Wednesday, November 5, 2014


It is not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear...It's like being between trapezes.  It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There is nothing to hold on to.
          --Margaret Ferguson                                                        

Flying trepeese
Fotokannan at Malayalam Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The place in between
that space sandwiched
betwixt and  between
our memories and realities
our now and next
our was and wanted
our seen and unseen
our predicted and actual
our remembered and forgotten.

There is that place
where we hang
in the balance
for a  hand
or a foothold
riding on a gust
of liminality
searching our current boundaries
for a breach
for a hole in the fence
for a solidity in the vague margin
that will allow us to reach
the next place.

There is that space
where we float
just above
just below
our own reality
our own intentions
searching the expanse
for the lines
that will define
our uncertainties
compass our doubts
name the space
and create
our new personal place.

How do we live in those uncertain, unnameable places in between?

In An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, Colin enters the inbetween via a road trip-- his friend's antidote to Colin's breakup with Katherine, the most recent of  several former girlfriends of the same name. Colin views that wandering space that we all visit as one of creation-- an opportunity to reinvent himself.

Soon Colin drove past the Hardee's and out onto the interstate heading north.  As the staggered lines rushed past him he thought about the space between what we remember and what happened, the space between what we predict and what will happen.  And in that space, Colin thought there was room enough to make himself into something other than a prodigy, to remake his story better and different--room enough to be reborn again and again.

Sometimes the space between is where we, like Colin, ascend to our better selves.

Often, it is unknowable and un-snatchable, as the space widens and separates us from ourselves.

Jill Jupen captures this elusiveness in her poem The Space Between included in Rattle #43 Spring 2014.

...I speak words
 that sound foreign
even to me:
said too early
or perhaps too late...,

Emotional  and relational situations like Colin's breakup  can send us reeling into unknown inbetween spaces. 

 Physical circumstances can also displace us, sending us into an undefined place.

In No Place by Todd Strasser, Dan find himself between home, as his parent lose their jobs and his middle-class family descends  to homelessness.

In this new space, he is confronted by perspectives, choices, and social justice issues which he had never before considered.

Sometimes  we make a conscious choice to enter the "big air" space -- to hang between the known safe and the desired goal.  Like flying between trapezes referenced in the opening quote, walking the high wire also places us in that space.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers  by Mordicai Gerstein tells the true story of French aerialist, Philippe Petit walking between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.
He looked not at the towers but the space between them
and thought what a wonderful place to stretch a rope;
a wire on which to walk. Once the idea came to him
he  knew he had to do it...

As we read his story, we can't help but think about the awful space created when those same towers were destroyed in 2001.  And we celebrate, as just days ago the new World Trade Center Tower opened for business.

Finally, as we consider these various spaces in which we have nothing to hold onto, in which we hang in the air, floating in limbo-- it is important to recognize that these spaces exist also as we write.

We seek to explore our ideas and meanings, before too quickly coming to conclusions, prior to settling into a space of certainty.  

 In Critical Passages: Teaching the Transition to College Composition, the authors adopt Victor Turner's definition of liminality and design writing experiences  using artwork as a way to foster this liminality:

In his 1969 work The Ritual Process, the anthropologist Victor Turner helped spread "liminality" as a concept for explaining the experience of those who participate in rites of passage.  For Turner, liminality denotes a period in which participants are "neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial." the classroom, the goal of the liminal phase is to spend time creating a set of  potential provisional connections (among the details of the artwork), the evoking tensions that arise begin to speculate playfully,,, write a list of questions...

In other words, as we compose ( and as we live)  we remain, at least initially, in a space in between, allowing multiple perspectives and possibilities to freely enter that space.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

List those inbetween spaces and places in your personal life, your professional life, your love life, your spiritual life, or other aspects.

Write questions about these spaces, as well as alternative, oppositional, and speculative details, definitions, and descriptions of your limbo spaces.

Write a personal narrative, essay or poem about the inbetween places in your life and your world.

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