Fall is different this year. Come to think of it, it’s different to me every year. One year I’m sentimental about the passage of time; another I’m drawing allegories about seasons and life stages.
This year, as I’m up before the sun with Naomi, and the quiet of her first nap begins while the mist is still heavy over the Ohio River valley, one word keeps coming to mind: liminality.
Liminality is in-between-ness. It’s that particular orange-pink in a sunset; it’s the curve of a page being turned; its the look only seen in passing. Fall is ripe with it. It’s a “season,” one of four, which always makes me think it should take up a quarter of the year, but it’s far more elusive. I spend weeks waiting for the trees to be at their “peak” of color, only to blink and miss it.
This year, I’m not waiting. The trees are still green, but I can tell it’s here by the chill in my toes. The morning and evening light lasts longer, giving the impression of some kind of twilight hanging over the whole world. It’s as if the veil is lifted, and the faerie places I read about are bleeding through, ever so slightly.
Of course, the irony of fall’s beauty is that it all happens because life is heading toward death. A leaf”s connection to a plant is cut off, and sugar starts to concentrate in still-functioning chlorophyll cells until they turn warmer colors. In a moment it’ll be over, and in my part of the world that means six months of wishing I had an excuse to own a winter home in Cancun.
But this year, the word “liminality” is giving me a different idea.
We die a little bit every day. And I don’t mean the deepening lines on the backs of my hands. All the time, we are given choices, and our answers will turn us into better people, or worse people. Virtue doesn’t come overnight, but is made of a million tiny choices to do the right thing for someone else. Making those tiny choices good ones instead of bad ones is, it turns out, the hardest thing in the world. Because it’s choosing to die for someone else, a hundred million times. I don’t know about you, but it’s the sort of thing I couldn’t do without some supernatural help from Someone who died for everyone else.
We’re always on the way in this kind of process. Already and not yet. Liminal. In-between. And it is because we’re dying. But it’s also because we’re being turned into something glorious.
Fall captures the magic of normal life, the reasons we write stories about other realms. It’s made me want to curl up by a fire with a volume by George MacDonald and try to peer behind the curtain.
So, in the spirit of the season, I’m finally giving myself permission to start the Next Big Thing. Do you know what it is?