My Second Gate

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Boundary Issues, 2016

About fifteen years ago, I designed and had built my first gate – you can see it in the blog’s header photo. Made largely of Honduran mahogany, salvage, actually, and not a single idea of what I was doing. My contractor was very skilled, and we worked together to make it a reality. It served as a focal point for us for many years, and we had many visitors and neighbors who would be happy to spend twenty minutes, or even an hour, just chatting over the gate. That was what actually instigated this blog, more than any other factor.

Now, we have moved to the country, and have some real acreage, and our dogs need room to run, without succumbing to the natural desire to chase deer and raccoons. So the project is different this time because we don’t live where there are a lot of pedestrians now, which makes the entire notion of a fence considerably different that with our first, so urban in nature. Now, this is more about dog-containment and privacy. But to do those things without considering the esthetics – as many do hereabouts – just seems like a waste of effort to us. So, here we go again!

Due to local codes, our front (road-facing) portion cannot exceed 6 feet, and the top 2 1/2 feet must have some sort of open aspect, such as lattice work or slats, which immediately sets limits for design, as well. But I am working on several ideas, and hope to have them ready to share here in the near future. I know they will be mostly redwood – as I have a lot available! And the driveway fence will be metal, because weight, mostly, is less that way, and the auto opener works better with the least amount of weight. So taking those two limits as starting points should make this quite interesting. Stay tuned, and as always, I would love your feedback, and for you to share this blog with your friends! And help me name our new deer herd!

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Been Gone So Long…

Hey, sorry, stepped out for a chat at the front gate and, well, I sort of got caught up in a fine conversation, and lost track of time. But it was worth it, because I gained a bit more insight into fences and gates and entrances, like the one I a  making right now!

For starters, I moved six months ago, and now am faced with building some fence and adding both a people gate and a driveway gate. It will occur over the coming months alongside another project that includes some landscaping as well. And as it unfolds, I will be posting updates, photos, design issues, and more! The first news however is I will be using – for the fence and people gate, redwood planking milled from a couple of my own trees! Don’t worry, we have lots more, and are using even the mulched scraps for the landscaping project.

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So stick around, drop by and watch the unfolding of this new feature, And if you have an interesting gate project, or have seen something out there worth sharing here, please do! I won’t be gone so long this time!

Open Gates

A recent visit to the lovely land of Ojai, California, led me to examine the differences between open gates and closed gates. Mostly, open gates are more correctly referred to as gateways, a framing of the way, you might say. The explicit meaning is of course the same as a closed gate – this is my property, and you are welcome to enter here. It is more akin to an honor system – “I trust you have no ill intentions, and as the rest of my property isn’t that well guarded anyway, let’s all just be on our best behavior, shall we?”

But the implicit meaning remains the same, and this particular gate(way) below is the best example I was able to find. Here, the materials of the gateway are all natural, but their components hold a subtle warning. If you are unable to guess the nature and substance of the warning, I strongly suggest you not enter within!!

 

Be pure of heart, else enter not..

Now, this is not a front gate proper, as it allows entry to a driveway, but it is the more common point of entry to most homes in Southern California. I mean, who the hell walks anywhere in Southern California? You would either get run over, or die of dehydration before you got a mile from home! Best to take the wheels.

 

 

 

 

A Visit to the Neighbors

As we humans began migrating to the cities over the past few hundred years, the front gate has nearly vanished in some places, at best to be replaced with security gates. Apartment and condominium developments require us to get “buzzed in.” In high-rise condos, there are often security guards. Our privacy has seemingly trumped neighborliness. We seem to approach every encounter with distrust as the default, rather than openness and trust. This is, in my view, the great failure of modernism, despite all the reasons that are put forth to defend these changes – more nut-jobs, more criminals, etc. But this seems like a chicken/egg argument to me – when we respond to a negative force with opposing negative force, we paint ourselves into a corner. Criminals just up the ante, and then we respond in kind. Pretty soon, it seems madness to not do so.

I work in a field where I have to knock on doors a lot. Often, this occurs in some rather dicey neighborhoods, but just as often, in more up-scale burbs, and I have come to find this type of distrust and fear rampant in both places. It is just a little better disguised in the up-scale communities, hidden behind better security, and never mentioned out loud. But once in a while, I get to visit small towns, where crime is far less an issue, and where neighborliness remains an art practiced by most local citizens. Even where there is no front gate, there is less suspicion when someone opens the door to ask what they can do for me, rather than asking what I want. A distinct lesson in the message conveyed by word choice!

Howdy, Neighbor!!

I am always curious – what do people want visitors to their homes to experience, from that first moment – approaching the home? Do they want people to feel welcome, or not so much? Are they hoping to impress with their wealth, or with their esthetic? Are they saying please get to your business and be on your way, or, hey, care for some lemonade? How we present our facade is exactly the same as how we choose to dress – it conveys something about who we are, how we act, what we respect. A front gate may not be how you wish to spend time expressing these things, but the gate contributes to those elements of communication despite our own intent. Here is a chance to think about that.

But do consider sitting on the front porch and having a cold drink while doing so!!

The Intrinsic Gate

Gates, as I have mentioned prior, are both a physical thing, and a metaphoric process, if you will. Each person can be, (though not all will be) a gate for others, a doorway to newer understanding, deeper resonances with the Universe. We open gates within ourselves, and serve to open gates for others, often never knowing we have done so. Some of these gates we open lead to good outcomes; others fall considerably short.

