Spring as Liminal Space

I have always loved Spring in Atlanta, even with the pollen. As soon as there are a few days of warmth in February, I start looking for the daffodils to start poking their heads out of the pine straw. My friends that have moved further north are still experiencing snow and cold. I know we’re the lucky ones. In the South, we know Spring is here.

Something about the consistency of this process every year brings comfort and hope of renewal and growth for my own life. It feels like a good time to make plans. In the past, the signs of Spring started me thinking about Summer vacations, signing my daughter up for summer dance or art camps. We could feel that the school year would soon be over, and I knew it was time to make decisions about the coming school year. Programs were signing up students for Fall, and, God forbid, you should wait too late and miss out.

One of the earliest flowering trees is the redbud. From a few feet away, the tree looks like the branches are turning purple. For the past few years, I’ve taken pictures of this progression from fuzz, to flowered limbs, to tiny heart-shaped leaves of dark maroon. The leaves grow in size. By the time Summer arrives and the weather is hot, they will be beautiful chartreuse hearts.

I’m naturally a “think ahead” planner sort of person, so this constant imagining of what will be needed seemed natural, even necessary. After all, it was also a big part of what I did for a living, making project plans and monitoring what needed adjustment. Living that way gave me a feeling of being able to shape my life as I wanted it to be.

This Spring, a progression of colorful flowers bloom every week in the park, and gorgeous sunny days are relief from staying inside so much this Winter. Within a week, both my daughter and I will be fully vaccinated, and our world will expand even further to include friends we’ve only seen via Zoom or at a distance. We’ve made a few plans, a weekend in the mountains, and I plan to visit my good friend in Wisconsin this summer. As we did six months or so ago, we are rearranging the furniture just to look at something differently. We’re slowly going through the accumulation of stuff in the storage room, hoping to lighten the load of things tethering us to to the past.

The pandemic has me thinking about another aspect of Spring. With warmer weather comes the clash of cool air with warm, creating storms. They roll into Atlanta from the West and, because of my daughter’s anxiety about tornadoes, we pay close attention to the weather forecasts, preparing for the worst. Sometimes we can’t even clearly see just across the street. Those moments of waiting to see where the storm’s path will go are a liminal space of unknown.

This second Spring of Covid feels to me more like this liminal space of storms than the exuberant flowering of possibility. It sometimes seems that a new normal is right around the corner. But the past few years have taught me how quickly conditions can change. I’ve learned to seek out more information, wait a few minutes, look for the signs of how things might unfold. Sometimes, I just have to wait, with nothing to do, until it’s clear how things will turn out. Even when I think I know.

My pod during the pandemic has been my daughter, our cat Lynxy, and me. Like many people have reported, sharing space and finding the balance of time alone and together has been a challenge.  We have learned that life together is smoother when we say out loud what we need in each moment. Even Lynxy has a repertoire of sounds and movements to indicate what he wants us to do.  

So much togetherness and lack of distraction provided some clarity about my daughter’s mental health and led to a diagnosis of Bipolar 2 in addition to ADHD. Not having to go on campus for classes also made it easier for her to adjust her life to having inappropriate tachycardia syndrome. Meanwhile, I finished up my thesis and graduated from seminary, and have had to find new and creative ways to spend my time and not over-focus on my daughter. Some days it even works. We found it necessary to adjust the rhythm of the day based on what unfolded.

We are in a liminal space between storms right now. My daughter has registered for summer online classes, knowing that in-person may resume in the Fall, but that has yet to be announced. I wait to find out if some part-time work will continue past Spring. But I’m feeling the need to go easy on the planning ahead. I ease forward, watching for the next part of the path to be slowly revealed. For right now, I need to focus on the three feet around me that I can clearly see right here and now. It is less painful to make adjustments that may be required when I’m not charging ahead full force.

There are other benefits of living life more slowly. As I go for walks, I am more aware of how the trees, the turtles, and the ducks on the pond change every day. Will this slower pace and noticing provide resilience when the inevitable storms of change roll through my life? Can I hold space for flowering and growth along with the unknowing of the rain and storms? Perhaps even enjoy them both?

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . .

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 (NSRV)

A season for planning farther ahead may come again. But for now, I’m in a liminal time of living in the moment. Enjoying what is and trying not to get too attached, knowing change will come.

Rain Photo by Cristi Goia on Unsplash

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