Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday Ramble - Liminal

The sun comes lightly up over the hills, and April storm clouds go racing to meet it like yachts in a high wind. It's the first real whopper of a springtime storm this year, and Spencer and I are standing on the shoreline of our storm-tossed lake, watching the clouds sweep over everything in great tumbling billows. The clouds are as lustrous as pearls near the surface of the lake, and almost black along their uppermost reaches. Here and there, the darkness is punctuated by bolts of lightening, the air is tangy with ozone and filled with rattling peals of thunder that bounce off the headland and resonate clear across the water.

What is the word for such a thundering springtime day, for such wild, joyous and primitive power in untrammeled motion? The right word is liminal I think, as we perch on our rock at the beach, sheltered and out of the icy wind, soaking wet and as happy as clams amid the day's tumultuous doings. This day may be described as many things, but first and foremost, it is liminal.

The word has its origins in the Latin limen, meaning threshold, and it is comparatively modern, having come into common usage in the pioneering work of folklorist Arnold van Gennep and cultural anthropologist, Victor Turner. Both men were deeply interested in rites of passage and the elements of ritual as practiced by every culture on this dear little blue island, Earth, right from the beginning times.

This day is a seasonal rite of passage, and it wears the trappings of ritual, although the lineaments of the ritual are difficult to define amid the booming, blustering and driving rain. Out here on the edge of our northern lake, we stand on a fey and numinous threshold: between here and there, the mundane and the magical, between that which is tame and domesticated and that which is tempestuous, unfettered and seemingly shambolic, but in truth, anything but.

We are alone in this fierce and battering storm, and at the same time, we are part of something wild and free and magnificent. There is a whole vast community of us on this shoreline today, all of us breathing in and out together and watching the storm unfold. Can you hear us?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hear you amidst the storm.....steady..... "between the mundane and the magical, between that which is tame and domesticated and that which is tempestuous, unfettered and seemingly shambolic"....yes, I hear you crystal clear...as a shimmering beacon.

Feithline said...

Gods, this is so evocatively descriptive, I felt like I was right there with you.

Laura Hegfield said...

I seem to have developed tendonitis or some kind of over use injury in my left wrist and hand...making typing painful for me...so I might not be blogging as much for a while... this includes commenting on your amazingly inspiring blog. (this is kind of a form message I've typed and am copying and pasting at all my customary blog hangouts. But I can still read your posts- I will be present to you in a quiet way-reading and viewing your words and images, and leaving a simple ☺
to let you know I have dropped by and am thinking about you.

Gentle steps,
Laura

Wren said...

Yes, the edges are always the most interesting.

Deborah Carr said...

I love this phrase...
"There is a whole vast community of us on this shoreline today, all of us breathing in and out together and watching the storm unfold. Can you hear us?"

It brings to mind that we are all breathlessly waiting for something more.