Yourself The Door That Opens Into Home

New Door in Old House

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.

Joseph Campbell

 

‘I Am The Door Of The Sheepfold’

by Malcolm Guite

Not one that’s gently hinged or deftly hung,
Not like the ones you planed at Joseph’s place,
Not like the well-oiled openings that swung
So easily for Pilate’s practiced pace,
Not like the ones that closed in Mary’s face
From house to house in brimming Bethlehem,
Not like the one that no man may assail,
The dreadful curtain, The forbidding veil
That waits your breaking in Jerusalem.
Not one you made but one you have become:
Load-bearing, balancing, a weighted beam
To bridge the gap, to bring us within reach
Of your high pasture. Calling us by name,
You lay your body down across the breach,
Yourself the door that opens into home.


I have been installing salvaged doors into the farm house we are moving into.   As is usually the case with houses over a hundred years old, particularly houses that have had several renovations and additions over the years it has its own unique personality, (translate as challenges) when it comes to floors and walls not being perfectly straight. Things have sagged a bit here and there requiring some ingenuity if you are going to hang new doors. 

The original structure was a small home, two story roughly 20  X 30  on each floor.  In the late 1970s early 1980s two roughly identical 14 foot additions were added off the front and back of the house facing east and west that now give the first floor the perfect amount of space for two people.  There are two front rooms that serve as offices and TV space, then the original living room and kitchen (which were reversed in location somewhere along the way), and then a new bath, new master bedroom and new laundry room off the back all on the main floor. It is a good house to grow old in, everything you need is on one floor.   There are guest accomodations and a sewing/adult time out room are on the second floor with a second bath.  It has everything two people would ever need and is small enough that its easy to take care of.  It will require sensible decision making on how we combine our possessions from multiple households, while adding a few new things, all into one space.  We have cheated by moving most of our furniture and boxes of stuff into a temporary storage unit.  Once we finish renovations, we can start purging “things” that don’t fit and paring down our possessions, something our children will appreciate when they carry us out in a box someday. 

In my experience, the process of moving offers a narrow window for renovations, before possessions are unpacked and dust a tremendous bother.  I know that every project deferred into the realm of “I’ll get to it someday”, is likely to turn ten years from now, “I meant to fix that years ago,” so I am doing my best to get as much done as possible up front.  Its amazing how quickly we accept our new surroundings as status quo.  It’s why every time I have ever moved into an old house, which this is fifth time in my life, there is a frantic dash to get as much plaster fixed, walls painted, wiring fixed or replaced, new carpeting laid, plumbing repaired as one can afford and has time to do.  I am both blessed and cursed with the tendency to be both fearless and handy when it comes to fixing things, which can add up in terms of projects that I am attempting to tackle.  This time round its mostly simple plaster repairs and paint, along with new light fixtures that were needed.   However, my partner and I wanted a way to keep pets from going into the basement and second floor.  Neither set of stairs had a door on them and so searching around on Craigslist I found a guy selling salvage doors in the very town I was moving.   It was perfect, we found two outstanding doors, with glass pains that match the style of the house.  The one leading to the basement has frosted glass so that you can’t see through it and the light for the stairs back lights it as well throwing much needed light into a dark hallway on the first floor.  The other is clear glass that is also back lit, thanks to a clever bit of wiring, (I uncovered an existing switch outlet with power hiding behind the sheet rock and was able through a careful bit of measuring from the basement hit it on the first try with a drill bit.  From there running a new badly needed light on the stairs to the second floor was a cinch.   My investigations from the basement did uncover the cause of the settling on the floors and its because somewhere along the way the bottom plate for half the wall was torn out and never replaced to accomodate new runs on heating ducts.  Not exactly up to code, but next winter I’ll spend a day figuring out a way to shore that up and jack things a tiny bit with a screw post or at least prevent it from settling any further  

Neither door was the dimensions for the opening, each requiring a bit of trimming on two or three sides.  The bigger issue was what to do about the door jams that were anything but plumb.  The door leading to the basement was level on top but desperately out of level on each side, off more than 3/4 of an inch from top to bottom in the 76 inches of the height of the door on the side I was going to hang the hinges.  The only solution was to remove the molding, start ripping out the jam and rebuild it.  The problem was the jam was firmly attached to the plaster and lath that was near a lovely plaster arch.  I realized how much trust my partner had in my abilities when at 11:00 pm on a Saturday night I am sawzalling through plaster and studs in her beloved farmhouse saying; “trust me dear, I will have it back together in no time.”  True to my word a week later, I did.  Both doors required my 40 years of experience in working on old houses.  Both turned out great, but the key to each one’s success was I didn’t try and make them look perfect, didn’t try and make them look like new construction.  Both door openings were crooked to start with and are a little crooked when finished.  I made the hinge side perfectly level and dealt with the rest by shimming and acceptance of a certain amount of tilt that will add to the character of the house. 

