Neither here nor there in the shoulder season
The leaves on the trees of our New Castle home remain mostly intact and green; afternoons in Glenwood are still warm; and a recent day trip to Rifle Falls was an exercise in consistent hydration. Still, when the calendar rolls over into September, there’s an almost automatic reflex, a sense of quiet momentum, that summer is inevitably on the wane, and our too-brief autumn is waxing into its place.Once we’ve cruised through the long weekend of Labor Day we can no longer count on the countless peaches of Palisade, and the notion of canning becomes something we might have done last week had we been paying attention. If you didn’t put up fresh fruit already, I’m told, it’s now too late to impress your neighbors with peach pie come March.
One of the biggest reminders the change-of-season brings us is that we have far less control over our lives than we thought. Driving through the paintbox-splattered canyons of June, it’s easy to imagine that we are all-powerful – that this beauty was somehow ordered up for our personal enjoyment. But when the first blanket of snow falls – and it will, suddenly and unceremoniously – it’s harder to whistle that easy tune, even if you live here just to play in the white stuff.In American literature and beyond, snow is a symbol for and reminder of our mortality, our finitude. Wherever you find scenes of snow falling in books or films, some character is usually about to exit the stage through the mortician’s office.Fortunately, we’re not quite as morbid in our approach here. A good part of our economic base changes with the seasons, as might employees and types of tourists. In some ways, it’s just the old changing-of-the-guard, and snow is a way of life. Is it pure anachronism that Mt. Sopris has snow on the same day that the inside of my car is a billion degrees Fahrenheit at five-thirty? Or is it like the pure poetry of this week’s Rocky Mountain News at the sight of a snow-dusted Loveland Pass – “Here we go again”?
Seems to me we’re meant to feel what passes for fall while we can, to gather rosebuds while we may, as Robert Herrick wrote, and to know these brief days as forming an inherent contradiction. Now is the time of the in-between-places, the shoulder season, twilight, threshold, the mountain pass, the moment of neither-here-nor-there.Theologians have a word for this sensation: “liminality.” It has often been compared to the old flying trapeze artist who lets go of the one bar in order to grasp the other. In between, he hangs, turning, in space, suspended ever-so-briefly between downward gravity and upward momentum. He’s neither “here” nor “there.”My sense is that many of us are in liminal places in our lives – in the midst of a change or transition, be it personal or professional. And once we know that we have arrived at this place which is no place, then it’s a good time to take stock and pray for wisdom. So much good growth comes from acknowledging such passages as they occur, and commending them to the one that Christians call the Almighty and Merciful, the something bigger than ourselves that does not fail us.
No transition, no crisis, nothing in-between, is ever bigger than that Something Bigger.The Rev. Torey Lightcap is Priest-In-Charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs, (www.saint-barnabas.info). They have two children and live in New Castle.
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