How did you get out of your house, or your apartment this morning? How did you get into your car, just a little while ago? Consider the humble doors in your life. Lake Effect essayist George Berdes did:
I was surprised the other day when I looked up the word “door” in the dictionary. Of course it wasn’t the definition of the word that startled me. It was its placement in the alphetical order in which it was located.
It fascinated me that an innocent, common pedestrian noun like “door” was preceded by the thunder-clapping verb “doom” and followed by the gentle giggler of the word “dope,” which can mean something stupid or dull.
Slide now into another mode and it may help explain why doors fascinated both the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Charlie Brown of Peanuts cartoon fame. I think you’d agree that’s an unusual…even strange…match up.
Good old Charlie is trying to get out of his house to go skiing. His problem is that he’s too bundled up to pass through the door. “How am I supposed to get through the door?” he screams in doomed frustration.
Charlie’s problem is one many of us share because we also are too “bundled up in too many of life’s good things." And so, like dopie Charlie, we stand in front of the door that leads to pleasure, joy, and love and shout in desperation, “How am I supposed to get through the door?!!”
One other thing all of us other Charlies sometimes forget is that doors go both ways – in and out. Some of us also periodically lose the key that opens and locks the door. For them the aching question is “how do I get in?”
Like Charlie, Frank Lloyd Wright was also fascinated with doors. While he understood what Charlie ignored, he believed that the door of the house should not be visible from the sidewalk. For Wright, the door had to be discovered. That concept added to one’s memory of the door. Once accomplished it also gifted the visitor with the intimacy and seclusion of the space it opened to him.
Yes, I suppose there will always be Charlies huffing and puffing to open the door. By contrast, Wright made opening the door a challenge but with the rich reward of a lasting memory from what he found inside.
But if all else fails we can go to Shakespeare for help. It’s in Richard II, Act 5 where he says “Speak with me, pity me, open the door, a beggar begs that never begged before.”
Essayist George Berdes divides his time between Milwaukee and the north woods. Many of his essays were recorded as part of the series, East of Eagle River and first aired on public radio station WXPR in Rhinelander.