In recent years, I’ve become a little obsessed with liminal time and space. So much so that a city in my novel series is named Liminal, and the characters live out most of their time and space on the page in liminal moments and places.
Don’t we all?
Our liminal time
Growing up, like most children and young adults, I didn’t appreciate the liminal. The eight-hour drive from Athens to Bogalusa: Are we there yet? The five-kilometer hike to the castle ruin on top of the hill: How many more fields before we start going up? The train rides between one big dot of interest on the map and the next: asleep.
For the first half century of my life I let the liminal slip away, fretfully. The liminal and limbos of raising a family, establishing a career, paying for all the things. Graduation is in three months. She starts college next year. When will I get a raise? How much longer before I pay off the note? Will he find a job? I need a vacation.
Holding my breath for fifty or more liminal weeks between vacations.
What is liminal?
Sometimes liminal is flat earth and you see the edge, you can measure the distance and calculate the time. Is it beach yet?
Others, liminal is the globe with ever-reaching horizons, no end in sight. Will we ever arrive?
Maybe arriving will be earth-shaking, good, bad, or something (liminal) in between. A big move to a new city. A new job. Graduations. A marriage. A break-up. A death.
It’s easy to keep looking towards the horizon for those peak moments, beyond and over the edge of liminal, towards that endless horizon in search of the island rising above liminal waters.
But if we spend every liminal moment pestering our parents Are we there yet? and taking naps until the train lurches into the station, we miss it. We miss all those liminal moments where we wallow most of our lives.
The liminal of all liminals
We’re in the biggest liminal of any liminal I’ve ever experienced.
Mom is living her best liminal life. Yesterday when I went up to take her for a walk to her greenhouse, I found her in the recliner where dad and the sitter had moved her. She gave me an excited “Oh boy!” and a hand clap, happy to be somewhere besides a hospital bed or the wheelchair, happy to move through this liminal space a little.
She’s not happy every day (who would be?), but when we visit and interact with her, she often pushes above the dark waters of her disease to greet the moment.
I won’t lie. It’s confusing for us. We pray for her to be released from this condition, which means what it sounds like it means. Barring an Alzheimer’s miracle, there’s only one more step left for mom before falling off the edge of her flat earth. But when she greets us with a smile and a “Hey girl!”, when her eyes brighten as you hand her ice cream on a stick, when she begins yammering unintelligibly but happily as you roll her through the garden or along the driveway, it’s hard to pray for the mercy and peace that we want for her.
Why does she linger? Maybe it’s as simple as this: to remind us to live. Even and especially in the liminal. After all, life is one giant liminal moment between birth and death. Maybe instead of pestering the universe Am I dead yet? or napping until we die, we should live in all the liminal time and space we’re blessed with.
Are we there yet?
Who cares? Look at the blue heron in the water hollow! Let’s gather some of your lovely daffodils while there’s still time!
Whether we still have eight more hours, twenty more fields, or five more months, I’ll sit with mom through this liminal time.
This journey with mom has taught me more than I can begin to understand, but if the only thing I take away is this —live the beauty of every weed of the moment— it’s more than enough.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022