Monday, March 7, 2011

Open a door

Oil lamp and icon
"Should I open it?"

James, Katherine, and I had been exploring the outdoor spaces at Bodbe Monastery for a couple of hours. We had walked around the bell tower, the church, and the graveyard, and I had hiked down to the holy spring where St. Nino (who converted Georgia to Christianity a long time ago) had drunk. We had pretty well exhausted the area around all the buildings whose doors were shut against the cold and snow. We were hungry but satisfied with the beautiful setting we had enjoyed investigating and photographing.

As we walked back by the church, I looked at the closed door and said, "Too bad we can't go in -- I'd like to see the inside." Then I noticed that the door was not padlocked like most of the others on the Bodbe buildings. That's when I asked the question.

"Should I open it?" Without waiting for an answer from my companions (who were all for my trying the door), I turned the handle and pushed the door open. It turned heavily but silently on its hinges, revealing a dark, mysterious interior. We stepped over the threshold into the candlelit space. There were two large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, but neither was lit. The only illumination came from small oil lamps hanging in front of the icons and prayer candles that were set into the dishes of sand at intervals around the room. A small amount of light streamed in through narrow, high windows around the upper level of the church. But even in the low light (and as my eyes adjusted to the dimness) I could see the frescoes on the walls and ceiling, the dark carved-wood chairs, the icons, the rugs on the stone floor, and the prayer stations set at intervals around the interior. We spent some time quietly wandering around, looking at the paintings and icons. Katherine and I lit some candles. I shot a few photos. We all absorbed the solemn, reverent air of the church.

Once outside, we continued on our way toward the exit. When we passed the door to the bell tower, I looked at the door, then at James and Katherine and raised my eyebrows in question, "Should I open it?" Of course.

I opened the door and was surprised to see a new marble stairway that led to a small landing in a light, airy, empty space. From the landing, a set of rail-less steps circled the room, growing out of the wall -- it looked like a creation of M. C. Escher. We looked at each other with questioning looks -- and then advanced toward the odd staircase.

No one was around to stop us and there were no signs telling us that we couldn't go up....so up we went. The stairs wound up through that lower level and emptied out onto another landing. This landing was covered with tools and materials that made it obvious that the bell tower was under renovation..... as did the condition of the stairs from that landing to the top -- narrow circular steps cobbled together out of plywood continued up through two more levels. The higher we went, the worse the steps became, not only in construction, but also in the amount of pigeon crap covering the steps, adding a layer of loose grit that made footing even more uncertain. I was reminded of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and went slowly to keep my balance.

Top of the stairs -- and lots of bird crap
At the top of the stairs, we crowded into tower's bell room and took in the view that rewarded us for the precarious climb. It was well-worth the heart-pounding ascent.

And what would we have missed if I hadn't asked the question? We would have missed the best parts of the monastery.

Isn't that just like Life? Many times in life, metaphorical doors stand waiting to be opened by those curious enough to want to know what is on the other side. Doors that may or may not lead to something wonderful -- but if the door is never opened, what lies behind will never be discovered. Maybe there will be a wonderful view -- maybe there will be a lot of crap. But the door has to be opened for the revelation to become reality. One can stand on the outside of the door dreaming about what may lie on the other side, but inaction won't get the dreamer any closer to realizing the dream. Only by reaching out, turning the handle, and pushing the door open will the next steps be revealed.

"Should I open it?"

The answer is always, "Yes."

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