We came upon it while hiking. It used to be green, still is around its battered edges. A rusted, abandoned car from...when? The thirties? Forties? The car was driven a lot. Once its roof was patched with asphalt. The passenger door was riddled with bullet holes--most likely the work of frustrated hunters, after the car's abandonment. But the kids, who were much younger then, assumed we were looking at Bonnie and Clyde's Ford V-8.
"Blood stains!!" Flan and Oaks shouted in jubilation.
Whatever their origins, the bullet holes contributed measurably to the complicated, oxidized, and yes, old-blood-colored, surface of the door. We were looking at a gem of entropy, what they call a piece of "found art." I wanted it. During the next few weeks, I'd bring it up to Bennie.
"I want that car door."
"Yeah, it's cool," he'd say, "but what a hassle to get it down the hill."
"That car door, I keep thinking about it."
"I know you do. But what a hassle."
"I dreamed about that car door last night."
"I'm sure you did. But what a hassle."
Then one miraculous Sunday morning, Bennie woke up, turned to me and said, "Why don't we skip church and go get your door instead?"
A couple of hours later, the four of us were wheeling our Radio Flyer wagon up the never-ending winding path through the pinons and junipers to Bonnie and Clyde's death vehicle. Even I was starting to think of it in that way.
"That's one ugly door. Even uglier than I remembered," Bennie said when we at long last were staring at the car. "And what a hassle."
I was having a similar thought. Since we'd last looked, the door had acquired a large, rather putrid yellow blotch. It was like a melanoma. But I wasn't about to back down. We'd dragged the kids and the wagon and a bunch of bungee cords for almost mile up a hill in order to fulfill Mom's dream, the thing she'd been hassling Dad about for weeks on end. You don't teach your kids to back down from their dreams.
Getting the door back down the hill was, naturally, a bigger challenge than we'd counted on. It wouldn't lay politely across the Radio Flyer as we'd planned, but kept bursting out of the bungee cords, hell-bent for our shins. So we wound up standing our corroded find upright, balanced precariously on the topmost edges of the wagon. We then took turns, one of us in the coveted position of wagon-pulling, the other three keeping the door upright by holding onto a non-serrated section of the edge. We, after all, had no desire to enhance this artifact with our own blood stains.
As we pulled the door back down the path, I was captivated by the shadows of the pines moving in and out, over the oxidized surface. The changing light altered the colors. It was, by turns, green, then rust, then deepest red. At one time little Oakley, ever the mind reader, began laughing.
"Look at those shadows," he said.
Yes,we drew some unusual looks as we took turns pulling the tiny wagon, a crumpled upright car door balanced precariously atop. One hiker applauded, assuming we were engaged in some massive cleanup project. Most stole sideways, embarrassed glances in our direction--the way you can't help looking at a bewhiskered woman or a four-hundred-pound dwarf.
And yes, like so many actions that provoke temporary disgrace, it was worth it. The door now hangs proudly on a wall at the top of our stairs, commanding the tiny many-windowed room we call The Atrium. Its oxidized, wrinkled surface catches the rays of the afternoon sun and gives off a kind of "been there, done that" brilliance. And that putrid yellowish blotch? It's come to resemble a coyote staring upwards at the ceiling beams.
Visitors have strong reactions. Some want to buy it. Many scratch their head in puzzlement. A few steal sideways, embarrassed glances. The family loves it. And we're the ones who live with it. We're the ones who count.
When I'm feeling stuck--in a painting or in life or in my own indecision, I like to gaze up at the door. It reminds me to carry through on my impulses. To not back down, even if I have to enlist others. And almost always, I do have to enlist others.
Doors of opportunity present themselves at every moment. Often they're not perfect. Life, it has a way of being imperfect, doesn't it? Sometimes it's downright ugly. But even ugliness, arranged just so, struck by your particular light, may astonish you with its beauty.