Liminal: The space between places. Not inside, not outside. Like getting to sleep and thinking I am awake ~ yet dreaming already. The room is no longer the room; no longer am I alone. Or awakening, seeing the familiar trappings of the bedroom, yet feeling the traces of the dream thoroughly in waking life and as real as a set of pajamas. Liminal space is the twilight of dreams in which one thing is seen in a different light.
So here are some definitions of Liminal I have gathered around me to help describe this fleeting phenomenon, the phenomenon of fleetingness itself:
- Of or pertaining to a threshold or entrance
- Barely perceptible
- Of or relating to a transitional or the beginning stage of a process, see “inceptive; inchoate, or marginal”
- Of or relating to a sensory threshold
- an intermediate state, phase, or condition: In between; transitional, e.g., “in the liminal state between life and death.” (Deborah Jowett)
So now I have a dog, approaching fifteen years old and unlikely to make it. She is frail and requires help to get up and down the two steps of the house. She is incontinent. She is well beyond every forecast life expectancy given when she was diagnosed with Seizures (2001), Cushing’s (2011) and now Addison’s Disease (2013). She has trouble standing up. Doorways terrify her; she struggles between the desire to go out or come in and the fear of falling and not being able to get up. A doormat can and does trip her, and sometimes when the doormat bends back I cannot get the door open fast enough for her weakening systems. Today was going to be the day to put her down, but our vet is out of town.
Last night I had a dream – one of those deep, unreal, convincing dreams.:
I am at my grandmother’s house. Everyone is in the back living room and there is someone knocking at the den door. I call out that I am coming, As I get there, it is my father (who died in 1999, the year Libby was born). He is there with another relative, not my mother, more like a cousin, younger than he. I can’t open the door because of the mat. I tell them to stand back, I have to close it and straighten out the mat before I can open it again.
A friend of mine who lost his father earlier this year was comforted by the words of a minister: “All deaths are linked.” So his father’s death was linked to his wife’s losses. So Libby’s pending death is linked to the loss of my father, my mother, other pets, friends, and acquaintances. It is linked to my own death, whenever that should be. And there is something about this doorway, in that house where no one would still be alive, that is like the space I am in now about to say goodbye to a wonderful friend and family member.
So, associations in this dream: Grandmother’s house: this is my maternal grandmother’s house where we gathered twice a week for dinner. Very festive, very family oriented. Yet for thirty years, the only time any of the living from that time gather is for a funeral, perhaps a wedding. That will change this summer as an aunt and uncle have planned a gathering. Father: My father’s illness and death was huge in the many changes in my life, sparking in me a fear of my own mortality and that of others. While there has been other losses, none were as close as this. I coped by going to many baseball games that year, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, New York, Philly, Detroit. Something in baseball attracted me, seeming universal (there are sooooo many more spiritual baseball movies than any other sport). Think, Field of Dreams, the original Angels in the Outfield, The Natural, or Bull Durham. And this year I have season tickets for the first time. Ever.
Mat. Associations to mat: Mat is where one stands in liminal space. “Wipe your feet, for you stand on Holy ground.” (Misquoting of Exodus 3:5). Also “Mati” for death. Mat as in matted hair of my dog. Mat as in material, matter, something of substance and tangible, as opposed to the intangible or liminal.
So, what does the dream ask of me? What does it mean, what does it want me to do? Part of my reply is that if I could clearly answer that I would hardly need to dream at all. If I knew the answer to that I would not need to write at all or to discuss my dreams with others. Yet the dream as an act of comparison is pretty clear: There is a portal. There is a ‘here’ and a ‘there.’ And what we see in the ‘here’ is linked to the ‘there,’ both in terms of time (such as the days in which family was ‘there’ as opposed to here) and space (in terms of this side or that side of the doorway), and also in something that is beyond time and space, neither here nor there. Dreams, especially dreams like this one, point me to the infinite, that which is beyond any door I know. Beyond this space. Twilight. Liminal.
Updated July 9, 2014:
The staff from Belle Mead Animal Hospital were amazing, and Libby seemed so ready to let go of her pain and struggle. The dog who is so full of energy and a will to live now slips into her own dreams, then into the dreams beyond.
My wife, Tricia, is actually staying with our other dog Samantha to work from home today. I plan to bring Sam for a half day to my workplace and we will see how that goes. Thanks for your support.
Had a dream last night, 7/8/14, first after Libby . . .
As for Libby, she starts another program, another assignment, another life. And how grateful are all of us that loved her for the love she brought to us!