Irmgarde Brown

Sister Jane was awarded Best Books of 2021 INDIE by Kirkus Reviews
Harford County Living named Irmgarde Brown, Artist of the Week Jan 24, 2023

Doors and Liminal Space

Photo by Bill Lawson
Photo by Bill Lawson

The other day, a photographer friend posted a series of door photographs from around town on his Facebook page. They were all in black and white and very moving. I remembered then that I, too, have photographed doors over the years, but rarely with any deep meaning or conscious intent. Certainly, I must have intuited how they can symbolize possibilities or new beginnings. But up until recent years, I haven’t embraced their potential for deeper significance.

I have since learned that there is a moment in between as one passes through a door, leaving one place and entering the next. It’s called liminal space, a period of transition. It's a gap, and it can be physical (like a doorway), emotional (like a divorce or widowhood) or metaphorical (like a decision).

Liminal space is also called a threshold. Poet David Whyte writes lyrically about thresholds and how important they are for us to be aware as we cross them (see his Audible recording: “Thresholds: Navigating the Difficult Transitions of Life.”)

“Now, looking through
the slanting light
of the morning
window toward
the mountain
of everything
that can be,
what urgency
calls you to your
one love?  What shape
waits in the seed
of you to grow
and spread
its branches
against a future sky?”
Excerpt from “What to Remember While Waking” by David Whyte

Some years ago, I participated in a series of spiritual formation retreats (five weekends in nine months) which introduced me to several personal practices or types of prayer. Thematically, the retreat leader used metaphors from “building a home.” On the first day, we began by “Opening the Door,” and we spent some time walking around the property to look for “doors” of all kinds and naturally, contemplate the interior doors of our hearts.

Author Jan Richardson writes, “Whether or not it seems sacred at first, a threshold can become a holy place of new beginnings as we tend it, wait within it, and discern the path beyond.”

I am in a liminal space myself. My two-year program with the Center for Action and Contemplation wraps up next month (in Albuquerque) and our cohort is the last one under the watchful eyes of Father Richard Rohr who has transitioned across his own threshold into Core Faculty Emeritus status (full retirement). I am coming out with a new book (“Children in the City of Czars”), which calls for a new focus after two years of exclusively promoting the “Sister Jane” books. My beloved church family is standing in a liminal space created by the leaving of a priest and a tumultuous year (2022). And now, I am back in the workforce (part-time).

It would be simpler to say I have crossed over my liminal space into these activities, but I feel these labors are mere forerunners of what is really on the other side of the door. Something is there that I have not yet fully grasped. I am holding back. I am busy again, but this is not the full story. Instead, I must content myself in a place of unknowing. Discernment does not come quickly.