Sunday, January 25, 2015

Creating Transitional Entrances

A Pattern Language, a book that addresses the human needs of public and private spaces, speaks to the need for transitional entrances as a space to leave behind one's exterior, streetwise self in order to enter a more interior, personal frame of mind. "If the transition is too abrupt there is no feeling of arrival, and the inside of the building fails to be an inner sanctum."

Creating a transitional entrance can be accomplished in many ways, by marking a path which connects the street to the entrance with "a change of light, a change of sound, a change of direction, a change of surface, a change of level, perhaps by gateways which make a change of enclosure, and above all with a change of view".

An approach that I have taken to mark transitional spaces is the Threshold Sema.  

Until this morning I was really at a loss as to what word to use to express what I had in mind. Emblem, motto, banner, focus, sign... it's all of those things.  I began exploring the etymology of each to see if I could find a word with the appropriately fitting nuance.   I was led to the word "semantic" (via "sign") which stems from the Greek semantikos "significant," likewise semainein "to show by sign, signify, point out, indicate by a sign," both deriving from sema "sign, mark, token; omen, portent; constellation..."   I have known the word sema from its Arabic meaning of "listening," the name for the ritual dance of the whirling dervishes.   Threshold Sema then.

The blog "Light is Planted at the Garden Gate" discusses the Threshold Sema created for the Art Song Garden.

Here is a version that I created for the portico of my studio:

JoAnne, a friend as well as a member of the Sri Aurobindo Learning Center here in Crestone, asked me to create one for the garden gate of the Mother's Garden at the Savitri House last autumn. Here is the result:

The Mother's Garden gate is overhung with trees and there is no light that would come through the back as there is in my garden, hense the rectangular banner form with no light revealing cutwork. 

The central flower symbol is the that of the Mother, Mirra Alfassa, closely associated with Sri Aurobindo. Here is a link to the meaning of the symbol: Mother's Symbol.  The Sanskrit on the left is Bhakti - Devotion. The symbolic language beneath it is a lotus with a flame. The Sanskrit on the right is Ishvara Pranidhana - surrender to the Divine unfolding. Centered within the Sanskrit calligraphy is a flower facing out, away from the Mother's symbol - listening, as it were, to another voice.

It came out so beautifully that they now want to create a more sturdy and beautiful gate for it to hang on, which I hope will happen in the Spring.  In the meantime, Ginny, who caretakes the house, created it into a mantle piece until then:

As with the Crestone End of Life Project, for which I create plaques with a symbol that represents a significant element of the life of a person past,  I love the thought of creating a symbolic language for the daily thresholds we transition while living.