All gates

This must be the most purely symbolic gate I've ever seen. Captiva , Florida, January 2013

This must be the most purely symbolic gate I’ve ever seen. Captiva, Florida, January 2013

“The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the best ways to defeat despair is to see the opportunity that lies in almost every situation.  When I am able to view a difficult time as a gateway to something new, I am better able to tolerate the sadness, grief or frustration that can too easily take over my thoughts.

I love the idea of “strings of tension waiting to be struck.” It made me ponder how stringed instruments can only make beautiful music if the strings are tense.  It’s the action of contacting the tension that creates the sound. Too much tension, of course, will snap the strings and damage the instrument.  But it takes just the right amount to enable the instrument to do what it was designed to do.

Perhaps there’s a symbolic lesson for us here.  While we all love the times of relaxation, we usually need a bit of tension or urgency to kick us into a productive, energetic mode.  Next time your day is fraught with tension and frustration, think of the beautiful music that can be produced when strings are tensed.  Think of the gates that are open to you, inviting you to walk forward into new opportunities.

Today, I wish you eyes that are opened to the gates in your world, and the opportunities to make beautiful music with your tension.


  1. Without the tension of the bowstring, the free flight of the arrow is not possible.

    • Yes, I agree. I heard a sermon recently that talked about the derivation of the term “highly strung” and unless I missed something, that sort of tension was discussed as being a negative thing. I thought “this guy is not an archer.” The trick is to get just enough without too much, but too lax a string — whether on a bow, a guitar or a harp – would be useless.

  2. How uplifting! Thank you for this perspective. I will now be better able to appreciate “tension”, and use it as an advantage.

    • Yes, so many things would be lessened without tension. Think of a suspense novel, an edge-of-the-seat film, a hold-your-breath moment in the Olympic games, or for that matter, an aircraft takeoff or landing. To me, a deer is never more beautiful than that moment when it suddenly lifts its head, sensing my presence and going on “high alert.”

  3. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. You have given us over 300 days of your thoughts, your photos, and your words. I really wonder how many gates I will approach today. I’ll go through them, and think of this beautiful blog. Thank you, again!

    • Thank you, Sheila! You could put a gate like this one in your front yard! (or is it your back yard?) Thank you for being part of this blog each day!

      • Sheila

        Julia, that’s what I was thinking. We might need two! The Atlantic is in front of us and the inlet is behind us, so we’re on a little sliver of land between them. I’ve loved the comments today. Wow!

        • WOW, you are even luckier than I knew you were! Sounds wonderful. I’m glad you enjoyed today’s discussion. I did too!

  4. Michael

    Thanks Julia for your meditation and I guess it is a matter of balance as too much tension and we shatter. But with the right amount of tension we can make a “joyful sound”. If we stay in tune with the Master frequency-like an adjacent tuning fork that will vibrate at a like frequency- then we can also -tune into and vibrate at that frequency and some of this is about contemplation and receptivity as we allow our selves to be tuned and that takes a level of trust to allow our selves to be dialed in. Of course, much of the time I try to vibrate at my own frequency, but there is another frequency out there, and things do go better when I allow myself to be tuned.

    • Mike, that is an excellent point! When we think of the harsh sound of dissonance it seems remarkably similar to the way I feel when I am not “cutting the wood according to the grain” as C. S. Lewis said. And yes, we cannot be receptive to the Master frequency without slowing down…”Be still and know.” Thanks for being here and for adding to so many of our discussions!

  5. This reminds me of another writer friend, Keith Jennings. He used to write about tension and how we need it in our life (as opposed to balance, a word he didn’t like). He related it back to music frequently. Unfortunately, he isn’t writing his blog anymore. I know you would have liked it, though.

    • I just recently read another writer who took issue with our contemporary love of the concept of “balance” – I don’t remember his name but it seems his argument was that balance was a deceptive concept because we are forced to be “unbalanced” continually when we have to prioritize the urgent. I think his was mostly a semantic argument because his approach would have still involved balance over a span of time; one day you prioritize work but you then prioritize family on another day, etc. It may be true that all great achievements come from people who are decidedly “unbalanced” in the amount of time they spend on the passions that drive them.

      • Semantically, I associate equilibrium with balance – nothing tips in either direction. (Tipping point is another of those annoyingly overworked cliches of our times.) The cam shaft in an internal combustion engine is for the precise disruption of equilibrium, making possible the operation of the engine, and thus the job to be done.

        • Hi Eric, thank for the helpful illustration of balance as equilibrium, not necessarily the same thing as equality of mass or distribution. “Tipping point” was probably popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book, which I highly recommend. I don’t understand engines enough to fully visualize a cam shaft, but I do know that sometimes the disruption of equilibrium is necessary to achieve something productive; just think about the American Revolution as one example.

  6. All of the “balance” discussion really does relate to gates. In perfect balance the gate will hover, neither fully open, nor closed. The unequal force of the wind can fully open it; or a spring, under tension, can keep it closed.

    • Yes, and in his many attempts to repair the double gate on one side of our York home, Jeff has found time and again that a gate repair is NOT as simple as it may seem on first attempt!

