The Gate to Nowhere

Recently I was working on an assigned how-to article on creating a secret garden. A sense of entrance is most important, and I was researching different types of ornamental gates.

My steel trap of a mind (okay, okay, rusted-iron trap) wandered back to 2005 when artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude installed temporary orange fabric gates in NYC’s Central Park. People walked through The Gates that didn’t connect to a fence.

Here in the Midwest, gates are usually a way into or out of an enclosure: a vegetable garden—to keep out hungry deer; a pasture—to keep in cattle; or a country lawn—to define the mowed area around the house.

Years after The Gates display, Jimmie and I sat on a bench outside the VA clinic and studied a gate near the middle of a landscaped area covered with creek rock. A few nandina plants were stuck here and there. No path led to the gate. It was not wrought iron or ornamental. It was a three-foot-wide chain link gate, a common enough gate in our part of the country, but it kept nothing in and nothing out. It was a gate to nowhere. It had no claim to being anything else.

Of course, we had to open, walk through, and close it. The latch worked perfectly; the hinges didn’t squeak. So… folks had opened and closed it many times before. But why was it there?

Although gates can be used as a decorative focus for a flower garden, I didn’t find a chain link gate all that decorative. But was it making a statement of some sort? We debated the reasons it could have been there.

Chain link could be used as a structure for vining plants, but there were no plants near it, and the gate opened and closed. If vines grew on it, what purpose would a hinged gate serve?

It could be a divider in a garden, like a room divider, separating different garden areas. That didn’t apply here. There were just brown creek rock and widely spaced plants on each side.

We decided this was a magical gate that opened into a new world. Jim and I walked through that chain link gate, and it led us to thinking differently, thinking more along the enticing world of new beginnings and leaving troubles behind. It became an opening of our minds. Closing the gate behind us somehow felt as if it lightened us, took a load off our shoulders at that VA clinic.

That solitary gate was not a gate to nowhere. It was a gate to everywhere. It was a gate to imagination, and it let us pass from here to there.

From here to there—just like those enchanting saffron-colored gates in Central Park.

Scroll through pictures of The Gates: