You might well be wearying of my consideration of the liminal space, or spaces, I perceive myself occupying these days. I'd be the first to acknowledge that it's a privileged Liminality, particularly now when so many millions are displaced so tragically by conflict or environmental disaster. The margins I contemplate myself moving along, the thresholds I debate crossing, are all, so far, safe ones, places and spaces in which I'm housed, fed, and clothed comfortably, with most of my loved ones nearby, all of them well sheltered also. Many of the margins are ones I choose to stay on, for fear of losing parts of my self by immersing myself fully in his community or that. However lonely, even occasionally painful, the resultant alienation might be at times, the choice itself is a blessed luxury, I know.
That said, having mea culpa'd my privilege, having tried to push past narcissism to thoughtful self-reflexivity, I have to remind myself, and you, poor patient readers, that this blog is undeniably no more than the maundering and witterings of one particular woman, at a certain (late-ish) stage of her life as woman and as mother, wife, grandmother, retired academic, traveller, with a plethora of interests. One of whose most pressing current interests is figuring out the oddness of this whole retirement gig, one day at a time.
So I'm afraid we're not done with Liminality here at Materfamilias Writes, but you might be pleased that I've found a new word to help me putter about with. It arrived courtesy of @occasionalscotland's comment on my Instagram posting yesterday of a "foggy Vancouver." I'd already begun mentally composing a post about the Liminality effected by fog, but I'd been grimacing a bit over the potential heavyhandedness and overuse of the word. Still, it seemed to me that the alchemy performed by fog allowed us to glimpse beauty or strangeness or latent potential of various qualities in scenes we generally ignored as backdrop.
As does being on the margins, at some remove, whether deliberate or accidental. Whenever we have the chance to see the familiar suddenly as strange, as uncanny, whenever the Naturalized is revealed as Cultural, we stand to learn more about ourselves and our place in the world. Yesterday morning, as I ran into a bank of fog rolling in the opposite direction, I couldn't help but hope that some of the displacement and puzzling I've been experiencing lately might also be transformative, lifting eventually to reveal new conceptions.
And as I was thinking of the fog and my current state of mind as rather uncanny, Freud's Das Unheimliche ("the opposite of what is familiar" one definition has it, but it's just as much about something that is strangely familiar, or something familiar made strange), Linda left a comment in which she called my photo a 'depaysement' shot for its rendering of Vancouver as (of) another world. I hadn't known this French word, although it's easy enough to figure out, the word for "country" stuck right after the undoing of the "de" prefix. So something about being un/de-countried.
But wanting to make sure I'd got the word's connotations as well as what it more precisely denotes, I wandered a bit and discovered this paragraph (in an interesting and relevant post on a new-to-me blog that, sadly, hasn't been added to for several months now): "Depaysement is one of those words that doesn't have a direct English translation. I dig words like that. It's a French word whose quick definition is 'disorientation,' but the more elegant definition I just learned is this: 'The unsteady feeling you get when you are away from your home country.'"
Isn't it great, then, that Linda connected my photographs of fog's effects with my disorientation, or unsteady feeling, on coming back to my home country after travel and beginning to contend with what a different place home is for me now? I am experiencing the fog of depaysement and if I look carefully, I may recognize it for the transformative and wondrous experience it can be, while being careful not to lose my way.
And then this morning, another IG friend @soulclaphands posted this excerpt from Mark Doty's "Fog Suite," (a poem I must get to know better, being already a great fan of Doty's work):
What I love about language / is what I love about fog: / what comes between us and things / grants them their shine. Take,
For instance, the estuary, / raised to a higher power / by airy sun-struck voile: / gunmetal cove and glittered bar
hung on the rim of the sky / like palaces in Tibet--- / white buildings unreachable, dreamed and held
at just that perfect distance: the world's lustered by the veil.
In the next poem in the suite, the speaker wonders if fog is "visible uncertainty." And after Doty's lyrical and insightful riffing on fog and uncertainty and language's effect on our relationship with the world, I'm going to leave the uncertainty shimmering in the fog, step away from the keyboard, and leave you with his words and my photographs. If anything resonates, I'd love your comments.