  7. Jenelle

    So many nuggets here today 🙂
    Eric, thank you for that insight! I will never look at a bow and string the same. To everyone who compared tension to music, it’s a beautiful analogy. One that I appreciate. Julia, thank you for reminding us to “walk forward into new opportunities”. I think I will do just that this day…

    • Jenelle, I’m so happy that you found the post helpful. Sometimes it’s tempting to freeze or even look backward in difficult situations, but often the best way out is forward! Thanks for being here.

  8. merry

    Beautiful view and gate…

    • Thanks, I’m glad you like it!

  9. I love the gate. What a wonderful idea. Hope all is well for you. I love you. A

    • That is a really cool gate, isn’t it? It doesn’t control access, it just accents the entrance to an infinite ocean (of possibilities)! Love you too!

      • Stephen said it makes him think of the toll gate in “Blazing Saddles”. Thought you might appreciate that.

        • I forgot about that until you mentioned it – I had to go back and watch the YouTube clip of it. Hilarious! Although I can’t post a link here because of the language advisory. 🙂

  10. Michael

    Thanks Julia and I learn a lot here on your Blog.. I did not realize the challenge was to get a five word comment.
    Is that like a Haiku thing?
    I also liked the comment by Eric about the bow string. Coincidentally, I was talking with a bow hunter today who told me sometimes even a perfectly shot arrow will take off on its own flight path- not at all in a straight line. Not sure how that relates. BTW do you know of resources to self-publish a small children’s book?

    • Mike, that 5-word thing was a just joke between Eric and me – from the comments on the post about tea the other day. He wrote a one-word comment, and I answered with a one-word reply, and he responded that he was going to post a 5-word comment the next day and would expect a 5-word response from me. It’s the sort of thing you would almost have to know Eric to catch. My sister and I grew up with him and we still don’t get it a lot of the time when he is messing with us. Eric is an archer (like his quarter-Chiricahua father) who could probably answer your question about the arrow. I don’t know of any way to self-publish a picture book except through a print-on-demand service. Illustrations in books today are so vivid and high-quality that to print only a few copies of one would be prohibitively expensive, unless you wanted to go with a digital copy, in which case you could do it fairly easily on Amazon, Smashwords or similar sites. But that’s definitely NOT my area of expertise, so I’d advise a lot of research on it – go to the website of your local chapter of SCBWI as a starting point – they are a wonderful organization of published and not-yet-published children’s authors. You’ll find lots of experts there, most of whom are quite supportive of newcomers.

  11. Michael

    I suppose death might also be a gate?

    • Mike, I believe it’s the ultimate gate. In the movie “Field of Dreams” there’s a wonderful scene near the end where Terrence Mann has been invited, by the otherworldly ballplayers from past ages, to go “out” with them, through the cornfield into whatever realm they return to each day. He’s excited but nervous. He stands in front of the cornfield, tentatively reaching his arm into it and drawing it back, laughing at himself in his uncertainty. But his curiosity and longing to go finally win out, and he walks into the cornfield and vanishes. From the first time I saw that clip, I thought, “That is the way I want to feel just before I die.” I hope I will.

  12. Being a cellist once this held an lovely metaphor.

    • Thank you! I would imagine you miss playing. I used to play the piano, but reached a point where I was not willing to put in the daily hours that would be required to maintain my skills, let alone improve them. Do you ever play at all anymore, even just for yourself? I’ve always thought music is a lovely way to express things we can’t say in words.

      • Yes, it takes much discipline and practice to remain competent or better. I do miss playing and singing at times, especially since much of my extended family are professional musicians and I am aware of music from that viewpoint. I have enjoyed singing in a couple of choirs as an older adult. I still have my cello, as well. Music is God’s “mouth”, I felt when growing up. Hasn’t changed much.

        • Yes, I’m so thankful for it. I have tried to think of ways to feature it here, but I don’t have many photos to go with the quotes about music. I have posted links to songs occasionally. Even for many of us who are not gifted at creating or performing music, it’s a huge part of our lives. I think music instruction should be mandatory in elementary schools. Not only does it have aspects of almost every other subject and complement those studies, (math, history, reading, literature etc.) but it also fills a need in the soul that nothing else can address in the same way.

          • Absolutely. My father (a God-loving and -fearing man) was a musician, conductor and music educator–and he loved instituting the pubic school music program and also teaching for 40+ years more than anything!

  13. What a great analogy. I also think a little pressure is good to keep you moving forward. If you get lazy or complacent, time slips away and things get left behind. It’s amazing how much I can get done somedays and then other days it’s the opposite. Hopefully is all balances out. I think the music I might hear most is circus music…LOL

    • Maybe a Merry Go Round tune such as “Jolly Holiday,” right? I would like to think my lazy days are balanced out by those rare days when I get a lot done, but the older I get, the more Lazy is trending upward! When I was a student for one quarter at Georgia State (in downtown Atlanta) in 1977, I used to read a street paper called Creative Loafing. What an inspired name! I guess that’s my favorite occupation. Creative loafing.


  1. Wherever I went | Defeat Despair

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