Sunday, August 3, 2008


J called this morning. We always end up, or rather start up, talking about work and books. She told me Ja’s husband, who had a stroke about a year ago, after years of grog and cigarettes, is not really as good as she makes out. Either she is in denial, or is downplaying it at work, or both. Apparently he can’t even remember all his children’s names.

Then there was a weird moment during the conversation when my words came out in the wrong order, and worse, now I can’t even remember the actual mistake. It was something like wanting to say “ in terms of her life”, but actually saying “life in her terms”. The words I wanted to use had already been formed, but the sequencing went wrong. I wonder if I am getting amyloid in my brain. It makes you think about all the things already happening inside you, the time bomb, and strangely it was only last night listening with C to The Song of The Earth (Minton, Kollo, CSO, Solti) that we touched on Mahler's tick-tock motifs, and time, and denial. My word blip was just a little slip-up, but it does make for feeling very brittle about just about everything, and the uncertainty factor gives gratitude about the past and present but is alarmingly scary about the future.

And then there's D’s husband, a cardiac cripple. Last week he was unable to get out of bed, and when she takes his blood pressure it is either very low or very high. She is living on the edge, wondering, if not hoping, if he will die any day soon. On Wednesday she thought he would die during the night, and hardly slept and cried for three hours. They sleep, or don’t sleep, in separate rooms.

This, of course, took us, J and me this morning on the phone, to Helen Garner’s latest book, The Spare Room. We both loved it. J had heard her interviewed on the ABCs The Book Show. After we had hung up, I went straight to the ABC online, and found the transcript. Reading through, I braked at the word ‘liminal’. I didn’t have a clear idea of what it meant and 'subliminal' wasn't helping much.

It turns out that ‘liminal’ is a state of transition with unlimited application. In Helen Garner’s context, it is that wonderful zone between fully awake and fully asleep. I love that feeling.

Twilight, therefore, is the liminal time between day and night. It reminded me of the expression the French have: “Entre chiens et loups” – between dogs and wolves. When our dogs were young, they would often face-off just after the sun had dipped below the horizon, when the air temperature suddenly drops, and on their hind legs rear up at each other, forelegs flexed onto the others chest, heads back and growling or ducking sideways to take hold of that furry collar on the others neck, biting and pulling, each perfectly balanced but needing the other to stay up and continue the regression to a wilder state. It was the only time of day they did this, when the light was greying, with shapes still there but drained of colour and detail, the night not yet and the day slipping away like a mother silently easing herself from a child’s bedroom.

Everything is liminal. I am a liminal being.

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

I'm pleased to meet you, liminal human being. I've just started to browse your blog and felt sad at the story of Elizabeth Connell. Yours is a fascinating blog filled with odd references to glorious music. I have mixed feelings about Garner's Spare Room, though I also enjoyed it very much.

I shall return.