Crossing The Threshold

I’m a dweller on the threshold, And I’m waiting at the door, And I’m standing in the darkness, I don’t want to wait no more…I will walk out of the darkness. And I’ll walk into the light. I will sing the song of ages, And the dawn will end the night.”

Van Morrison, from Dweller on the Threshold
Crossing the Threshold
Star Island

The entire world is standing on the threshold…the narrow place between the world as we knew it just a few months ago and the world as it is becoming.  We watch as other states rush to open and we wonder when or even if we can safely return to activities we once took for granted.  So many questions.

On St. Patrick’s Day, 2019, I was on my way to church when I slipped on the ice and broke my ankle. At the time I was living in a two-hundred-year-old, cape cod house in New England. My house had plenty of character complete with sloping floors,, small doorways, and uneven transitions between the rooms. 

I never mastered crutches, so until I could be given a walking cast my mode of transportation through the house was a knee scooter. One knee and lower leg would rest on the padded seat of the scooter, the other leg provided stability and power and I had handlebars for steering. I got pretty good at making wide turns, moving on the straightaway, and even backing up. The challenge, however, came when I needed to cross the very uneven threshold between one room and another. I really had to concentrate and plan my actions so that I moved the scooter forward without putting it or me off balance. Sometimes this also involved carefully lifting the front wheels slightly off the ground, over the wooden boards, and then setting the scooter back on the floor. Occasionally, it was necessary to rest briefly before repeating the process and moving the rear wheels over the obstacle and into the adjacent room.

Crossing a threshold…literally or figuratively… involves moving from where we are into where we will be. For now, we find ourselves sheltering in place, and much like my knee scooter, we remain directly on the threshold…waiting to make the transition from life before the virus to life after. Eventually, we will cross the space between known and unknown, until then, however, we can only guess at what lies ahead.

Waiting on the Threshold
Lower level in St Peter’s Dom, Trier

Many of us find this condition unsettling, uncomfortable and our equilibrium is off-kilter. No one enjoys being in a state of limbo, but perhaps we could consider this resting on the threshold experience as an unexpected gift. A gift of time that we can use to catch our breath from the abrupt change in our lives, plan our actions for the days ahead, evaluate what we really want to keep and what we have learned to live without.

Although we are together in this space between beginning and ending some of us have had our engines running at full speed…teachers, parents, essential workers, and those working from home have not had the benefit of a little breath-catching time. The unanswered question of when, if, and how things will return to something familiar is an unwelcome complication and an additional stress for all of us, but especially for these folks.

Moving forward…getting all our wheels on the same plane…is going to take courage, bravery, and a good deal of faith.  “Thresholds are dangerous places, “ says Alix E. Harrow. “neither here nor there, and walking across one is like stepping off the edge of a cliff in the naive faith that you’ll sprout wings halfway down. You can’t hesitate, or doubt,” he says.  You can’t fear the in-between.”

The In-between
Montreal, 2019

None of us is sure how long we’ll be staying in this in-between…it would be so much easier if we did… but already we have begun to inch our way toward the other side. Until we sprout wings lets stand on the solid ground of where we are, pull on our big kid pants, lace up our shoes and put one foot in front of the other and step out in faith toward the other side. The length of our stride isn’t important. It’s that we just take those steps and keep on moving forward.

George Harrison of the Beatles once said of Elvis Presley that although they were devoted fans and his music was a great influence on their work, The Beatles always felt sorry for him, because he was alone and they had each other. They had their mates. Everything is better with a mate or two by your side and this pandemic is no exception, but even those of us who have been sheltering in place solo are more like The Beatles than Elvis. We’re all full of trepidation as we stand on this unique threshold, but we are not standing alone. We are making this journey into the future…taking tiny steps toward the other side…with neighbors, family, friends, and many helpful strangers…supporting each other with love and walking side by side. We’ll get through this together. When we support each other we find we are supporting ourselves as well.

Walking With Grandpa
Cochem, 2019

One of my friends, said recently, that we can’t really cross a threshold until we can imagine what lies on the other side. It seems that lately when I imagine what might lie ahead the soundtrack is similar to one of those movie scenes where the intensity of the horns and strings gradually increase and you hold your breath as the suspense builds until you find yourself shouting at the screen trying to warn the protagonist…”Get away! Get away! And for God’s sake, don’t open that door!” But…sometimes imagining what’s under the bed is much worse than the dirty socks that got kicked under there in the first place.

It’s also true that sometimes amazing adventures are simply beyond our imagining. Could Lucy have imagined Narnia as she pushed her way towards the back of the wardrobe or Alice imagine the adventure at the bottom of the rabbit hole? And remember, in the movie version, it wasn’t until she landed in Oz that Dorothy found color

The Dublin-based creative agency, The Tenth Man created a moving video called The Phoenix. It offers hope and an important reminder that this crisis will not last forever. We will cross the threshold. It will end.

