Doorway By the Sea

Beyond a sea of springtime desert flowers on a bluff overlooking South Africa’s Saldanha Bay, there stands an inn.  Its entryway is a colossal wooden door whose carving and rough iron bolts whisper tales of Tuareg caravans plodding the Sahara. You cannot help but wonder what travelers once found shelter from marauder or harmattan (West Africa’s bitter dry season wind) behind such stout timbers. Or maybe, at the creak of its hinges, you would think of those in desert straits who dreamed of its safety, hastened for its promise, but failed to reach it in time.

AMH-7959-KB_Map_of_Saldanha_Bay
  A 17th century Dutch map of Saldanha Bay on South Africa’s
        Atlantic coast.  To the east would have roamed the Khoikhoi
        inhabitants with their herds of cattle.  Grief followed from their
        interface with Europeans.  The inn described stands on a 
        headland on the upper left of the map. (wikimedia commons)

Sit at breakfast with ‘Juliana’ the keeper of the inn, and she will muse about the door. “I chanced upon it one day in the market,” she says.  “It had such a hold on me I could not leave it. Though well beyond my means, I haggled savagely – and successfully – for it and sent my husband with the lorry to bring it home and hang it there in the entrance. Now the door has made our hospitality famous,” she laughs.  It seems almost as though the doorway chose her, haggled that she should be its possession.

 

But how, she reflects, could the timid, vanilla furnishings of the inn remain as they had always been?  Such a door required an interior with the same air of epic venture. And so, its interior was soon draped with rich brocades, fitted with rough-hewn furniture of bold and generous proportion.  

Zanzibar_door_(1)
        Example of an African wooden door with elaborate Islamic motif carving. (wikimedia commons)

Even more intriguing, the great door has had its effect upon the innkeeper herself. Having taken her place as host behind such an entryway, she now also exudes a remarkable air: firmly hung, silent but sure, the epitome of heroic refuge. What ragged souls, you might wonder, hunted by grief or menace have sought and found solace in the presence of such an innkeeper as this?

 

Should you still doubt there is any mystery here, the great door will swing open as you say farewells and there, spread out at your feet, you will see the vast Atlantic clad in morning mist.  A frisson off the bay murmurs a greeting, brushes your face with a whisper of depths impossible to fathom, of secrets beyond sounding.

 

Yes, on a bluff, high above an African bay stands an inn with an unforgettable door.  And it has left its mark on this traveler.

 

Thoughts for musing:

What doorways are imprinted on your imagination?

Upon what do they open/close?

What makes certain objects quiver with unsuspected power?

Have you taken on the qualities of some element/object in your life?

 


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