Spe­cial sec­tion: Doors

This is­sue, we take a mo­ment to meditate on the in­trin­sic pos­si­bil­i­ties and prom­ise held within an oth­er­wise very ev­ery­day ob­ject: the closed door. Writer, Lot tie Storey wel­comes us in and tells us a story…

Project Calm - - Contents -

Doors are a por­tal to a dif­fer­ent world, from Nar­nia’s wardrobe door­way to a chalk out­line on a brick wall that Adam and Bar­bara in Beetle­juice es­cape through.

My fa­ther’s fas­ci­na­tion with door­ways was cat­a­logued through pho­tog­ra­phy. We walked with him through tiny for­eign towns, stop­ping along the way for him to snap- cap­ture les portes. We be­came ex­perts at know­ing which doors would tickle his fancy – the ones with the faded colours and al­ways the ones with the in­ter­est­ing door fur­ni­ture. Our knowl­edge of knock­ers was ex­ten­sive (my per­sonal favourites? The tra­di­tional Bri­tish brass doc­tor’s door and the fem­i­nine French Hand of Fa­tima) and we’d also get to see the doors again, at home, once dad had care­fully framed them and hung them on the wall. He col­lected them like foot­ball stick­ers, seek­ing to fill the gaps in colour or shape, un­til he had com­piled a tiled poster homage to doors. Frames within a frame.

His in­ter­est turns out to be hereditary. I can­not visit a town with­out snap­ping door­ways for In­sta­gram (it­self a nat­u­ral home for #door­traits). But while Dad’s door grid was a kind of pre­his­toric In­sta­gram, ex­ist­ing for aes­thetic in­ter­est only, my col­lec­tion serves an­other pur­pose.

The sum­mer be­fore last, we jet­ted over to Venice for a long week­end and dis­cov­ered – amid the canals and the tourists – a maze of doors. Doors and walls to be pre­cise. Doors open­ing di­rectly onto the water. Doors that looked as though they hadn’t been open for decades. Doors that opened up in front of me, invit­ing me down a path I hadn’t ex­pected. The thing about Venice is not that it’s a hid­den city. Venice tells you it has se­crets that you can never know, those doors a con­stant re­minder of what you can­not have. My imag­i­na­tion was sparked in an un­stop­pable way. My prag­matic part­ner sug­gested that f ly­ing a drone over this mys­te­ri­ous city would re­veal its se­crets but that felt too in­tru­sive, like rip­ping the lid off a bee­hive or open­ing the stage cur­tain mid-in­ter­val. In­stead, I wanted an in­vi­ta­tion to be a se­cret-keeper rather than a spy.

En­ter­ing my imag­ined door led to an in­vented Venice of my own mak­ing, a city full of ad­ven­ture ask­ing to be ex­plored.

A door is an in­vi­ta­tion. To pause. To imag­ine. To en­ter. All the best ad­ven­tures be­gin by step­ping through an open door...

That night we walked to a rather plain brick wall, no­table only for its curve that fol­lowed the path of the canal. The door was set back a lit­tle, crumbly with brick dust but oth­er­wise a plain, dark door. The han­dle opened eas­ily and we walked through. The path was un­steady un­der­foot and we stum­bled as we parted the leaves to make our way through.

Af­ter bat­tling the branches, we emerged into a wide gar­den. Shield­ing our eyes from the low evening sun, the scent from the lemon trees filled the air and led us to­wards the or­nate man­sion at the far end. Un­der a vine- cov­ered per­gola, or­nate iron­work tables and chairs were ar­ranged in cosy pairs, lit by can­dles. We sat. We sipped limon­cello as the sun slowly set, pick­ing at fen­nel- stud­ded tarallini while the con­ver­sa­tion dipped and rose like a roller­coaster.

We woke the next day to thun­der­storms. Dodg­ing tourists scur­ry­ing over bridges, clad in see-through plas­tic pon­chos, we made our way to the far edge of the city. Down at the end of a street that stopped abruptly at the water was a con­tem­po­rary door, the kind an ar­chi­tect might win an award for – re­spect­ful of the his­toric sur­round­ings yet true to stream­lined mod­ern aes­thet­ics. It opened silently onto a sparse court­yard, dot­ted with ab­stract bronze sculp­tures. Di­rectly op­po­site was a sec­ond door, the same style as the first, through which we en­tered the art gallery. Eigh­teenth- cen­tury mas­ter­pieces hung along­side con­cep­tual work, peo­ple keep­ing a re­spect­ful dis­tance with the first be­fore swing­ing their heads 90 de­grees to the side to get closer to the sec­ond. The rain came down again, thun­der­ing on the roof and trap­ping a school group in a cov­ered gazebo out­side. Pud­dles filled. In the café, we sat and warmed up with minia­ture espres­sos, watch­ing peo­ple come and go. I watched an older man wear­ing a hat and box-fresh bright yel­low suede brogues, seem­ingly un­touched by the weather.

A friendly shop­keeper gave us di­rec­tions to catch a gon­dola back to the ho­tel. Down steps, through the arch­way and round to the left – we did as we were told. The arch­way would’ve once held a door, care­fully hung hun­dreds of years ago by crafts­men, a team in situ with planes and tools to fill the hole seam­lessly, join­ing wood to stone. We walked straight through. The gon­do­lier held my hand as we boarded the boat, push­ing hard off the side be­fore we coasted away on the wob­bly water­way.

The canal led us un­der bridges, past doors that would’ve opened di­rectly onto the water (mind the gap). The steady pace of the gon­do­lier beat­ing as a pulse to our jour­ney, he doesn't sing. Gaz­ing down into the water, I imag­ine a riverbed not of peb­bles and stone but of keys. Thrown into the water by tourists, whose love is locked now for eter­nity to that bridge, but also by the keep­ers of doors. Se­crets locked away for­ever, doors closed and painted shut. The mys­ter­ies of what’s be­hind only com­ing to life in a world of imag­i­na­tion.

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