I enjoy taking something  someone else didn’t want and through a little hard work, ingenuity and acceptance turn it into something that transforms the space.  I have bought a third door that will be the next project once all the painting is done.  Its a massive solid walnut exterior door that is unfinished.  Our plan is to replace the old painted hollow core door going into the first floor bedroom with this incredible piece of architectural wood.  There are oak hardwood floors throughout the first floor stained dark  and the door will add a bit of additional wood accent on the first floor as all the molding is painted white.  The door to the bedroom happens to be the same size as an exterior door, so it matches the opening. I have to sand it down and put several coats of marine varnish on it and it will create a statement piece that you will see as you walk in the front door looking through two plaster arches down a long hallway from the front door.  Can’t wait to get started on it. 


Salvage

by Malcom Guite

Perhaps this poem’s just another write-off,
Another scrap of paper for the bin.
So, should I struggle on or turn the light off?

My muse, maybe, has booked another night off
Without her help I can’t even begin.
Perhaps this poem’s just another write-off.

And yet I can’t forget what I caught sight of;
A grace I mustn’t lose, but cannot win,
So, shall I struggle on, or turn the light off?

I’m weighted by the love I most make light of,
I cast aside what’s not yet counted in.
Could I presume to recognise a write-off?

It is despair itself that I must fight off
When giving up feels just like giving in
So, do I struggle on, or turn the light off?

There’s something here to salvage, something right off
Life’s radar, or else underneath her skin.
Since I’m redeemed, (and I was once a write-off)
I’ll struggle on until they turn the light off.

Our Father Who Art In Heaven

Malcolm_Guite

Our Father

by Malcom Guite

I heard him call you his beloved son
And saw his Spirit lighten like a dove,
I thought his words must be for you alone,
Knowing myself unworthy of his love.
You pray in close communion with your Father,
So close you say the two of you are one,
I feel myself to be receding further,
Fallen away and outcast and alone.

And so I come and ask you how to pray,
Seeking a distant supplicant’s petition,
Only to find you give your words away,
As though I stood with you in your position,
As though your Father were my Father too,
As though I found his ‘welcome home’ in you.


Have you ever considered what poem in the English language is spoken daily more than any other?  What poem has been memorized by the most people?   I would place a small wager that it is The Lord’s Prayer.  Malcom Guite may have considered this when he wrote a series of sonnets reflecting on The Lord’s Prayer. As beautiful as Guite’s words are, it is impossible to improve on the collective artistry of the words that have become our modern version of this poem;

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give
us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us
not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

There is a lot going on in The Lord’s Prayer.   It is the one prayer/poem that I have spoken in unison with a group of people more than any other.  Yet, I always wonder how my interpretation of this poem may be similar or different from others as we say it aloud in Church? 

I have always been fascinated by the start, the first sentence; “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”  I learned The Lord’s Prayer prior to being confirmed as a teenager and it became anchored in my memory by saying it frequently at church.  However, after saying it many times over my life, I run the risk of it becoming so rote,  that the words roll off my tongue nearly without thinking.  In recent years,  every time I say it, I ponder a split-second on the word “art” to bring me mindfully back to the moment of what I am saying. 

Like all great poetry, The Lord’s Prayer contains several uses of words in ways that are not common to our traditional or common use or understanding of those words, allowing our minds to acquire their own unique interpretation and associations around those words.  I have noticed standing next to people in Church that some people replace the word “art” with “is.”  In doing so, the speaker creates a straightforward relationship with a distant God that is separate from our realm and in some ways separate from ourselves, a rather traditional view of an all knowing, almighty.  In starting that way it creates a theme of a distant benign relationship with a giving God throughout the rest of the poem.  That is not how I have come to think of The Lord’s Prayer.   As someone who has wrestled his entire adult life with the idea of who is an artist and what is achieved in the act of creating art, I look at the first sentence differently.  “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” means to me, that the earth and every living thing on it are God’s art in heaven.  For that to be a literal reading it would require changing the word “who” to “whose.”  But poetry is not intended to be read literally, rather its a way to be moved through words into a new appreciation of things that cannot be explained solely by words. 

When I read or speak the first three sentences, thinking about myself as art, God’s art, not as an artist, but as an actual art form, surrounded by God’s other works of art in the biology, geology and beauty of this planet and all the people and creatures who inhabit it, it allows me to think of the planet earth as the most spectacular art gallery in the universe! Building on that thought, the rest of the sentence takes on a different meaning; ‘hallowed be thy name” becomes a reminder that my name is hallowed as a piece of God’s art, God’s signature is upon me and everything else.  In this context, the word art becomes a noun whose common meaning now fits the sentence; “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing or of more than ordinary significance.” 

