the obvious thematic quality of doors
I’ve taken a lot of photos of doors in the past two years, without consciously setting out to do so. I recently photographed the door above while visiting my sister in Wisconsin, walking around her small town. I liked the colors, but also just the fact that it was a door…in somewhat shabby shape. I suppose shabby would be the modifying adjective of this ongoing photographic theme. A letter from a friend I received recently contained a quote from her sister, who is a young Catholic nun: “Our God is a God of themes.” I agreed with it wholeheartedly as soon as I read it, and decided to frame it and hang it up permanently on the limited wall space of my brain.
The friend who wrote the letter spoke specifically of the phenomenon of certain books finding you at times when you need them, and coincidences surrounding books– such as finding out that someone important to you is reading the same book at the same time– perhaps even an obscure book.
But it seems to me that themes can run through an individual life in many ways–themes or coincidences– however you want to describe it. Like, for example, a friend of mine whose baby girl, born a few days ago, was born on the birthday of her mother, who just passed away a few years ago– as if the birth of a child by itself is not enough to make everyone giddy.
I asked myself why I keep taking pictures of doors– not just one door, but door, after door. Perhaps it has something of the seventies game show association–multiple doors, in which each symbolizes a surprise just behind it, and you have to choose, not knowing what you’re commiting to. I think that perhaps my attraction to doors has only a little, if anything, of that in it, because I don’t seriously consider all doors equal, in the way they’re presented in game shows. Very few doors present themselves for serious consideration, and even fewer as the obvious choice for entrance. And this quality of door-obviousness becomes apparent through a thousand thematic details which arrange themselves outside of the realm of my own control. As themes float up into my line of vision, without my having wrested them into being, I feel reassured enough to go forward into the unknown. I know all of this, and still I occupy myself with all the doors around me, everywhere, as if they were all being presented to me as equal choices, when clearly, they aren’t. They may be the doors that other people around me are going through, not for me, and still I obsess.
As Esme approaches her first birthday, I have been preoccupied with the issue of whether and when to have another baby. It’s the multiple door phenomenon. Now that I have a better inkling of what motherhood entails, I weigh the potential joys and hardships of pregnancy, childbirth, caring for a newborn, caring for multiple children, sibling dynamics, family dynamics, the future with older children, my own health and ability. There is also the mountainous fact that I’d like to avoid another c-section and the challenges that entails. The truth is, I’m simply not ready for another pregnancy, and I know that, but I look around at other women who go forth bravely into pregnancy upon the heels of the one before, and observe them with part admiration and part trepedation. I’m afraid I’ve been rather obsessed with these issues, and find myself talking the ears off of an innocent husband and friends who are surely weary of my repetitive holding forth.
I’m the game show contestant sweating beneath the colored lights, forced to make a choice with nothing to base it on, fearing that the interior I enter will prove to be the lesser prize. It’s wicked, I know, and a mental quandary of my own making, not even close to the reality of how life is really unfolding before me in a manner that is actually quite kind, gentle, thematic, and subtle, not at all like a dehumanizing televised game show. And in this gentler reality, the actual, there is nothing–nothing–that can happen that will be more than I can bear in the moment. Oh, if only I could inscribe the “one day at a time” (one door at a time?) cliche upon the tablet of my heart once and for all.