Time and again, my camera leads me to the threshold of discovery, that shimmery place where boundaries dissolve and new worlds reveal themselves to the willing traveler. Today’s photo challenge, liminal, is new to my vocabulary. I explored its depths and breadth by reading, took notes, and then translated my findings into words and pictures that make sense to me.
Liminal comes to us from the Latin word limen. In the literal and figurative sense, it refers to some kind of boundary or threshold. And as you know, we encounter lots of jumping-off, stepping-over, and slipping-through, liminal moments in our lifetimes.
Sometimes we find ourselves drifting in a place that’s neither Here nor There, perhaps waiting on some unseen hand to lift the misty veil of uncertainty. So it is with many things, the creative process among them. It’s a shallow place, with dangerous undercurrents. Our inner critic calls out from the rocks, sings to us the siren songs of despair and disillusion. If we’re the impatient optimistic sort, this quickly leads us to the liminal point where we haul in the anchor and set sail for the Uncharted Place where anything is possible.
Forest openings and locked gates, prison towers and poisoned apples…the hero’s journey is fraught with choices. Real and imagined dangers lurk around every corner. Read another way, it’s these liminal moments that shake us awake at dawn and–assuming there’s a fairy tale ending–lead us from Once Upon a Time to Happily-ever-after.
Liminal points can also be literal. Stucco archways that frame the ocean, mosaic tiles that arrest your eye, and the staircase that meanders down a flowery path before finding its sandy terminus at the water’s edge…all liminal.
A liminal space invite you to step over the threshold, to knock on the door between Here and There. Maybe it’s inside, maybe it’s outside. It all depends on where you’re standing when the door swings open.
Liminal things: India ink, spilling from the nib of a storyteller’s pen; plumeria buds, unfurling into snowy white pinwheels with yellow centers; and water that bubbles and bursts, escape and return to their oyster shell existence.
Liminal events are the portals of transformation, the handmaidens of sacred rituals.
Always and Never, Everywhere and Nowhere…liminal points open up for interpretation the concepts of time and space. Perspectives shift. Feelings are transient. We listen for the space between the notes, and the things we once took for granted are now recognized as ephemeral.
Camouflaged as it is by dappled shade, this leaf suggests the liminal qualities of life itself…the interplay of shadow and light, and the interstices between being and not-being. Whoa, that’s deep.
Liminal. I rather like this word, don’t you? It’s mental yoga for people like me, who do some of their best thinking behind the camera lens. I’ve only just brushed the surface, so please, weigh in with your own definitions and examples!
For previous photography challenge entries, click here.
On a more personal note: During my brother’s illness, I didn’t give much thought to my promise to do a write-up about Father Serra’s canonization ceremony. It got reprioritized again, in that liminal time after Roger’s passing. But while it’s more succinct than I originally envisioned, it’s ready now. I’ll post it after the weekend.