Writer, author, memoir teacher. I write about the connections we find by giving each other the time and space to be heard.

The Kissing Gate

Kissing Gate And Walls by Keith Evans is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

The month of May is a sort of gateway between spring and summer, which has me thinking of another May and a real gate I won’t soon forget. 

Walking in Cornwall on slippery cliff paths in a light rain, I imagined I was Jane Eyre or Healthcliff’s Kathy or Emily Bronte, or really, any mysterious and long ago Englishwoman. 

Here in the UK, my soul bonded with the dramatically beautiful landscape, the wind in my hair, the sun sparkling on the sea below the dirt path. Rocky cliffs stood high above the blue green waves, crashing against gigantic boulders. Open meadows bloomed with yellow gorse and bluebells as I reveled in this world so far from home, a world where I felt a sense of belonging, as if I were contained within the fields, the farms, the low buildings. But unlike Jane, Kathy or Emily, I was far from alone. My husband and about twenty Brits walked these paths with me, sometimes silent, and sometimes talking about the weather, the scene, or the next rest stop.

Our home base for one week was an old stone manor house staffed by bald, unsmiling Eastern European men who reminded me of the villains in a James Bond movie. Our guide was a retired teacher “for my sins,” a man with light hair and a trim build, doubtless from all the walking. One afternoon, he led us to what he called “a kissing gate.” Steve gave me a quick kiss as we went through. “Very nice”, said our affable guide, “but it’s so named because of the way the two parts of the gate meet.”

A kissing gate, it seems, allows people, but not livestock, to pass through. This one was rectangular and built of aluminum with the free end trapped between its arms. When the gate touched an arm it had to be pushed to pass through and then pulled to exit. The name comes from the gate merely “kissing” (or lightly touching) the inside of the enclosure, forming a reliable barrier rather than needing to be latched after each use. This explanation was for our benefit, not the indulgent Brits waiting patiently for us to move so they could pass through next. 

The English found us amusing in other ways, and also sometimes questionable. One afternoon at the bar, the bartender sneered when I passed back my beer requesting “a cold one.”  At dinner, I asked about their families and jobs, and was met with closed looks, but when I commented about the weather, they relaxed and opened up. 

A gate is an opportunity. It is a portal to the next meadow, or another way of living. For Steve and me, the kissing gate was a base touch. Are you still with me? Let’s go forward. I’ll go through first, so you can follow. 


What gates have you walked through? Alone or with someone? Was it a real gate or a symbolic one? Tell us about it in a comment! 

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