I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of liminal space, I just didn’t know what it was called. The image I worked with is that moment between trapeze bars when you’ve let go of one but haven’t yet grasped the other. Liminal comes from the Latin root limen, which means “threshold.” Liminal space is the crossing over space – a space where you’ve left something behind, yet you’re not fully in something else. It’s a transition.
This past year has been a liminal space for all of us. We left normal, and while we’re slowing finding a new and more open normal again, we’re not quite there yet.
I’ve also been in a different kind of between trapeze bars space.
Last spring as everyone else feared the isolation the virus was bringing, I embraced it. I’d just finished the church book – literally received the copies for distribution two weeks before everything shut down – and after 4 years of working on it I was empty. I didn’t think I’d ever write another creative sentence, much less a full poem or story again.
Then Lent arrived. These six weeks of reflection are a favorite time of mine. I remember going to the Stations of the Cross with my parents, and once with my grandma that was especially impactful. When I was in grade school, I was chosen to enter my parochial school alone on either Saturday or Sunday afternoon to grab the box of Station of the Cross booklets and distribute them – 5 booklets per pew – for the weekly meditation. I love the scent of incense and the sense of withdrawing from the world a little bit that are part of Lent, so I was grateful for the confluence of a pandemic and this liturgical season that kept me in my garden and prohibited me from going anywhere else.
I first read about liminal space in last year’s Lenten devotion. Fr. Richard Rohr described liminal space being Holy Saturday – Christ has died but not yet risen. My Lenten mantra became, God, refill the well. Inhale God, exhale fill the well as if opening the space for creativity to enter. I continued it after Easter.
Lent arrived again six weeks ago. This year when Hubby and I couldn’t attend Ash Wednesday services, we burned our blessed palms from last year and did our own service, crossing each other’s foreheads.
The devotion booklets I found became the physical liminal space to transition from empty to not so much. The meditations are poems from two of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry.
Poetry is near and dear to my heart, so having poetry as part of my Lenten experience was perfect. I often say that after reading Berry and Oliver, and Ted Kooser, I want to go out and dig in the dirt. By that I mean they know the sacredness of the earth and that’s something I strive to deepen in myself. It can only be achieved by spending time in and observing nature.
We have some wooded acreage that I’ve never really explored, so for the past several weeks, almost daily, I’ve gone out and spent at least 30 minutes either wandering around our woods or finding a spot to open my camp chair and just sit. And be quiet. And observe.
This weekend began Holy Week and Passover, seasons of crossing over. I wish my Christian friends a Happy and Blessed Easter, and my Jewish friends a Happy and Blessed Passover.
This Thursday is not only Holy Thursday, it’s also the beginning of National Poetry Month, a sort of transition in this post! I can almost hear the groans, the ‘I don’t read/understand poetry.’ If your idea of poetry is high school English class and you’ve not read anything contemporary since then, I promise you things have changed.
One has to admit hearing National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman at the inauguration and the Super Bowl was pretty powerful. I had friends who never read poetry contact me to make sure I’d heard her.
And that’s what poetry can and should do – make us feel something. I’m a co-editor for Kakalak, a poetry and art anthology, and one of the first things I look for when judging submissions is does the poem make me feel something? It can be a call to action and pride like Amanda’s stirring The Hill We Climb, serenity like Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things, a new look at the ordinary like all of Kooser’s work, or sometimes simply a giggle. Even if a poem makes me uneasy or uncomfortable because of its form or subject matter, it may still work as a good poem because it generated a reaction.
For the next month I’ll be posting more often and highlighting poets I know and love, along with samples of their work. Their styles are as varied as they come – from the very tight but poignant verse to the fullness of spoken word. I can almost promise there will be at least one poem you’ll like, even if you don’t read or understand poetry. I invite you to continue peeking in awriterswindow throughout April to read some fine poems . . . and at some point I may include one of my own, because I’m writing again.
The Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver booklets are available at Salt Project
Hello! I am a Passover observing woman and have also found poetry facilitating my journey through these set-apart days with peace-giving blessings. Oliver, Berry and Kooser are also among my favorites.
Thank you for your lovely post.
Hi Adaline ~ Thank you so much for commenting. Poetry truly reaches the heart and soul, doesn’t it. And a blessing how poetry can cross and connect our religious communities. Blessings to you during this holy season. ~ Kim
Amen. Yes it does and blessings to you too, Kim!