Monday, May 21, 2012


     I went to Brazil with my husband for a couple of weeks last fall and stayed three days in an historic town on the coast of Rio. Old Paraty is full of cobblestone streets, antique churches, and colonial buildings repurposed as shops, small hotels and restaurants. We had planned to take a boat out to see the surrounding islands, but the weather was poor so we explored the town instead. We took a lot of pictures—hundreds of pictures—and it turns out that most of them were of doors.

     My husband and I both enjoy architecture, but there is something about doorways in particular that intrigues us. For me, it is the magic of thresholds, the unanswered question of what lies on the other side that captures me in its spell. A secret garden? Another world? A journey through time? A quest that leads into darkness and adventure? If I can find the hidden key or guess the riddle that opens the door, will my dreams come true? I am not the first one to be taken in by my imagination—it is the stuff of stories.

     I watched the movie Shadowlands several years ago. It is the story of C. S. Lewis and his relationship with Joy Davidman, an American writer whom he eventually married. On a visit to Lewis’ home, Joy’s young son, Douglas, finds a wardrobe in the attic. As an admirer of Lewis' Narnia books, the draw is irresistible; he opens the door of the wardrobe, his hope palpable as he reaches through the coats hanging inside, feeling for the scratch of green pine boughs and cold, feathery snow. Instead, he bumps up against the cold, hard truth. I had to choke back tears of empathy for the boy's disappointment because it is my disappointment too: there is no Narnia, at least not one we can find behind the door of a wardrobe.

     I’ve seen that wardrobe, not the one used in the movie, but the very one that stood in the Lewis family home. When he was a boy, Lewis would climb inside it with his cousins and tell them tales of adventure. Maybe some of those tales held the shadows of Narnia in them. Unlike Douglas, as I stood gazing at the original in the Wade Center of Wheaton College, I resisted the urge to reach inside and grope toward the magic–but I took a peek. Wouldn't you?

     When I am daydreaming, which is often, I open all kinds of doors that beckon to me from inside my imagination, and I boldly explore their boundaries to see if I can find a story of my own to tell. But when I come across an intriguing doorway in this solid, feet-on-the-ground-no-floating-around world, usually, I must content myself with simply taking pictures. Ah, well. What do you imagine is on the other side of this Brazilian beauty?


  1. Yes, it's always upsetting to see a long row of houses in a street all with the same door, as though matching were important and everyone was expected to lead the same conventional life. (Mine is yellow)

  2. A doorway alone can make you want to enter and find out more about what's inside or want to stay far, far away forever! Always funny to me that everyone uses Grandma and Grandpa's back door even though their front door is just as easily accessible. Now, I feel the need to paint my front door a brilliant color.....