I'll be honest. 2022 was not great. When January 2023 arrived, I hoped the new year would bring better things. January gets its name from Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates. That sounds like a good thing. Except doors and gates don't always swing open. Did I really want to blog about the gatekeepers who seem to find new ways to say no?

Then I remembered how magical gates transformed 23 miles of paths in New York City's Central Park. 

For two weeks in February 2005, these arches suspended huge panels of saffron colored vinyl. The artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude designed and funded the installation. They intended the work to echo Japanese torii gates that were placed at the entrance to Shinto Shrines to mark a transition from mundane to sacred.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude faced huge challenges. The work itself was monumental. It demanded 5,390 tons of steel, 315,491 feet of vinyl tubing, 99,155 square yards of fabric, and 15,000 sets of brackets and hardware. But before any of that could begin, the artists had to persuade the City of New York and the Parks Department to allow the project. That only took 26 years. 

After it was completed, critics sneered.  "Why spend $20 million dollars to ruin the Park with curtains that no one in their right mind would even hang in the shower?"

Yes, even these Gates had to get past gatekeepers.

Fortunately for me, and 4 million others, Christo and Jeanne-Claude persisted. They changed their design to answer some concerns about digging holes in the Park. They waited until they had political support. Eventually, they succeeded.

My husband, daughter, and I visited the Gates many times. Central Park was a familiar place for us. But we eagerly wandered along paths that had been transformed by the bright colors. 

It was a time of transformation for me in other ways too. I had been trudging along, trying to find a way to live a creative, productive life. I had not made the transition from mundane to the sublime. But in December of 2004, I had signed my first book contract with an educational publisher in New Zealand. That piece of good news made me confident that I was on the right path. Now it seemed my way was marked by glorious flags.

And so, this January, I wish for you orange banners instead of naysayers. And gates that aren't impediments, but transitions from the mundane to the sublime. Hopefully your projects will not take 26 years to come to fruition.

Jane Kelley is the author of many middle grade novels and four math mysteries that gave her the courage to persist. 




  1. '22 was rough here, too. This is such a great story to remember.

  2. I love this Jane. I remember reading a news article about the installation. Thanks for the lovely reminder that gates can be welcoming.


Post a Comment