My interpretation of The Lord’s Prayer affirms that each of us has more than ordinary significance.  The next sentence also becomes more earthly and immediate if I drop a word –  the word “in.”  The third sentence then reads, “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is heaven.”   Try this word play and thought process next time you need a boost in feeling a bit more beautiful.  In doing so, the rest of the poem becomes an affirmation of all life here on earth through our collective glory, forever and ever.  Amen.

Our Father, who(se) art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy Kingdom come.  Thy will be done, on earth, as it is heaven….


The Good Morrow

by John Donne

I WONDER by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved ? were we not wean’d till then ?
But suck’d on country pleasures, childishly ?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den ?
‘Twas so ; but this, all pleasures fancies be ;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear ;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone ;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown ;
Let us possess one world ; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest ;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west ?
Whatever dies, was not mix’d equally ;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

Either We Hear You Or We Don’t Survive

 

Hildegard_von_Bingen
Hildegard Von Bingen

“She is so bright and glorious that you cannot look at her face or her garments for the splendor with which she shines. For she is terrible with the terror of the avenging lightning, and gentle with the goodness of the bright sun; and both her terror and her gentleness are incomprehensible to humans…. But she is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them in inscrutable mercy.”
Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen

by Malcolm Guite

A feather on the breath of God at play,
You saw the play of God in all creation.
You drew eternal light into each day,
And every living breath was inspiration.
You made a play with every virtue playing,
Made music for each sister-soul to sing,
Listened for what each herb and stone was saying,
And heard the Word of God in everything.
Mother from mother earth and Magistra,
Your song revealed God’s hidden gift to us;
The verdant fire, his holy harbinger
The greening glory of viriditas.
‘Cherish this earth that keeps us all alive’
Either we hear you, or we don’t survive.

The World’s True Lover

Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite

“Some things are too great to come at directly. Just as we may weave back and forth as we climb a hill, and appear to be going round in circles, yet all the while are coming closer to the summit, so in our religious and spiritual life things may seem circuitous; we may think we have come back to the same spot, but always, if we press on, it is a little higher, a little closer to the truth.”

Malcolm Guite

The Anointing At Bethany

by Malcolm Guite

Come close with Mary, Martha , Lazarus
So close the candles stir with their soft breath
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
In quietness and intimate encounter
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover,

The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.

 

A friend asked me recently, “Do any of us really see what is going on in another person’s life?” It was in reference to an unimaginable tragedy, the death of a beloved spouse. My answer was yes we do.  Its what death brings, a spotlight into the reality of our friends and families lives.  There’s no hiding in death for the grieving. Grief is a public, communal act.  An act of giving to each other the gift of remembrance, support, and sharing of sadness.  But that spotlight doesn’t last very long before the community moves on, because it must move on, beyond the place of just love and loss, and back to the place of love and life, to see beyond the cross.

Malcolm Guite is one of those big minds whose energy comes through his poetry, his oratory, his intention.   He is a fellow lover of sonnets.   The video below is an example of his clever wisdom and a good reminder on the power of words.

To Entertain A Company Of Words

One year
It’s Fourteenlines.blog One Year Anniversary

Life is too important to be taken seriously.

Oscar Wilde

Success
(From The Ladder of St. Augustine)

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions of the skies,
Are crossed by pathways that appear
As we to higher levels rise.

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.


A year ago I sat down and decided to create a blog.  I had been thinking about it for awhile but didn’t know a thing about creating a website or using WordPress. I dove in head first and haven’t looked back. This is my 173 blog post. There have been nearly 6,500 visitors to Fourteenlines this past year. I have shared over 300 poems from 152 different poets with people from over 30 countries around the world.

What have I learned in the past year? Mostly that my appreciation for poetry continues to grow. Writing this blog is a self taught course in English literature. Surprisingly my obsession with sonnets is showing no sign of abating.  A testament to how deep the well of sonnets for exploration. Most importantly, one year into writing this blog I am still having fun!

I have given some thought to my goals with this blog, knowing that my creative pursuits tend to have a beginning, a middle and an end. I am shooting for 1,000 blog posts. At a pace of 3 postings a week this project will carry me onward for another 5 years.

In researching sonnets about writing for this anniversary edition, I came across the fine sonnet by Malcom Guite called Hospitality. I rather like his idea that some words are “shy and rare, unused to company” and must be coaxed out of the darker recesses of writer’s imaginations to take center stage on the starkest of white stages.

To read the entire blog in which the sonnet Hospitality is published click on this link:

https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/entertaining-words-a-sonnet-about-writing/


Hospitality

by Malcom Guite

I turn a certain key within its wards,
Unlock my doors and set them open wide
To entertain a company of words.
Whilst some come early and with eager stride
Others must be enticed and coaxed a little,
The shy and rare, unused to company,
Who’ll need some time to feel at home and settle.
I bid them welcome all, I make them free
Of all that’s mine, and they are good to me,
I set them in the order they like best
And listen for their wisdom, try to learn
As each unfolds the other’s mystery.
And though we know each word is my free guest,
They sometimes leave a poem in return.