other is the key to entry.

Rumi began to whirl due to his sorrow at losing Shams-al-Din, but continued to turn as a means to open himself to The Guest.

There are also the Gates to the Underworld, AKA Hades, guarded according to Greek mythology by Cerberus, the three-headed hound. This gate only permitted entry – Cerberus made certain no one ever left. There are also many traditions that refer to women as the gate to Life.

Well, obviously.

The Gate is Open

This project depends on you - and your photos of gates. Great gates, different gates, unusual gates, non-obvious gates. Be sure to include your contact information, permission to use your photo, and a name for proper credit where credit is due! Be a part of the Gate Project.