Liminal encounters

Edges are places of magic. The point where one thing stops and another begins, or the place of uncertainty that is neither quite one thing nor the other. Shores and wetlands are physical exemplars of the idea. The clear edge of where one body meets another, and the liminal emotionality of that meeting.

To be able to find the edges and liminal places, we have to be able to clearly recognise that one thing is distinct and separate from another, even if they blur when they meet. We must know the land and the sea to be able to see the luminal quality of the shore.

The need to divide and label seems to be a key part of how humans make sense of the world. We break things down into subcategories and ever finer delineations. It’s not enough to be a Druid. Reconstruction or romantic? Urban or feral? Contemplative or ritualistic? As though these are all firm boundaries and a Druid is a specific thing, a member of a discreet subcategory. In practice I find that the kind of Druid I am depends a lot on factors like where I am, who I’m with, what’s expected of me, the weather and my mood at the time.

If someone asks me to write a polytheistic poem for them, I will find the means within myself to do that. In the same week someone else could just as easily take some of my essays to put in a humanist/atheist collection (this has happened). I find it hard to wear any belief orientated labels. There are days when the language of deity makes sense to me, and days when it doesn’t. There are days when wearing a warm waterproof coat makes sense to me and days when it doesn’t, and I don’t think that comparison is unfair.

The sea is always itself, but the sea on a gentle summer’s day is not the same as the sea beset by a winter storm. The land is always the land, but in a mild growing season it looks and feels very different to how it is when gripped by slippery ice. Nothing exists in isolation. Nothing is entirely separate from the whole, yet all things are most easily understood when considered in terms of what makes them separate.

The same and not the same. Connected and separate. One great unity, distinct entities. There’s a paradox here that is essential and intrinsic to everything. I am not water, and yet without water, I would be nothing. A dry dust on the wind and no more. To know something is to go beyond what seems fixed and certain. To know the land in all seasons and all weathers, to know it wet, and frozen solid, to know it putting forth life, and decaying away. In the reconciliation of apparent opposites, there is often a new kind of truth.

“Know thyself”.  What is fixed and what is transient, what is of the season and of this week’s weather. Sometimes we need to define a thing to see where its edges are, and sometimes it is the experience of edges rubbing together that tells us about the limits. Skin again skin. Sea against shore.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Liminal encounters

  • Tadhg

    Thankyou for sharing that. I am fascinated by the liminal – the ‘gap’ between here and the other (or Other). The ancient celts used to call those liminal places, ‘thin places’ or caol áit [kweel awtch]. Boundaries where things happen! Thanks for sharing.

  • inanna

    also somewhat obsessed with liminal, marginal spaces here. do you know “becoming animal” by david abrams? it’s a whole love letter to the edges of the body; body in nature and body in contact. it speaks to me of my personal yoga practice more than any yoga class, workshop, training or book has ever done. and it’s a gorgeous piece of work, rich and lush. read read!

  • Faythe.

    It is always such a pleasure to read your posts. Thank you!

  • contemplativeinquiry

    I’ve just finished reading ‘Not I, Not other than I’ about Russel Wiliams. His spiritual awakening came through 3 years of working with horses, observing & working with them with a consistently spacious & loving attention, so that boundaries were no longer what they had seemed. Your post reminds me of this. I also resonate with your sense of shores and wetlands as potent liminal spaces.

  • sophiaschildren

    I so appreciate this, and the liminal, the edges, the thin spaces and places. This was lovely to read this morning. Thank you.

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