Entries tagged with “liminal space”.


This past week, we went camping at Chaco Canyon National Park in northwest New Mexico. It is a very remote spot: the nearest bank is 80 miles away. There are no services, gas, food, or lodging, anywhere near the national park. We were completely off the grid, carrying our own water as the campground has non-potable water (the Visitor’s Center one and a half miles away has potable water), and food as well as everything we needed to camp for two nights in early November.

We arrived the day before the full moon. Getting up in the middle of the night the next night to head to the bathroom was magical: absolute quiet, towering canyon walls on three sides of the campground, and a full moon that was so bright, we didn’t need a flashlight. We also stumbled into the final ranger program for the year that allowed us to be in the most famous ruin, Pueblo Bonito, after dark, hearing stories and learning about the site and the stars. What a gift!

In this liminal space that we continue to live in, it was good to be in a mysterious site like Chaco Canyon. No one really knows why Chaco was built. It is believed that is was a place of ceremony, with fewer rather than more people living in it, that it was more like the Vatican than Rome itself. Yet, many roads radiated out of Chaco to settlements near and far that were permanent living places. As the ranger said, scholars know some of the answers to the “what” questions but few to no answers for the “why” questions.

Among other things to see, Chaco has some amazing stone work. They built three-story (maybe higher) buildings out of stone and used mere pebbles for much of the work! The belief is that it was for the sheer aesthetic of it. The time it must have taken to build on that scale with those tiny rocks in hard to imagine. It would be like building a three story building today and using Lego-sized blocks for much of the walls.

And then, everyone left. Again, no one knows why. They literally walked away as they did from Mesa Verde, Aztec Ruins, and so many other places that dot the Four Corners region of the United States. I remember being at he Kennecott mine townsite in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park area of Alaska. When the copper mine played out and the last train came to take the rest of the workers and their families away for good, many people walked out of their homes leaving the dishes on the table, the pictures on the walls, and the furniture in the rooms. They only took what they could carry in bags on the train with them.

In this liminal space, I am being asked to walk away from things as well. I sense it is so that I can move toward something else that has not yet been revealed. I don’t think I am being asked to literally walk out of this old house and leave the dishes on the table but I do think I am being asked to leave behind old certainties and thought-patterns. I don’t think I am to actually leave the pictures on the wall behind but I do think I am being invited to leave behind the picture I had of how my future would look.

I find Chaco Canyon both thrilling and unnerving: a great civilization, a great center of diverse culture and activity completely abandoned to the ravages of time and nature. I thrill to touch the walls made by such brilliant craftsmen over about a 300-year time period and wonder how they could simply walk away from these monuments to human creativity and religious practice.

It makes me wonder if I could let go of enough of my daily life as it is now to answer a call to something completely new, if and when it comes.

I haven’t been writing as regularly lately. Maybe it is the high heat and lack of rain here at this old house. Fire weather, we call it, although it does not spark creativity in me. I find myself exhausted from heat and mild dehydration.

Maybe my lack of writing is due to the liminal time frame we are in, a threshold between what was and the not-yet. We are waiting where life is lived each day in the same way a pregnant woman goes through her days while simultaneously something new grows in secret within her. This is a different kind of waiting than waiting for a bus, Henri Nouwen explained. There is a forced inertia at a bus stop. One does little to nothing until the right bus comes and you begin to move toward a destination. The waiting we are currently in is very pregnant with something new but when it will be birthed and what exactly will be birthed is shrouded in mystery. I find myself, at times, in a state of quiet anxiety because of it.

I remember being pregnant. Twice. There was a holy mystery and yet a deep fear to it all. So much can go wrong in those crucial gestational stages and the world has always been a hard place to bring such innocence into it. We did not know the gender of our girls until the moment of their birth and so the attempts at preparing for them to come while not fully knowing who we were preparing for produced some unease as well.

I am pregnant again. This time, it is in my soul, which is growing into a new season of life that has no clear boundaries or shape to it yet. Hard choices are going to have to be made at some point, that is clear, but what and when and where and how are so unknown at this point. pregnancy stages

I remember one day, pregnant with our second. I was standing in the kitchen of the tiny duplex we were living in. Suddenly, I felt my joints loosen and my pelvis spread. It was an odd feeling and yet a feeling of growth for the child I was carrying.

I have felt the joints of my soul shift in the past several months. Growth is happening in secret even as I go about my daily work and play. New levels of creativity are beginning to emerge. Are they heralds of the coming new season? Time will tell. Meanwhile, my job is to take good care of myself, as any pregnant mother knows.

There is a growing life dependent on it.

Creation and destruction: in life, they go hand-in-hand. I have spent a creative day while, unbeknownst to me, a big fire was burning in the mountains about 30 minutes from this old house. I am seeking to make something of value and beauty at the same time people are scrambling to grab possessions, animals, and loved ones and flee under mandatory evacuation orders. The “circle of life”  is a archetypal symbol but ultimately, we prefer the creative side of that idea and not the death and destruction side. Yet, we can’t have one without the other. Things must die to make room for new growth, in nature, in individual lives, in cultures and nations.

We are definitely in a more destructive cycle here in the USA. Violence has erupted in ways this week that have horrified the world and made many of us wonder where the creative voices are to address the issues that have boiled over into mayhem and death. What is dying and what is trying to be born, I ask myself. Hopefully, things like racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and other deadly attitudes are breathing their last dying gasps while a new life of justice, peace and true liberty for all will spring from the ashes.

Time will tell.

Regardless of the outcome, we are definitely in a liminal space as a country. “A liminal space, the place of transition, waiting, and not knowing is…a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.Richard Rohr” (http://inaliminalspace.com/about/what).

Our political process right now seems to show an attempt by many Americans to “flee [a] terrible cloud of unknowing.” They will do anything, vote for anyone, who promises to return the status quo, as defined by those individuals. A recipe for failure, for sure! Yet, one of American’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, reminds us that “If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.”

This is a test, one with history-making consequences for good or for ill. Which side will we seek to strength: a creative energy for the common good or a destructive “narcissistic individualism”? I pray the creative, life-giving energy will be ascendant in the days to come.