to the damp beginning of day.
Forget before and after.
to be spelled differently.
It will feel like falling.
It has waiting attached.
- Emma Mellon, from "What Have You Lost?", ed. by Naomi Shihab Nye
The first of the year, first of the month, the first waking hour of the day—these are culturally shared new beginnings where we observe change and make change.
Yet every minute is a threshold into something new. As we tumble forward through our lives, we are continually altering and being altered. Each breath refreshes the oxygen in the blood and expels carbon dioxide. Cells respond in nanoseconds to what we need to be safe. New ideas arrive. Consciousness shifts intensity and hue many times a day. While we appear solid and steady, we are walking and talking versions of Busch’s “edge habitats (Life on the Edge (NY Times, 12/27/13).” In our constantly changing selves, spirit, chemistry, electricity, flesh, bone and blood do an endless, intricate dance with each other and with the environment.
How would our perception of ourselves change if we thought of ourselves as evolving from minute to minute? How would our experience in the world change?
The beginning of a new calendar year is a vivid example of transitional space. I bring home The 2014 Collection of Nights and Days. I take down the old calendar and hang up the new. Experience meets possibility. What was known gives way to unknown.
Liminal time calls for questions and wondering. Am I willing to exchange believing that I know what’s going to happen for being curious, mindful and present? Am I willing to allow change and development that I haven’t thought of to proceed?
Akiko Busch’s article, Life on the Edge (NY Times, 12/27/13) addressed the meeting of the old and new years using an ecological metaphor.
He described the ecotone, the space where two habitats merge, like pond and woods, woods and lawn, lawn and garden. He calls it the “edge habitat, where everything—soil content, vegetation, moisture, humidity, light, pollination—changes.” It’s a charged and vital place. Unusual encounters can occur. The balance of things changes.
Busch’s ideas about two years meeting reminded me of Jung’s psychological concept of liminality. Liminal, from the Latin word “limin”, means threshold. The place of being between. Not who we were and not who we will become. There’s more “I don’t know” than “I’m sure of this,” and more awareness that anything can happen. Rules may bend and possibilities multiply, marked by spontaneity and feeling. Am I open to more vitality, more vulnerability, more risk?