Issue: July 2000
Finding My Front Door

I've been reading about feng shui lately, which is to say, I haven't been using my time wisely. It had been my impression, until recently, that feng shui had something to do with interior design; that understanding it meant understanding the wonderfully simple Asian design aesthetic. But no, that's not it at all. "Understanding feng shui" is a contradiction in terms, because feng shui, it turns out, is "hmm, how to put this delicately?"a big pile of allegedly 3,000-year-old, allegedly Chinese, pseudo-mystical horse hooey.


That's my opinion, anyway, with apologies to believers, practitioners and sellers of magic flutes. And, yes, I know, flutes and swords and mirrors and other such cheap tricks are frowned upon by real feng shui practitioners. I've done my homework. Real feng shui is much more logical and scientific, they say. It focuses on things like a house's "birthday" and compass orientation, and the inhabitant's "lucky direction," and, of course, the all-important Lo Shu Magic Square. You know, real high-tech, MIT scientific stuff like this, from feng shui consultant Judy Adler, who I found on the web: "From these [readings] we can begin to draw some powerful distinctions, such as water as yang and how that might interact inside a yin environment, such as the north location . . . and what impact that has on the ears, blood and kidneys."


Sure, Judy . . . I can see that. But, actually, I just wanted to know where to put this freakin' pussy willow.


Which brings me to the crux of this. I don't know where my front door is. I mean, I know what I consider the front door of the house; it's the landward door, the one that's right there when you pull into the driveway, the one that enters the living room. But my landlord refers to this as the back door of the house, and so have a number of other visitors over the years. They say this because they think of the house as facing the water, not as facing the driveway. Ergo, they say, the back door (the one facing the water) is the front door, and, following this to its natural conclusion, the front door is the back door. Okay, nobody actually said "ergo."


None of this really affects my daily routine, of course. Confusion notwithstanding, I can still find my way out of the house every morning. Well, most mornings. But it does get in the way of the one little piece of feng shui that I have embraced, despite my cynicism-the lucky direction thing. Don't ask me why, I just like it. I did the math and discovered that I'm an east-oriented person, and my house is . . . well, see, that's the problem. I don't know the orientation of my house, because of all this front-door confusion.


So I have to think this through, and I have a feeling it goes right to the heart of the waterfront lifestyle. Maybe my friends are right: Like all waterfront houses, this one was built to face the water, not to sit with its back to it. Maybe I need to shake off this conventional, suburban, driveway-based mindset and open myself to the healing chi of Reed Creek.


Or maybe I should just put the freakin' pussy willow on the freakin' coffee table and get on with my life.