A Saturday Caesura
The view from the hotel window captivates me only because of the constant movement: trucks and cars ad nauseam, gyrating cement trucks, a stout armoured car, convoys of b-train dump trucks, fluorescent green GFL garbage trucks, a Smart car, toy-like among the steady stream of freight-liners emblazoned with company slogans – CN We Deliver, FedEx The World on Time, Grimshaw Trucking Gateway to the North – a load of farm equipment, travel trailers and RVs in search of summer, an occasional motorcycle.
Beyond this ever-flowing tributary sits terminal, tower, and tarmac – the stuff of international airports – where roaring jet engines regularly overpower the thrum and rumble of the freeway below.
If we were in this hotel for holiday reasons, we would probably reconsider the choice to stay here.
The freeway and the airport are liminal spaces – those in-between places of transition between somewhere and somewhere else, between a starting point and a destination, between a beginning and an end. How much of my life has been spent in liminal places, I wonder.
Our hotel and others, each one a liminal space of its own, are queued up along the freeway to entice travellers of both land and air. In the foreground between hotel and northbound lanes is a ditch populated with bulrushes and surrounded by shelter-belt trees, still in their youth and in mixed stages of vitality. In the close middle-ground, a no-man’s land of sorts between the going-north and heading-south strips of asphalt. The far middle-ground between freeway and airport is plowed into furrows and fringed with self-seeded squatters – alphalfa and various grasses. These are the marginal places, the borderlands, the edges.
But they are far from empty.
In the foreground ditch lives at least one pair of mallard ducks, visible only when arriving or departing from some enclave deep in the bulrushes. Several male blackbirds, with or without red and yellow shoulder patches, and their nondescript brown female companions make the fledgling trees feel useful as perches and places for playful cavorting. Occasionally a few of the birds dart across the northbound lanes to the middle-ground meridian and back again, if for no other reason than to say they did it and survived.
A steady watchful presence patrols the close middle-ground. A hunter. A Swainson’s hawk scans for life in the meridian grasses that are deep enough to swallow him for the final foot of his plummeting dives. Sometimes he rises on wide wings with empty talons; other times he clutchs a furry morsel, incentive enough to continue this pattern all day. He is agile, soaring back and forth, high and low. With amazing dexterity, he can anchor himself to a singular space of sky in a stalled hover.
The far middle is far enough away to lack sensory detail, but there is a constant swirling animation of gulls settling and rising around the muddy shores of a large puddle sprawled across the dark plowed ground. I can imagine their gossiping chatter and mildly alarmed or offended squawking, but of course too much noise reverberates from the comings and goings of liminal space to actually hear them from my seat by the hotel window.
What is missing from that window view are permanent dwelling places. There are no houses – just hotels, hangers, terminals, and outlet stores. Even the birds living contentedly in the marginal spaces are seasonal visitors, here only for the warmer summer months. They have their own liminal spaces, the laneless migratory freeways of the sky.
And maybe the house, the home, we return to after our sojourn in the hotel too near a freeway and an airport, after a successful heart procedure, after a five hour drive – maybe this space where I now sit watching birds flit through the trees growing in the margins of field and marsh, maybe this isn’t the permanent dwelling place I perceive it to be…
When I sat long enough and paid close enough attention to what initially presented as a lack-luster view from a hotel window, I began to understand the uniqueness of the spaces we live in.
The in-between liminal spaces often feel confusing and disorienting, but without them I cannot grow, learn, change. Without them, I’m stuck.
I live in the mundane margins, part of the greater world, but certainly not the centre of it. And that is okay, because by God’s grace I have all I need to thrive here.
I appreciate the rootedness this house has provided for the past twenty years, but it is not an eternal dwelling, which is very different and far more desirable than any sense of worldly permanence.
Transitional, marginal, temporary though they be, there is goodness in these spaces where we live because God is present in them all.