“When this will all end we will be reunited, so now, just for a minute, let’s imagine it. The moment you’ll hear that voice again. See that face again Feel that embrace again. And we will embrace, the old, the young the family, the friends, friendly rivals, the rival rivals those you wouldn’t have thought twice about touching before and we will cry Oh, we will cry. Fat hot wet tears will roll down our faces as we hold each other tight and for far too long because when this will all end it won’t feel right to ever let go again. And when this will all end you’ll ask me to dance and I will say yes let’s dance.  Let’s dance for the dawn of a new world, for those we love, for those we’ve lost, for another chance and you’ll put on your red shoes and dance my blues away and as we sway you’ll look In my eyes at my soul reviving, burning, arising,  And those fat hot wet tears will fall and we will never ever forget it and we will never ever let go again. And this, this will all end.”

Yes, This will all end and we will find ourselves on the other side of the threshold until then we’ll just put one foot in front of the other and move slowly toward the other side.

Originally shared with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Michigan, Mt Pleasant, Michigan

May 10th, 2020

One Foot in Front of the Other

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin

Several years ago, my granddaughter and I took a short hike toward a promised overlook. It was obvious that she was really not enjoying this adventure. Her foot hurt, she was tired, and she wanted to turn around. The ‘beware of bears’ sign didn’t help either. We stepped off the wooded trail to rest on a large boulder while we considered what we would do. In this small clearing, the sun’s rays shone down upon us, no longer filtered through the leafy overhang. We could hear the rush of a small stream as it played amongst the pebbles on its way to the sea and wildflowers were peeking through the scrub in their dresses of white and blue and yellow and orange. It was just a brief moment of light in the forest. After this short respite, we stepped back onto the path, into the shadows, and beneath the umbrella of leaves.

Glacier National Park

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.

C.S. Lewis

Grief is like that too. As I hike the trail through this valley, the trees open up more frequently to moments of light and flowers and joy, but without warning, I look around and find myself once again in the gloom of thick underbrush and beneath branches that block the sun. Even so, if I keep myself open, grief continues to teach me her lessons. Fear, courage, and bravery are on the first page of her syllabus. It takes a certain amount of daring to face the disorientation and uncertainty of life after a loss. Nothing is as it once was and it’s difficult to find your bearings. To live without equilibrium takes strength, faith, and fortitude.

Grief is also about becoming untethered. It’s about losing an identity. Losing a map and compass all at once – a way to orient our life.

Samantha Smithstien

“You’re so strong and brave,” people told my friend at the death of her second husband. “I’m not brave or strong,” she replied. ” I just get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other.”

Each day we make the choice whether to pull up our big-kid pants, put our feet on the ground, and take those steps forward…or not. Often, we’re doing well to sit on the edge of the bed and just think about moving and there are days when even that is a stretch. But, with courage, hope, and a great deal of bravery eventually, we shuffle our feet and move to the music of life.

One Foot In Front of the Other and Lead with Love

I decided that this year one of my goals is to consciously work on being brave. “Be brave. Be brave. Be brave, ” I chant to myself throughout the day hoping that at some point it will become internalized and I can change this admonition into an affirmation. “You are brave! You are brave! You are brave!”

For me, being brave means moving forward not necessarily with confidence, but with faith. It is the belief that scrambling over the obstacles life puts in our path will make the next hill a little easier to climb. Being brave acknowledges that we’re all going to stumble, fall, and skin our knees. It also gives us the resilience not to let those set-backs put a halt to our progress. Being brave allows us to laugh at ourselves when we trip and land spread eagle on the ground, our glasses askew, and those big-kid pants on display for the world to see. Bravery reminds us we just need to get back up.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston S. Churchill

On my December trip to Vermont as darkness fell and after hours of driving, I accidentally turned off the road I knew, the road I meant to be on, and started down an unplanned route. In that instant with a single right turn, I was facing my top three fears…being alone, being somewhere unfamiliar, and making an error in judgment. The disembodied voice from my GPS assured me that I could indeed go forward on the new road and that it would lead me to my destination. Since I had never approached my destination from this direction I thought perhaps the GPS knew a better way. She didn’t. Following her instructions, I found myself in upstate New York, on the wrong side of Lake Champlain. She’s taking me to a bridge, I thought. She wasn’t. At 10:30 on a Wednesday night, I found myself at the ferry dock which had been closed for hours. I was on the wrong side of the lake, I didn’t know where exactly I was, I had no idea how to find the bridge, I was tired, and it was beginning to snow. In all honesty, it was scary.

Seyon State Park, Vermont
New Year’s Eve, 2019

Don’t be afraid of being scared. To be afraid is a sign of common sense. Only complete idiots are not afraid of anything.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Angel’s Game

With help, via cellphone from my son; after figuring out how to override the GPS that kept trying to take me back to the ferry; and with a great deal of positive self-talk as I drove twisty, snow-covered and deserted back roads I eventually found my way to the bridge and familiar roads in Vermont. I was disgusted with myself for not simply returning to my regular route after making the wrong turn and yet, facing my fears and solving the challenge of the situation was exhilarating and empowering. Half of being brave is just breathing and taking that next step.

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be brave. Be brave. Be brave.” Yes, this is my mission for the year. I was never courageous enough to climb the huge pine tree with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. I missed seeing the world from that lofty vantage point. What else will I miss if I don’t dare to live my life as it is, even if it is still a little out of sync? I’m learning to be brave, so I’m pullin’ ’em up and I’m steppin’ out.

“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

Rainer Maria Rilke with