It is late Autumn. Trees, exhausted by heat and the turbulent storms of summer, withdraw their life force. Their leaves, sere and brown, clog the gutters and scurry across the grass, pursued by a restless breeze. The equinox has passed and the sun hastens on its journey north. There is a sense of contraction, a shutting down in order to replenish, over the long days of the approaching winter. As always, and often without realising, we inhabit a liminal space.
The seasons change, day and night pass in quick succession, the moon waxes and wanes, the tides ebb and flow – and all the while we live the illusion of continuity. At this time of year, perhaps we mark the changing of the seasons by reorganising our wardrobes, a ritual of necessity, bereft of deeper meaning. We put away the fan and retrieve the heater from its summer exile, prolong our enjoyment of salads while planning soups and casseroles – and even as we carry out these preparations, we are preoccupied with the minutiae of everyday life.
Liminality implies danger and the realm of the unknown. To inhabit the edge of experience reminds us of the ephemeral quality of our own, brief lives. It forbids us to cling to the familiar or maintain the delusion of changelessness.
For the anthropologist, liminality is ambiguity – the disorientation occurring in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status. Anonymous and humble, they have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete.
Perhaps it is the demand that we enter the transitory phases of life with humility that challenges us. Perhaps it is the knowledge that we will be called into this space daily, even hourly, in a mindful way, to wait with empty hands. Yet, if we turn away from the experience – the wonder – of impermanence, we miss the vividness of existence. The choice is always presenting itself. Daily. Momentarily.
These are my reflections on this golden, autumn day.
May we live more mindfully,
aware that we stand
on holy ground,
Where all we see
and all we are