Liminal Spaces

I had a break today with nothing on my schedule – a rare and glorious moment – and decided to go indoors-spelunking, that is, exploring the interior of strange and new buildings; I happened to have one handy down the street.

I was opening and closing doors and darting from place to place when I happened upon this strange circular room with a mystical-looking name.

The room was very simple but difficult to describe. There were two doors and no windows, no natural light. A simple circle with a flat bottom and top, a cylinder like a tuna can. The wall was framed by a wide, comfortable bench inlaid with patterns of plump diamonds and cat-eye-slits, in reds and earthy browns, floating above a lime green carpet. The design of the bench is the sort that compels one to sit, just to see what it is like, but serious enough to make you pause there and not know why you wait. Everything about the circle drew you into the it, so that there was no forward or backward, it was imprecise and beguiling.

I wouldn’t have hesitated there for more than a few minutes to enjoy the silence, but two women came to the door and I liked the way that they looked at the room, like they understood how magical the place was. The women had both grey hairs and walked slowly, as though this was where they had always been headed and this room was their very last stop. I smiled because I felt like the room was a peculiar little secret I shared with them. They sat and soon we were conversing in a calculated way.

We sat three corners of a triangle facing in, speaking one at a time and listening deeply to each person speak. I was a stranger, they were friends – they were teachers and I was a student – they were old and I was young. There was no inequality in that space, only a sort of unspoken contract that comes with sitting in a circle in a hidden little room in a building built to be lost in.

We talked about words, about places, about people that mattered, about where we were, about what the world is like, about where we go or have been, about things that made us smile – an almost nonsensical little chat made serious only by the shape of it all.

In a liminal, transitory space we waited for the same thing, then we left.

Have you ever thought about standing in a doorway?

While you are standing in a doorway between one room and another, are you still in the room you left behind or are you already a part of the room into which you are entering?




All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king.

– J. R. R. Tolkien


2 thoughts on “Liminal Spaces

  1. I like your comparison to spelunking, exploring caves. So, what is the room actually used for? Is the bench curved in a circle, too?

  2. You don’t always recognize the exact location of the line while you’re crossing it, because you’re focusing on the room ahead, not the previous room or the doorway itself. But afterwards you realize just how important that doorway was, you remember the precise moment in which you had gone beyond it, because if not for it, the next room could never have existed at all.

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