Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Door. Yggdrasil: The World Tree.

The front door of our house.

Long ago when I built our home I made the front door from splined together cedar planks and gave it an arched top. Over the years it opened and closed, kept out the cold of winter and heat of summer. It was the entry into our private lives and the exit into the larger world. When we rented out our house to go sailing around the Pacific it picked up more dents and scrapes - scratched gouges from dogs determined to come in - and weathered grey from rain and sun. When we returned and began to pick up our land life again the door, along with the rest of the house, needed to be renewed.

Sailing on the ocean had opened me to a much bigger and wilder world that what I had known when first I made this door and I needed to incorporate this new perspective into the symbolism of our door. I found that I was drawing images of a tree in my sketchbook - I wanted to carve an image into the door and at first I only imagined a natural form that would fill the tall, curved topped shape. On researching the imagery of trees however, I found the old Norse folk story of a tree as a representation of a greater reality: Yggdrasil, the World Tree. I had found an image that would be more that just a pretty design - it would be an idea of first beginnings that would open a portal every time we entered or exited our house. Here was a view of reality that fitted with my primal experiences on the ocean. Yes! This was it!

Yggdrasil incorporates an explanation of all reality and origins: many worlds beside our own, the passage of time from the original void to the eventual destruction of the world and the unfolding relationships of all of it`s complex parts. Too much for one door to contain, but it was possible I felt to make a version that could carry the essence without the heavy freight of the whole world view. I wanted a reference, not a complete statement.
The dog,Garm guards the entrance.

As is usual in my creative work I was influenced by the materials and tools that I had on hand: a new bandsaw and router, some quarter-inch thick, wide planks of cedar I had milled some time in the past. I also needed to be able to complete the design quickly as the front door could not be off for long. The idea of doing an applique whereby I could precut the design with the bandsaw and arrange the elements carefully before gluing them in place had obvious merits. After belt sanding the door ( the dog scratches were too deep to remove completely), I pre-sanded all the elements and then epoxy glued them to the door and tacked them down with fine finishing nails. I used the router to form the bottom of the tree canopy right into the door itself. Some final hand sanding, several coats of Danish oil and the door was quickly back in place and looking beautiful.

The other day I found a Jehovah`s Witness in the midst of turning away from knocking on the door. Dressed in an Icelandic sweater and with a Northern European accent, she asked if I had made the door because she liked it very much. I said yes and thank you and complemented her on her handmade sweater. Somehow we forgot to talk about Christian things in front of this door to another older but weirdly familiar cosmology.


Robin said...

The door is a beauty.

Gwyn said...

No wonder the Jehovah`s Witness was starting to leave without knocking - "Garm" (aka "Corky") the guard dog must have scared her away!