Saturday, January 13, 2018

Astonished by Joy: Glimpses through Doors and Windows


                   "Set wide the window. Let me drink the day."
                                                                   --Edith Wharton

A window at The Alhambra in Grenada, Spain--a place with so many intricate tiles and carvings that you could roam around for a week marveling at the Arabic artistry. The arched windows, with no screens or filters, frame the beauty of the gardens and the orange trees that were bulging with fruit.

At a gite in Provence. When you live in the Middle East surrounded by beige sand, every leaf gives your heart aflutter. In Provence, many of the shutters are painted in various hues of violet--in honor of the lush lavender fields that blanket the hills in the summer. This window I will always remember opening. When I pushed open the periwinkle shutters that first morning in Provence, I knew the day would never stop smiling.
Over three years ago I left familiar paths to be an expat in the Middle East. I wrote a post about opening new doors and gates at that time: Opening Old Gates and Doors in 2015   Sometimes I was a little scared, nervous that I could navigate the routes and roads in a very faraway place. To raise a teenage boy with autism in the Middle East was not our original plan or goal. Yet, taking that door over three years ago was the right trajectory for us. Since that time, I have traversed many corridors, trying to find the right door, not just any door, but the best door that would shape him and make him happy.

In our travels I have crossed countless gates and doors all over the world--always trying to glimpse new passages--exploring new possibilities. But more than anything the doors and windows have brought me to beautiful, hardworking, creative, festive, and delightful people. They have widened my heart, motivated me to learn new languages and brush up on ones I have studied before. My friendships and encounters with them have given me an astonishment of joy. Somehow people have almost magically entered my rooms and views to assist and even rescue me from falling. These last three years have shown me a renewed faith in all people, all countries, all faiths. There are so many friends in the strangers you meet. There are a multiplicity of handprints on my heart.

As I look back on some of the thousands of pictures I have taken in 2017, I had to chuckle at all the pictures of doors. Since it is the beginning of 2018, I have made a new resolution: I already pass through many doors, even intentionally widening the door to bring the light and more people through the doorway. But I want to make sure I am always looking out through clean windows. With the recent death of President Thomas S. Monson, one of his stories of keeping clean windows has been swirling in my mind:

"A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.

'"That laundry's not clean!'' Lisa exclaimed. '"Our neighbor doesn't know how to get clothes clean.'"

"John looked on but remained silent."

"Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments."

"A few weeks later Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor's yard. She said to her husband, '"Look, John--she's finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.'"

John replied, '"Well, dear, I have the answer for you. You'll be interested to know that I got up early this morning and washed our windows!"

A complete house requires strong doors and gates, but it needs clean windows to bring in the views. My renewed goal is to really see the amazing people I get to meet every day--with crystal clean windows. As Sydney J. Harris said, "The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows." Look outward--not in. See the view with all its brilliance and color. But more than anything, really see the beautiful person in front of you--in all their splendor.  The best times in my life are when the people  I love have gone through the same doors with me. We are together and  looking at each other with clean windows.

The Real Alcazar Gardens Palace in Sevilla, Spain


My new obsession: going to artists' houses with Elias. If you enter this red door, you will be in Paul Cezanne's art studio in Provence, France   Blog about Cezanne


Budapest, Hungary, Imagine looking out those windows at the largest ice skating rink I had ever seen--two or three football fields? I loved watching the children twirl and glide around that lake of ice.

With Sarah and Elizabeth in Madrid, Spain--a window from the Madrid, Spain Mormon Temple

Budapest, Hungary, Now this is a mass of humanity looking out from those windows to the ancient, thermal baths below.


A new door is opening for a couple in Hungary.

Looking into the entrance of a Persian restaurant in Souq Waqif (a large market) in Doha, Qatar

From a gate looking in, Cordoba, Spain

At the Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain, a castle made by the Moorish Muslims.

Looking out from a window to an orange grove below me at the Alacazar. 

Just some normal windows in Cordoba, Spain, with a market below.


Two gates in the market in Marrakech, Morocco.


Peeking inside a market of stalls in Marrakesh, Morocoo.

Avignon, France

At the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain

At the Pope's Castle in Avignon, France

Autumn time near Geneva, Switzerland, wanting to enter this gate to roam through all the amber vineyards.

On top of Fisherman's Bastions, with St. Matthias Church in the background. The fog and mist mixed with the light as we looked out the arches that night will always be remembered. It was " a thin place."

The Yves Saint Laurent Garden in Marrakesh, Morocco. The French artist discovered the color of majorelle, and everywhere around the garden is surrounded by a bright yellow and blue majorelle.  


A door in the markets in Tanger, Morocco. 


Doors to a house in Qatar

Gates into medieval Manosque, France, a town with endless intriguing doors, windows, gates, and passageways

A school for children with disabilites in Provence. 2017 was much better because they let us in. Blog of Provence, France: Art and Autism

Sometimes you have to climb for up to enter into a door in Sierre, Switzerland. The old houses have a ladder so that they climb in the snow;


Looking out a window to Lake Como, near Milan, Italy.
Endless stripes and arches in the Cathedral of Cordoba said to be one of the best examples of Moorish architecture in the world. There are over 1,000 columns in marble and onyx.