Sitting in a dead car on a country road in Colorado, I don’t know if I shiver from the cold or some deeper sense of awareness. I am not alone in the car. I sit with the only self-proclaimed neo-pagan I’ve ever met. This is the first moment I encounter the notion of “Liminal Space.”
As she describes the Celtic and Pagan traditions, she speaks of the sanctity of spaces between. Cliffs as meeting spaces between earth, water, and sky. Pregnancy as the time when a woman is no longer a child but not yet a mother. Dawn and Twilight. Solstice and equinox. These moments perch at the precipice before we leave behind what was and step into what will be next.
Life at the threshold.
Yesterday I spent one of my spring break days on a pilgrimage with my dear friend Cara. An Episcopal priest on Capitol Hill, we first met at bible study in college. She knew early on that her’s would be the life of a religious. She continues to anchor me in the faith of my roots…even as I am tempted by Pagan fruit.
On yesterday’s journey she led me down into the metro and up again to the Renwick Gallery. This diminutive museum tucked away from the rest of the National Mall was a small marvel. Their installation right now one of Wonder. Quite literally. Each room has been transformed into a transcendent space. The effect is visual, but also behavioral.
We tilt our heads, puzzled.
We crouch down.
We get closer.
We step back.
We prostrate ourselves, gaze and giggle.
String becomes light.
Wings become wallpaper.
Cards become pillars of salt.
Afterwards, on our long walk home, back the way we came, I am once again thinking about Space. How we shape it. How it shapes us. How often neglected this essential idea has become in a modern world where architecture is so often utterly utilitarian.
I ask Cara her thoughts on liminal space.
“Thin Space,” she calls it. I seize on this term.
As a priest, she is invited into these sanctified spaces, lives in them. Creates and consecrates them.
But in her experience, passing through liminal space is as likely to be distressing as enlightening for those who experience it. After all, she says, the most common time she has experienced this “thinness” is just before or just after death.
Looking back at my own timeline, I note a deep change that transpired in me and plot its beginnings in the birth of my children and the death of my dearest friend’s husband. This overlay of living and dying created new heights and depths I have yet to fully explore, but I nevertheless feel the shift in my landscape.
Liminal space might be literal places we can plot on a map. Retreat to or create. They might be occurrences we can plot on a timeline and revisit annually in traditions and memorials. Or, they may be states of being we can generate in ourselves and, perhaps, share with others.
In between is a space unto itself.