Liminality and the Lake

Last week I posted about liminality, defined as a space between or on/in a sensory threshold. A transitional state. You can read more about it here.

When I traveled to my home state in October 2014, I had not visited Michigan for quite some time, and it was a very intense, emotional  trip for me. Although I’d spent a lot of time with my parents out west, I hadn’t been to see them on the land where I grew up.

There is a way that I could think of that visit as a liminal space because it was the threshold that led into my father’s illness and eventual death in May 2015. It was the last time I saw my father before his illnesses, although he might have already been sick at the time–and nobody realized it. Our relationship began to change after this trip.

I found a photo from that visit that I find to be symbolic of liminality: the dock at my parents’ home. The dock is a passageway between land and water. If you walk off the dock into the water, you had better know how to swim or be wearing a life jacket.

I wasn’t prepared for walking off the dock that fall, but luckily I had had swimming lessons as a kid.

By the way, that wire across the top of the photo? I thought about cropping it out, but it seems important somehow.

Have you found any liminal spaces?


Filed under #writerlife, Blogging, Family history, Liminality, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

37 responses to “Liminality and the Lake

  1. Your article title reminds me of a similar word. I used to live near Limnological Research at MSU.Limnology = “the study of the biological, chemical, and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water.”
    Liminal = “of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.” You might have fun with these two words.

    • Wow. That’s about all I can say. I am kind of blown away by this. You know my focus on lakes in my poetry. Hmm. Yes, I might have fun with them! Thanks, WJ!

  2. As I work on my current WIP, I’m definitely encountering some liminal space.

  3. Great post, Luanne. One of my favorite liminal spaces is from a recent trip I took. The Danube River between Croatia and Serbia, river cruising through a gorge between the Carpathian and Balkan Mountains. In a larger scale, this part of my trip was liminal because the Eastern European countries I was visiting were at the crosswords to Asia. Very liminal, all of it.
    Regarding your photo: Yes, the wire needed to stay in the picture, as to me it seemed to symbolize a line between land and water, the living and those no longer here.

    • Elaine, I love hearing that you found liminality in Eastern Europe. I think years ago I sensed this, without knowing the language for it which limits the comprehension really, but then I forgot what Eastern Europe really is.
      I agree with you about the wire. And I love the idea of it being both the line between land and water and the line between the living and those not. xo

  4. A trip down Vancouver Island past all the old haunts was full of those places for me. I was near tears driving past some places, angry at others, and nostalgic about many others. I hadn’t done that drive in many, many years, and wasn’t prepared for all the memories some of these places triggered.

    • Yes, you are talking about exactly what Merril is saying: about our visits to our memories being liminal. I really love this. The idea of that space where our present coincides with our past being liminal. And Vancouver Island is so beautiful, Anneli.

      • Yes, it is beautiful, but some of those pretty places trigger unhappy times. Lots of happy places too, but by the time we get to retirement age, we can’t help but have a few of each kind of memory. I was really surprised at how strong those feelings were that came out just from driving past certain places.

  5. The photo made me think of On Golden Pond. I like the wire.
    I hadn’t thought of liminal spaces like this before, but in a way, I suppose when we revisit some place from our past, it’s a liminal space because we’re flooded by memories of the past while existing in the present. Sometimes they blur. (Can you tell I also like time travel stories? 🙂 )

  6. Helping birth lambs and goat kids–when the tiny nose and two front hooves push out–before you know it the dumbstruck little animal is plopped on the ground still its protective bag. There’s that few seconds when no one knows what’s really going to happen. Scary and then beautiful (most of the time).

  7. Perhaps in dreams

  8. I hadn’t found any, but you found one for me 😉

  9. My trip back to California in 2013, ten years after I left, revisiting my old home where I raised my three children. When we moved there, I thought we were going to stay until my daughter, then 8, graduated from high school but it was not to be when my marriage ended two years later. There was no dock but I, like you Luanne, had learnt to swim as a child. Just as well eh? I think that wire needs to stay just where it is, it is a harsh line across an otherwise serene photograph. Life as we know it, at an unrecognised moment, ends forever, but we search still for that serenity. Thinking of you this Father’s Day weekend my friend…sending a special hug… <3 xoxo

  10. There are so many liminal spaces – places where magic just might happen and sometimes does – we don’t always see them until afterwards, but I try as hard as I can to pay attention to the threshold…

  11. I love this post, Luanne. I’ll have to reflect on my liminal spaces. Powerful pondering. Thanks.

    • I have a feeling that liminal spaces are ripe for you for reflection. With the topic of your book and also of many of your blog posts, it seems to fit.

  12. You’ve got me thinking about liminal spaces since reading your post and I’ll have to check your board on Pinterest. I love the photo you have here. I can see myself on that dock, one foot raised, hovering between staying or going, doing or nothing.

  13. Luanne, this is such a poignant post and beautifully written. Thanks.

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