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Wow, not what I was expecting...
I thought I was writing about Thanksgiving, but I guess not.
I have been watching fall advance, as Hemingway said, “gradually, then all at once”. Color crept in around the edges and in a blink those rich colors bleached as trees, shrubs, and petaled plants shook themselves almost naked over the weekend. At one point I stood in the woods, still as I could manage, and listened to the leaves let loose from their branches and drop to the ground. The sound was stillness and motion all at once as the leaves fell in a syncopated rhythm of ones and twos.
The change in seasons is always a welcomed thing, at least to me. Autumn holds a particular sadness though. I get a deep clutching in my gut as the last of the leaves pile around the yard, my chest aches, and I fight back slow tears-the kind that well and creep, then fall silently. It’s as if the entire world-at least the one I inhabit, is in dusk. That muffled in between before the acceptance of darkness and the final, rushing moments of light.
I am a winter person, always have been. I come alive in the padded silence of deep snow and peeking blue light. I’ve been know to go barefoot in the snow-it is exhilarating and I highly recommend trying it. The in between stages are always a challenge. Spring’s arrival is glorious but trudgingly slow where I live. It is sodden, and lumpy, and takes forever to blossom and then summer is upon us. Fall is not as attenuated as Spring and the in between-ness of it feels different, but the same. Waiting.
I wonder how much I have missed in these waiting spaces. In a hurry to get to the glory, missing out on the mystery of these liminal times and spaces forgetting that preparation is half of the feast. I am already wishing fall were passed so I could get to the snow, something people around here dislike with a fervor that defies explanation-why live somewhere winter drags on forever if you don’t like it? I am sure they have their reasons. I have been planted here, or transplanted is probably the more apt term, for over twenty years now and still feel as if I am in between. This place is not ‘home’ to me in the physical sense, nor ‘HOME’ in the spiritual sense and it is easier to accept the latter fact than the former, so there’s that.
In the marriage of the physical and spiritual, the restlessness of liminal space feels quite similar to me but the resignation feels much different. Resignation, or acceptance, takes on a very different shape when I am uncomfortable in my physical place. I become irritable, disjointed, unfocused with little to rely on other than time to get past the feelings that rise. In the spiritual sense, I can experience similar reactions-the disjointed, unfocused, and yes, crabby feelings are just as uncomfortable but they are tinged with hopefulness, perhaps it could even be described as anticipation. I know I am never leaving this physical location this side of six feet deep for the long term. I also know that my spiritual home is waiting somewhere on the other side of what I can see. It is a strange symmetry.
I think what brought on some of this contemplation is another season that we find ourselves in-the ’let’s count all our blessings publicly’ season. There are endless images in my feed these days of all the things people are thankful for because, well, #thanksgiving. I don’t know, for me, giving thanks is something I am responsible for on a regular basis, not because once a year we observe a holiday of sorts that no other peoples celebrate, and we do it with a verve like we discovered what giving thanks is all about. I won’t lie, I succumb to challenges from time to time, if for no other reason than to find some intentionality that could override the ennui of ordinary life that casts a pall on routine. A recent challenge asked me to think back fifteen years. What do I have to be thankful for now as I ‘fulfilled’ the dreams I had then, to be grateful for as I achieved what I had always wanted. Wait, what?
To be honest, and I mean completely honest, I have achieved exactly zero of the personal dreams I had for myself fifteen years ago. Z. E. R. O. I did not achieve the career I longed for- I grasped it for a short time, but it was clear it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I am not living where my heart longed (and still longs) to live. I don’t have the relationships I had hoped. I don’t live in the house of my dreams, heck, I don’t even have the couch of my dreams, for that matter. The life I had envisioned was something out of magazines and fantasy, places that don’t tell you the truth about life. They sell you something of desire. Of comparison. Of rarified air.
I live a very concrete life. One of longing for peace in a world where people are hell bent on being more right than their neighbor. Of longing for a mirror that reflects a kaleidoscope of beauty not a mirror, mirror on the wall definition of beauty. Of being valued for aging, not erased. One of wishing my vote actually mattered. One I wish I could leave my grandchildren, especially my granddaughters, a safer, saner future. This list could go endlessly on. Sadly, we live in a world, now, that like my career, showed the promise of being grasped for a short time but was derailed by a system designed to serve a different sort. It is not the things dreams are made of, if you dream of the things that really matter.
This morning I watched my oldest granddaughter make her way home between the trees. Her waist length hair reflecting early morning light as it swayed in rhythm to her steps. This is the thing dreams are made of. The smell of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice coffee (dang, this stuff is good) lingering in the kitchen along with the memory of a nine year olds early morning conversation. We talked a lot about bunnies, and friends, and homeschooling-again, the stuff dreams are made of. In fact, having six grandkids was never on my list of dreams, but turns out to be top of the list of best things ever. Life turns out to be a litany of the unexpected-those things we add to our ultimate list later in order to cross them off. It is also a liminal space all its own.
We are ever on a journey to somewhere else. Some call it home, some call it heaven, some don’t know what to call it, we only intrinsically know it is not here. Without that hope of a better place than what ‘here’ has become it is difficult to find the beauty of our ordinary situations. Me? I believe in heaven. Wholeheartedly, in fact. Which is why when I think of the dreams I once held for my life, things that over time I have learned mean so much less than I believed at the time, I can rejoice. I can also resolve. Resolve to revel in the simpler moments, the ordinariness of my life, the gratitude that comes with knowing, on a cellular level, when my heart shifts upon hearing the laughter of an infant, the veil of heaven has lifted a corner to let out its light. I also know that the genuine gift of seasons is one that is ever preparing me for what comes next. The church liturgical year includes something called Ordinary Time. I am beginning to think that Liminal Time would be a great way to describe life. I wonder, if by doing so,
dreams desires, would become less significant, and living with an eye towards smaller things, awareness that the reflections we see in the mirror were never meant to be ours but rather our neighbors, that being right is never truly righteousness, that politics will not heal, and, I just don’t even know how to wrap this up…
I didn’t expect to post this on the eve of election day, it was a post I began as a reflection on autumn, then on liminal time, but perhaps it is timely. I have a gut feeling that tomorrow will result in unrealized desires, dreams of a future I saw when I was younger and was hopeful would come. I don’t vote the way my neighbors do, hell, the way my husband votes, but I do it anyway knowing my true hope lies outside of voting, out of this liminal time, and lies in making spiced lattes in the early morning that are way more milk than coffee, conversations about Redwall and bunnies, in putting away my porch furniture, in calling a friend, in loving my neighbors, in preparing to serve others, and in endless prayers for real change….