Dispatch from the Liminal

Liminal, adj.: describes brief moments betwixt and between, between here and there, neither here nor there, at a turning point or a point of no return, on a threshold, of becomingness.

Insomnia. 3:47 a.m., it’s neither eve nor morn, the brink of the winter solstice, too late to be yesterday, too early to be a new day. Outside snow falls and the silence is total; inside the noise in my head deafening.

Lying in bed, I try to dredge up what I remember of Victor Turner’s definition of “liminal”. Vaguely recall Handke’s novel Across. Wonder how or if, in the last 29 pages of his novel Canada, Ford will wrench Dell from his excruciatingly prolonged liminality and set him on kinder path from becomingness to full being‑ness. Ponder Player One’s monologue, penned by Douglas Coupland, as she hovers in the liminal and, for the first and last time, feels something.
‘Tis the liminal season. One year winds up and another looms on the horizon with weighty imminence.
Before settling on this platform for my blog, I considered another more narrow approach. I established but never posted to an Open Salon blog entitled “Dispatches from the Liminal”. Now, nearly two years later, the notion of liminality still informs what I write.
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I was born and raised in the U.S., kicked around the east coast, then the west, and briefly in between. Studies, work and love led me beyond to France, South America, China and Canada. 
I have now lived in Montrealfor almost 15 years. Despite staying put in one place for so long, I can’t shake the sense of living in a perpetual liminal zone, a netherly neither-here-nor-thereness, swinging between a certain uneasy clarity and a queasy bafflement about what happens around me.
As for “the States”, maybe clarity is the wrong word. Let’s just say I have “inside track”, albeit useless, information about that vast country. Useless because how do you explain a “cliff-hanger” presidential race in a political landscape dotted with the likes of Akin, Cain, Gingrich, Mourdock, Palin, Romney and Trump? And, in the aftermath of Newtown, no information, indeed, no clarity can explain my compatriots’ seemingly bottomless and steadfast love of guns.
When it comes to local issues, living in Montrealas an outsider also brings its daily dose of lucidity and nausée. Utterly rootless, as compared to deeply-rooted Quebecers (québecois de souche pure laine), I simply don’t possess clear-cut perspectives on the questions of the day, stowed in well-worn cultural and historical valises like carefully paired and snugly rolled socks. Neither can I share the outrage of my urban Anglo brethren. I speak French and English, but will never master the cultural nuances that might allow me to readily choose sides in what often strike me as essentially ludicrous debates. My lack of reverence for the seriousness of it all has gotten me into hot water more than once.
Which brings me back to the liminal season and, inevitably, to New Year’s resolutions.
Fact: even if, one day, I decide to return “home” to the States, it will be as an outsider. If I choose to stay here or, a thought that occurs to me daily, decide to move on, I will forever be from a vague “there” but certainly and never “from here”. Younger and more idealistic, I liked to say I was a “world citizen”. Older, wiser and more ornery, I proudly pledge allegiance to Planet Liminal.
It’s a hostile planet, lonely, and the air is thin. Are there any other inhabits? Not sure. But it’s home. And from my here, I have a bird’s eye view of other heres, other theres, and endless beyonds.
To pass the time, nurture clarity and keep muzziness at bay, and for my own pleasure, these blogs posts serve as dispatches launched into space. My fondest wish for 2013: perhaps, hope springs yadda-ya, my missives will fall into the hands of other liminoids or friendly there-dwellers.


  1. Don’t worry, Nancy. You’re not alone in feeling like an outsider in Quebec. I was born here, never lived anywhere else, but I’ll always be an outsider to this monolithic Quebecois culture. It’s all I’ve ever know, and I accept it. I cleave to my fellow anglo Montrealers, and enjoy the romantic dance this province provides.

  2. Thank you, John, for your comment. I suspect that no matter where you live, there’s always a split between feeling at home and feeling like the odd man out. Forget about heart and hearth, “home” is all in your head. :)

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