"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Friday, February 5, 2010

Screen Door Melody


I was completely lost in my work, so awareness of the screen door banging dawned slowly. It seemed softer than usual. Did I really hear it?

The "usual" volume is when Emma, with all eight pounds of her furious feline indignation, wants in. Well into old age at 18, she's gotten more and more demanding with each year, so by now has no tolerance at all for being made to wait when she wants in. She goes to the back door, sits on the step and hits the screen door hard enough to make it bounce on its hinges and bang in its frame. She bangs and yowls with such frantic intensity that she never has to wait for long to be attended to.

This old-fashioned wood frame screen door is one of my favorite possessions, right up there with the clothesline and the blueberry bushes. Walt installed it right after we moved in almost twenty years ago, adjusting the tension of the spring, at my request, so the door would bounce gently as it closed. The quiet clapping sound of wood against wood is music that soothes and sings, "Home."

I'm not entirely sure why I love the sound of a wooden screen door. We didn't have screen doors at all in my growing up home. It was cheaper to hang obscene yellow ringlets of fly paper everywhere than it was to buy screens. In all my other homes since then, the screen doors have been utilitarian metal.

My only remembered experience with the wooden bounce of happy doors is from books and old movies where they were always (in my imagination at least) attached to homes full of love. Pollyanna comes to mind - even at the price of paralysis, I would have given anything to be her and to live her life. I can picture the gingerbread be-decked Victorian screen on the front door of her house even now.

In current time the wooden screen door melody is just part of the background music of my everyday life. I don't really hear it the dozens of times a day I open the door and release it to close - usually to let a cat or Toby in or out. I don't really hear the clock chime every quarter hour or the hum of the freezer on the other side of the wall from my desk either, but I do hear when they're silent.

So when I thought I heard the door bang, however softly, my first thought was to wonder how Emma got out because I had just seen her in her chair (actually my rocker). Something was out of synch. I got up from my desk chair, walked to the back door, opened it and saw nothing through the screen. No Emma. No Toby (who was in sleeping on our bed). No wind blowing.

Puzzled, I expanded my visual search to the edge of the patio and into the yard, where I saw a Douglas squirrel scampering away from me toward the protection of the Sweet Gum - his favorite hangout. Dougie!

These tiny little squirrels are fearless, aggressive, and sassy. They frequently chase away their much larger cousin Gray squirrels to get to the sunflower seeds. I laughed out loud in wonder and delight. The little rascal had braved the cold gray expanse of patio concrete where a red giant often sleeps and strange giant squirrels with sharp claws lurk, to come knock on my door.

I have no idea why. I only know he knocked, and then ran like hell. I hope next time he'll stay and chat, or at least wait for me to offer him a treat. In the meantime, I'll be listening a little more carefully for the music of my favorite door.

photos from Flickr

21 comments:

She Writes said...

I like old doors of almost any kind.

Tamika: said...

Love this post. Only writers would understand the sheer appreciation of capturing these moments.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I love sounds like that, little sounds that remind us of home. I love doors, creaky floors, and fans--especially attic ones in old farmhouses. :0)

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I get it about the wooden screen door. I love that you have that.

Bernie said...

Beautifully written by a great author. You have the gift, my friend. I have a very different story about a door. I had to do some renovating about 2 years ago and I bought a new front door. It is beautiful with stained glass --just enough in the middle. The first day it was installed, I got up in the night several times just to go to the stairway to look at it and I always went across the street just before I went up to bed to see it with the light shining through.

Suzy said...

Lovely piece about the sounds that play in the background and how what the associations are.

The doors keep opening....

Love,

Suzy

Wanda said...

Wooden screen doors remind me of my grandmother's house. And I didn't know that those are Douglas squirrels. Agressive and noisy little fellows!

Elenka said...

We have to take all our screen doors off for the winter, otherwise we'd never get out of the house when the snow accumulates! Love the sound, too.

Pam said...

Beautiful photos in the post Deb, and very enjoyable subject. My paternal grandparents were river people, living what we would now term an alternative lifestyle in a very simply constructed building with screen doors.The sound of the doors are part of what I loved about the place, as well as creaking stairs, a woodstove, the smell of woodsmoke and sound of jumping fish and flapping pelican wings...but the screen doors, that relaxing sound of comings and goings, so long ago now. No squirrels of course, just cheeky possums, koalas and kookaburras.

Amber said...

I also like wooden screen doors! I think it is an old-timey comfort. I don't know. I just like it. I think of the first sene in 'Meet Me in St.Louis'...

One time, when I was staying with the inlaws, waiting for Georgie to be born, I left my thongs on their porch. One of these little guys took it! He came, and ran with it back up the tree! LOL!

http://morningstar.netfirms.com/squirrel.html

:)

Angie Ledbetter said...

A ding-dong dasher for a squirrel? Love it. :D

BLACK & GOLD SUPA BOWL - WHO DAT?!

The Unbreakable Child said...

I love that screen door, deb! And now I have Taylor Swift's song, "Our Song" stuck in my head. =P Lovely post.
x0

Deb@RGRamblings said...

My great-grandmother passed away when I was four. One of my earliest memories is walking through her wooden screen door into the little garden in back, on a sunny spring day. Thanks for the story and the smile!

Lorinda Morey said...

I love old fashioned screen doors too! I thought I was the only one!

Jerri said...

Screen doors. Pollyanna. Squirrels.

Your words wrapped some of my favorite things into a post as lovely as a spring day.

Among the collection of old junk I used to use for propping book shoots: at least four old wooden screen doors. They're stacked in my basement right now.

M said...

You are such a wonderful story teller...I felt as though I were there with you. Thank you for continuing to share your gift...and to find a beautiful story in nearly everything around you.

Love
Mark

fullsoulahead.com said...

Glad it was merely a squirrel and not a skunk!

And ick, I remember the fly paper. Shudder

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Midlife Jobhunter said...

When we needed a new screen door to the garage, my husband argued that it didn't need to be wood. I won. During his efforts to get it cut and installed correctly, he complained about how a metal one would have been so much easier. Finally, a few days after completion, he said he didn't quite understand my wanting the wood. Then he added,"It makes a great sound when it closes."

I could only smile.

patricia said...

My mom used to call her squirrels "Nathan." She said they liked the name because it was calm and soothing. You are the only other person I've ever know to name your wildlife. I love that about you, Deb!

B. WHITTINGTON said...

Deb - I loved what little I read of your blog and the squirrel photo. I'll be back. I have eight year old grandson here til Sat and I'm getting little time to spend at the computer.
Thanks for checking out my blog and I'll be back here. Barb