Friday, June 26, 2015


Crossing a threshold sounds like a significant event. We all do it over and over, day after day. We move unthinking from room to room, indoors to outside and back.

Thresholds happen in time as well as in space. The equinoxes and solstices usher in new seasons. Birthdays and anniversaries mark new cycles. Dawn and dusk, the liminal times of day, alter our perceptions with the changing light. Midnight opens us to mystery, hints at the unknown — an owl’s hunting call, a New Year’s kiss, a dream. Tornado sirens test their warnings at noon, shrieking like Pan suddenly awakened in the woods.

When you cross a threshold you enter sacred space, magic time. The world you know lies behind you, the unknown before. Every threshold stands between worlds.

Summers in my town, before air conditioning, the library was the cool spot. In the basement of the old bank building, it was filled with bookshelves and stereopticon images. I would check out new books, then walk two blocks home to make an ice cream float, lie in front of the floor fan and read. Or sometimes I would go to the back of my dad’s print shop, downstairs where the pressroom door opened onto a tiny meadow. The doorway, built of dressed stones, offered a cool spot in the hottest weather. I curled up with my book, my back against the doorjamb, and went away to the Black Stallion’s island. Behind me I could hear the press clattering, putting out the first run of the weekly paper, my dad singing from the pressman’s platform.

This memory is still a threshold for me. It takes me back to my first understanding of free speech, our First Amendment right to express individual beliefs, as long as we do not cause harm — by shouting, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, for example. My father explained it from different points of view, beginning when I was five years old. He made sure I realized that others also had the right to express their beliefs, even if I disagreed with them.

Thresholds change constantly in the timber. A rainstorm bends branches to hide a passageway. A tree falls to create a new step onto a trail. My path changes as the weather shifts, as the seasons change. The woods lead me on, from one secret place to the next. I’m walking a labyrinth with no end, whose center is everywhere. Around each corner, the next threshold beckons.

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