Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 8, 2014

The Eye is a Door

Maple branches are turning red. I heard peepers in the pond. A friend reports the green tops of crocus, though she said her children carefully raked away snow and made a little rock fence around the sacred area by the door so nobody would step there. Almost spring, but to get me closer to its spirit I just saw thirty or so big photographs of beautiful places that Anne Whiston Spira, professor of landscape architecture and planning at MIT, took around the world. The photographer and writer has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and an international Cosmos Prize for “contributions to the harmonious coexistence of nature and humankind.” She writes, “Photography is to seeing what poetry is to writing; a concentrated way of thinking, a condensed telling, a disciplined practice that may produce insight.” Here are two examples of her work from over the past thirty-five years.

Threshold. Mt. Rokko Chapel.

Mount Rokko Chapel, Kobe, Japan, July 1990


Skaftafellsjökull (Vatnajökull), Iceland

Anne Whiston Spira writes: “Why a door and not a window? A window is something to look through, but a door is something to pass through; crossing a threshold, one enters a new place. To see, to really see, is to open a door. To pass through that door is to arrive at a new understanding.” More pictures can be seen on the website, but if you can get to Northampton, MA before August 31, you can have the treat of seeing pictures longer than your outstretched arms, full of detail, at the Smith College Museum of Art.



  1. It must be wonderful to see the exhibit, Jeannine. I’ll have to rely on the website only. I enjoyed your quote at the end. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Linda. She does have a very nice website with gorgeous photos and thought-provoking thoughts on visual literacy and other things.

  2. Hi Jeannine, I’ve been reading your blog column for a few months now and really enjoying your point of view and the sense of online community that’s generated here. You probably already know, but this is something special here, this space that you have created. Is it because writers have learned to share the truth and their real selves? There’s intimacy flowing from trust and appreciation. Thank you for this! And now I’m no longer a bystander. I’m choosing to join in. I admire what you do! More in days to follow. the best to you and yours, Ted Reiner

    • Hi, Ted! How nice of you to read and for your very kind words. My blog and the good company here is something I both appreciate and sort of take for granted, so it is a good reminder to hear your perspective and be reminded to value words and an occasional picture. I’m happy you chose to join in!

  3. Oh, that picture of Iceland so captures it. We didn’t get that close to one of the glaciers when we were there, but that starkness is just such a part of the whole place–a part I loved. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Jeannine.

    • Wonderful the picture carried you back to a place you loved, Becky.

  4. I don’t know which is my favorite part of this post – the words and stunning pictures of Anne Whiston Spira, or the greeting of spring by those children who “carefully raked away snow and made a little rock fence around the sacred area by the door so nobody would step there.” :0)

    Thanks for all of the above. I have a thing for doors and keep Bob Wilcox’s DOORS book in my studio. It too features doors from around the world.

    –wish I were closer to see that exhibit at Smith College!

    • Thanks, Robyn — nice to know about your love of doors! On a poetic tangent, I was just looking at lots of pictures of door knockers: particularly taken with Victorian ones of folded hands. Given that our doorbell has been broken for about 15 years, maybe this is the way to go.

      • Victorian door knockers – sounds dangerously intriguing! (Like I need another diversion – doors, headstones, etc…)

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