I’m on the train now, zipping southward from Boston, driving the passenger next to me crazy by snapping photo after photo out the window.
Sorry, sir, but the light is golden-perfect, and these photos are going to illustrate something I’ve been longing to sing to the world for a long time: the liminal spaces between cities are AMAZING!
A “liminal space” is defined as the threshold between two places, states of being, or eras.
The term is derived from the Latin word, “limen,” meaning “lemon.” Just joking– it means “threshold” or doorway: the passageway between two things.
Though it may seem like liminal spaces are just boring places to pass through on the way to the “real thing,” in fact, liminal spaces are incredibly important… and they are everywhere in our lives. For example, are you a teenager? Congratulations! You’re in the liminal space between childhood and adulthood!
Liminal spaces are everywhere in literature, too. If you’re cool like our tenth grade class, you’ve read Catcher in the Rye, and likely know that Holden Caulfield’s main struggle in the novel is the agony of adolescence, the liminal space between childhood and adulthood. Holden’s wish to be a “catcher in the rye” is a symbolic manifestation of this in-between life stage. By being a “catcher” in a field of rye, Holden shows he longs to “catch” children before they dive off the cliff into adulthood and corruption. He wants to push them back to the protection of innocent childhood, and out of the confusing in-between zone.
See? Liminal spaces are important! Scary? Sometimes. Misunderstood and hard to understand? Sure. But important? Without a doubt.
And, travelers, the physical liminal spaces between cities are amazing and powerful, too, though most of the time we don’t give a hoot about them.
Back to the magic that’s going on outside my train window right now.
But what lies in the liminal space BETWEEN these famous cities?
Let me try to supplement these photos with words to describe why it’s worth it to care:
What lies between Boston and New York is: rippling blue water swirling between golden reeds. It’s a bunch of small towns most of us have never given a second thought to, mixed among Providence, Hartford, and New Haven. It’s boats bobbing on inlets and laundry drying on clotheslines. It’s pocket’s of auto junkyards and heaps of scrap metal! It’s open fields with swaying grass, and birds swooping through glistening marshland. It’s forests with bronze-gold branches and dancing boughs. It’s lots of human and animal lives! This space between deserves a glance, and maybe even a bunch of photos!
When traveling in Cambodia, some of the coolest photos I took were on the rural roads between the major tourist hubs of Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh. In my article entitled “The People Working– and LIVING!– Around Angkor Wat,” I snapped the majority of photos from the breezy open sides of my tuk tuk, on the way to the places my guidebook actually listed.
The tourists (myself included) spent days gazing at the towering temple ruins… but what of the fields and farms and homes in the emerald green fields between?
So what do you get now? What other liminal spaces do you see around you in your world? Have you ever noticed them before?
Now if you’ll excuse me, our train is pulling into New York City: sparkling, pulsing, famous heart of capitalist America. Out of the wide, golden fields with their snaking rivers and liminality, and into the concrete craziness I go!