Everything is fading in that pleasantly subtle violent way, death of summer obscured in bursts of colours which cannot be named. Grey-blue mist rising from the lakes beside which no evil can dwell surrounds us with mystery beyond which only hides the world in which we dream.
In a false way I loom larger, lording over not as brutish but as giant the cup and spoon and pot. Something shifts when I think I have noticed, moving out of place to remind me what I do not remember. Only at such times am I again myself, no longer anything except that which cannot die by quiet. –2002
This is not the first time I’ve left Seattle. In 2002 I traveled east as my then-lover traveled south, he to university, I first to the basement of my father in a tiny, post-coal town in Ohio, then to Portland Maine for a short, very hard winter. I’ve journal entries from the time just before I left, prose attempts to get at the strange in-between sense one has at the point after deciding to leave a place but before actually doing so.
I returned, and for another 2 years lived in Seattle. On the summer solstice of 2004, I flew to France for 3 months, and just before this time I gave up the place where I’d lived to couch-surf with a friend in order to save money. Though I felt that same liminality even stronger this time, I wrote surprisingly little regarding it and instead wrote about the discovery of the will, something I’ve begun to understand happens near the saturn-return of most lives.
To say that self is but an illusion is not to dismiss it; rather, it is to put it into the world where we can truly celebrate it for what it is, a dream no different from the others with which we colour our existence with the hues of story and song.
Thus, to know the self is to gain the self as a tool, to use it as a canvas or a masque, to present to the world an incarnate dream upon which others might build. To take up a self is to take up an art, to delve and delight in glamour and beauty, to act for the world a part of one’s own choosing, a subtle magic and a glorious feat.
And most fascinating, the celebration of life begins in forests of dream in which each together unveil ourselves to find we are but mirrors of the world, that we are all each other. –2004
And then–again. Back in the same house in the same room overlooking the same mountains and lake, attempting to make sense of all I’d seen of the world (and the terrifying reality that it was as brutally fascinating as I’d suspected). This wasn’t easy. Seattle was in the midst of another harrowing, a strange, fanatical rush of people to buy houses elsewhere, the first recent wave of destruction of old buildings, and the same sudden embrace of new technology the rest of America endured in the middle of the first decade of this century.
When I’d returned, something had changed. The liminality I’d experienced before I left seemed to remain upon my return, or, more so, a new state of in-between had opened within me, and I could never quite find myself fully…here.
Yet one more time, I left Seattle, to Vancouver BC. Something felt relieving about this move, less dream-soaked, more practical. My then-lover had gotten a full scholarship to a master’s program at UBC, and I’d get health care for the first time in my adult life, get a new ACL torn in a work-accident. That liminality was strange, because I’d left Seattle so often by then it seemed rather casual. And a darkness had settled over my understanding of the world, years of struggle against societal change which left me alienated from everything but my memories of dreams.
More often than not, the pictures refuse to fade into the magic of memory. The do fade from sight but, instead of the solemn trek to and into the sea, they linger awhile, hesitant to walk into the breaking waves.
By then my attention has turned elsewhere, but I cannot now look at this new thing: they have caught my eye and held it, by the corner, so that I cannot truly deny I’m going blind. –2009
And back. Nothing could ever quite pull me back into the world. I felt forever in-between, trapped within the liminal without egress. I often thought I was going a bit insane, feeling myself never at home, viewing the world from that same mist I wrote of in the excerpt with which I started this piece.
In many pagan, magical, and indigenous traditions, liminality is an entry point to the Other. The shore is a liminal space, just as the gloaming (the time between sunset and twilight) is liminal, and Beltaine and Samhain. In the liminal, the interstices, the in-between, the world is both one thing and another, and we are caught within it. Colors bleed to grey, the sea turns to land, the earth tilts from life to death.
All of life had become this moment for me. Trapped between sleeping and waking, the place of the physical and the place of dreams. Echoes of noises I did not quite hear, light from stars I could not see.
From what I’ve read of anthropologist’s studies of “shamanic calls,” and from the lives of mystics and unhappy poets, I think I recognize this phenomena. I am no shaman nor saint nor mystic, nor is my poetry very good, but the similarity of experience is not easily mistaken in myself. The longer one attempts to avert ones eyes from what one has seen, the more difficult it is not to focus on it in the mind’s eye, and so one sets within oneself a cycle of frustration, a perpetual dissatisfaction, a suspended binary, an unresolved polarity: liminality.
And here I am again, in another liminal space, another border. Except–it’s not quite the same. In it, in the decisions I’ve made these last 6 months, some difference has resolved itself into a third option, a completed dialectic. In the spaces in-between, one need not choose between here or There–one can stand in both and actually be in both while existing in a third space, that specific space in between.
On the shore, one need not be either on the sea or on land. The shore is both and a third place. In the darkening of the day, it is neither light nor dark, it is both, it is the gloaming. And I’d extend this with a suggestion, one that may prove useful to anyone who experiences deja vu in a similar way.
Setting aside the scientific conjecture of the experience, a deja vu seems to be the future bending itself back into the past to be experienced in the present. It is rarely for me the sense of having “seen it before;” rather, it is like having remembered a dream in the past from the future of the current moment: all-is-always-now.
It takes practice, but I’ve found that I can look around in those moments, pull myself out of apparently looping script and see something else. A deja vu, like the shoreline, like the time before you leave somewhere but find your mind already there, may be a liminality.
Then again, it may not be. Ambiguity is also liminal.
Still. I am here. I am elsewhere. I am in-between.
And I am absurdly happy.