 

I think of spiritual guides as a kind of gateway, but I find that those without such intent, who nonetheless still open those gates for others, to be far more compelling. Perhaps it is the unplanned, unintentional aspect of these gates that intrigue me the most, I haven’t fully sorted it out yet. But many of us have met people who open their gates for us, just because that is who these people are. Welcome, they say, without words. Just with the sureness of their hearts.

Who knows what lies beyond?

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!!??

Pure Panache!

Art, it is often said, is firmly lodged in the eye of the beholder. But art is also something found in unexpected places, and can play upon our minds in quite unconscious ways. Nothing does this better than a truly artistic gate, and as it is this aspect of gates that I am especially attracted to, I am pleased to share one with you that comes from a fellow gate aficionado, over at MrJOM’s Blog. This shot comes from a house in Victoria, and while it might be obvious to anyone who’s had the pleasure of visiting that sweet town, those not so enlightened might suspect this photo is an aberration. We experienced Victoria-philes can assure you otherwise – Victoria is chock-full of beautiful homes and beautiful gates. You should really try to stop over sometime!

 

“We have our own perspective on life, and are NOT afraid to show it to the world!”

Thanks to Joseph de Lange, at http://mrjom.com

 

 

Hanging Out by the Front Gate

Nice day, Saturday, mid-afternoon, hot. Nice day to have a beer, sitting on a bench in the front yard, near the gate. Two lazy dogs at my feet, slight breeze, the occasional bird calling to its mate, or fledglings, or making noise about those damnable crows again. No clouds, few cars passing this time of day. But the occasional passer-by, some with their own canine escorts, who invariably challenge, and are challenged in return, by my two, who of course own the planet from within their enclosed world behind the gate.

While the dogs shout at each other, we humans exchange a brief greeting, maybe they’ve kids, who find my fuzzy monsters irresistible, and desperately need to pet them for even a moment. The gate doesn’t even need to be opened, their little hands just reach through to barely touch, followed by giggles and “ooohhh’s” and then off they go. The gate is steadfast, yet permeable, keeps out the casual intruder, keeps the dogs within, but who’s kidding who here? If either party really wants to, there’s not going to be much holding them back. But then, I designed our gate to attract, not repel. I wanted people to feel welcome, and it has worked exactly as desired.

A beer, two dogs, and a handsome gate. Who needs more than that, to be at one with the world?

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?

The Known Gates

There are many famous gates. Some are reality-based, and some merely virtual. There is the Arc de Triomph, but there is also the gate to Dorothy’s Aunt and Uncle’s farmhouse, over which an argument about the fate of a small dog sets everything in motion eventually arriving at a pair of ruby slippers, and all that proceeded from their existence. There are the Gates of the Old City, Jerusalem, yet there are the The Great Gates – The Great Gates was the original entrance to Khazad-dûm. It was located in Dimrill Dale. Any Tolkien-savvy human could tell you that! In literature, film, music, art – gates are a rich source of metaphor and drama, they open outward allowing the hero or heroine to begin their journey, and then open inward with their return from their quests. Gates, then, are doorways from where and how we live to where we may discover our own journey. Gates enjoin us to strive, and welcome us to our rest at the completion of our work.

 

In mythology, and thus in story generally, there must be a seeker, a hero or heroine, and there must be a return, else the quest is without meaning. Our lives today seem far less about individual quests, and more about competing for scarce resources on increasingly un-level playing fields. The gate plays a role as mediator of movement and containment simultaneously. Our lives require both, otherwise, we cannot be whole. We contain our movements, and we also move beyond those fixed states. Growth requires action, and contemplation. Too much of one overbalances the equation, whereas not enough of one makes the equation weak and ineffectual. This computer I am using to write this, inside the place we call the Internet, is completely dependent on the concept and reality of gates. Each logic gate is in a state of 1’s or 0’s at any instant, and each such choice made by each such gate creates language and action, and by extension, enters our reality through our own interactions with it. The gates swing both ways, so to speak.

 

When I go out my front gate in the morning, on my way to my outside-world work, I close the gate behind me trusting it will remain steadfast in my absence, be ready to open for me again when I return, and to have protected the lives of the people I share my home with against any and all harm. When I am within it’s embrace, I must trust it will extend similar protection to me, yet not be seen as a threat or denial to my neighbors, my community, my friends.

 

There are gates not understood to be gates, yet gates they are, nonetheless. A memorial stone is a gate, a grave marker is a gate. A diploma is a gate, as is a doctorate. A life challenge is a gate, one which may not open again should the challenge prove too much, or which may lead to many other gates as a consequence of mastering the challenge. A relationship is a kind of gate, as any relationship worth pursuing is, of course, a life challenge of the highest order. This type of gate also opens in the other direction, but may not take you back to the original point of departure.

 

The gate begins and ends each journey, serves as the start and end of the trip.  Open it now, and step through it’s portal….

 

A Torii – A Japanese Gate to a Shinto Shrine

A spirit gateway.

If spirits have gates, then a gate to wait for the moment of release makes perfect sense. Consider the lich-gate:

A lich-gate (also known as a lych-gate or corpse-gate) is a roofed gateway at the entrance to a churchyard where the coffin is placed to await the arrival of the clergyman. It wouldn’t do to bury a wet coffin now, would it?

Given the trials we face in life, it is nice to know that we may be afforded every courtesy after we depart.

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