The problem with gates is that they hold in as much as they keep out. It's nice to think of keeping your life private -- building walls, tending hidden gardens, closing off the things beyond your control -- but it's also a bit lonely. (I should know. I tend to gate up and go into emotional lockdown when things get too hectic.) With gates come locks and with locks come keys and with keys come questions of who gets one, can it be copied and what happens if you lose it?
I once lived in an apartment that had an exterior gate with a padlock. If you got in the gate, you had to walk across a pretty big garden to reach my front door. There was no doorbell, no buzzer, no possible way to get my attention. If someone was coming to visit they'd arrange a time and I'd open the lock. Otherwise, it stayed closed and absolutely impenetrable.
It was great at first. There were no Jehovah's Witnesses early on Sunday morning. There were no kids selling magazine subscriptions for school fundraisers. Neighbors didn't bug me to borrow sugar and UPS guys didn't make me sign for someone else's Amazon box. There was absolutely no interruption of whatever it was that I found so important to be doing alone behind a padlock.
But after awhile I started to feel a little like Rapunzel. No interruptions meant, well, no interruptions. I had plenty of alone time in that place. I had lots of time to write the great American novel and learn to meditate -- neither of which I did. There was nothing spontaneous or unplanned. No trick-or-treaters, no Christmas carolers, no hopeful little ones holding Unicef donation cans for Jerry's Kids. There were no girl scouts to brighten a depressing day with lifesaving thin mints. No old boyfriends stopped by with flowers. No new friends introduced themselves.
Now, my family lives in a house with no front gate. Some days the doorbell rings six or seven times which delights my social butterfly daughter to no end, even if it's just a meter reader asking me to tie up the dogs in the back yard. We are utterly powerless to keep people from intruding and, oddly, it feels more cozy that way.
This week, I examine some of South Pasadena's more picturesque gates. (And possibly use the photos to get a little philosophical.)