There are always some of us living in whispers, tiptoeing through places both as transient as the bus station and insubstantial as the spring spiderweb.
Liminal space: where our lives stretch taut between past and future; the charged moment; the pregnant pause.
This week, UU ministers and congregations are nearing the end of the search process. Whittling down. Narrowing toward decisions.
Our family is among these, and like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, our children give voice to the questions. (In childhood, fun and wonder occur on an annual cycle, and so our sons are constantly planning for the next go round. “Next year, can we . . .?” )
These entreaties are as predictable as the slam of the screen door in summer, and I’ve never had cause to give them more than a passing thought.
Yes, of course we will go to the pumpkin patch. Yes, of course we can pick apples. Yes, we will have Thanksgiving with–
The bland assurances die in my throat. (I have . . . no idea, friends.)
Eventually, I take a breath, and say with firm cheer that we will DEFINITELY be somewhere, doing something.
Which is apparently as reassuring to them as it is to me. The boys teeter for a moment between the floor-gripping horror of childhood’s early years and the skeptical derision of its middle ones, and then they request specifics. And so we begin again with the litany of possibility, repeated and embellished from day to day.
Yes, I think they have pumpkins in Smithville. Indeed, there are tacos in Springfield.
I promise that Santa will find us on Christmas, and yes, I am positive that we can find someone to make you the dragon fortress cookie for your birthday. (Note to self: am I positive? Will there still be birthday cookies?)
And remember: they have [insert whatever fairy tale feature makes each place a little more delectable . . and a little more unreal].
And so, the boys return again to the maps. Pointing with fingers that are no longer quite so tiny, at the ponds and coastlines and contours that may see these small, curious boy-hands into teenagerhood.
Behind them, out the window, the last stand of hardwood forest in a neighborhood now standing atop it. Beyond that, hills and limestone and prairie, a land of green plains moving westward, flattening as the sky opens wide above them.
These are strange days. A bit fraught. A bit magical. The lobster holds court with the western meadowlark, and cathedral spires rise with the peal of bells over our beloved prairie.
And everywhere around us, the larger country of the unknown; the place in which a map is always yearned for, and for which none shall ever be created.
This unknowing is, I suspect, what drives us mad about liminal space. We feel rootless. Groundless. Unable to build.
But that isn’t entirely true.
Yesterday, in a moving Easter liturgy, Kendyl Gibbons pointed out that the blunt obviousness of salvation by literal, organic presence “was never the point.” The point, instead? That enduring vision is what makes a way out of no way.
My friends, we can, indeed, build in this space. It’s just that we can’t anchor here.
We are building visions, and containing possibilities too grand to exist on the everyday scale. There is no room in the realities we inhabit for the lobster and the meadowlark to live together. There will be no Italian marble on the prairie, no waving wheat in Waterbury.
We choose, in the end, the path less taken (or the one more familiar, come to that) because in the real world, eventually, we must. But not yet. Not here. Here, for an eternity both precious and painful, we can build it all.
And so, we are dreaming, together.
Next comes the choosing. The dawning. The litany, made real.
But for now, there is just this moment, made sacred by our hopes.
For now, let us, each and all, dream.