Liminal Spaces

My subconscious is a weird place. People assume it’s because I write about *gasp* sex, and love, but by this point, I’ve come to take that for granted. I think about sex. Most people do. Let’s move on to something more interesting, like liminal spaces.

Liminal comes from the Latin word limens, meaning threshold. A liminal space is a threshold. A doorway. A landing. A place in time or space that is “in between” (I’m kind of obsessed with in between places and states). When you write day after day, week after week, year after year, you start to notice things about your writing, words you over use (my characters say “just” and “of course” all the time, until I go through and cut dozens). Situations, scenarios, character traits, themes all get used again and again, as we drag something from our subconscious into the light and have a look at it. I’m not sure why, but liminal spaces come up again and again in my books. So many of my characters interact on front porches and stoops, in elevators, on their way to and from something.

Think of Hunter on Lacey’s front porch, the different guises he wore, Rachel at Ben’s apartment door as she tried to find a new person to be on Sunday mornings, or Adam showing up at the door to Marissa’s apartment, again and again and again. In my upcoming book The List, the hero and heroine meet on a ledge, a space that looks like a boundary until one of them crosses it and transforms it into a liminal space. That’s what happens in liminal spaces: you made decisions there, before you cross the boundary into the space, into someone’s life, or into a new version of yourself. Typically, the main event in a story or scene happens in a defined space: a room or a building or a situation, but I think interesting things happen in those transition spaces, too.

Another thing I’m obsessed with is hall tables. This is a practical problem, rather than a theoretical one with a Latin origin, although I’m sure the ancients also puzzled over the problem of where to put your stuff when you walk in the door. Our garage opens into the laundry room, which isn’t very big. Mr. C leaves his wallet and keys on the washing machine because it’s the first available flat surface inside the house, but the washer spins things behind, prompting epic, rabid searches for lost items. My spot is in the kitchen, on the desk we don’t use as a desk. It holds my purse, tote, books, phone and iPad charger, library books, the boy’s piggy bank I raid for quarters for the parking meters downtown, Kleenex, anything else that’s either recently come into the house or needs to leave the house.

I guess it’s a liminal space for my possessions, as well as a staging area for comings and goings. Time can be a liminal space; Friday night is pizza and a movie night at our house  to mark the transition from week days to week ends, from an outward focus on work and the world to an inward focus on family and ourselves. Liminal times can often be stressful, but there’s great power in them. As the weekend draws near, I hope you find some quiet time no matter where you are: arrived, leaving, or somewhere in between.

2 comments on “Liminal Spaces

  1. One of my favorite poems, by A.A. Milne:

    Halfway Down

    Halfway down the stairs
    is a stair
    where i sit.
    there isn’t any
    other stair
    quite like
    it.
    i’m not at the bottom,
    i’m not at the top;
    so this is the stair
    where
    I always
    stop.

    Halfway up the stairs
    Isn’t up
    And it isn’t down.
    It isn’t in the nursery,
    It isn’t in town.
    And all sorts of funny thoughts
    Run round my head.
    It isn’t really
    Anywhere!
    It’s somewhere else
    Instead!

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