Threshold Dwellers: Living at the Edge

Sometimes I find it odd that I reside on a foggy coastline, given that in my bones I think of myself as an arid, Mediterranean creature.

In my ongoing yearning and search for a place to put down roots, I often find myself musing on the high desert plateau of New Mexico, a sagebrush-strewn mesa where I have twice resided and that often reaches out to me and says, “Come home.” It has been a soulscape for me since the moment I first set foot there in 1994, an instant feeling of being completely at home as if I had inhabited a rustic adobe dwelling in another lifetime (or more than one). And yet the thought of leaving this western coast is almost unthinkable. 

sunset_cypressThe misty threshold of earth, sea, and sky at the edge of the world seems to have taken a strange hold on me.

They have been planted many places including the Pacific Northwest and Great Britain, but the graceful Monterey cypresses are native to this peninsula, and thrive only a narrow band of coastal air and summer fog. Threshold dwellers, they are. If you read this journal with any frequency, you likely know of my deep affection for these wind raked trees, especially the Grandmother, who presides over the front of my modest cottage, a venerable being who inspires me daily. And I share with these trees that there are only a few places we can live and thrive.

Certainly we all have multiple facets and sides to our personality. Our soul, even. Personally, I’ve long felt split down the middle; an inner dichotomy that never quite reconciles or becomes non-dual. It is the domestic versus wild; a tactile lover of hearth and home who also needs a sense of untamed nature at his door. A foot in two worlds. This is largely because nature is something more than ‘pretty’; it is powerfully healing and restorative, and always a mirror of the bodysoul, which is itself wild (though most of us have forgotten our wildness, and even our very life force is dulled from eating packaged, industrial food).

A threshold marks a shift in consciousness, a different way of being. 

Without doubt, the sea delineates a powerful, visual, and tangible threshold; it is a domain into which we cannot travel other than very briefly, or to skim upon its shifting, rolling surface. Like most of nature, it is endlessly evocative, and healing for body and soul. Studies repeatedly show that being on, in, or near water, even simply looking at it, has powerful beneficial effects for our body and brain. 

I left my shoes in the car and walked barefoot along a dusty path, nostrils flared to scents of ocean and the wild greenery through which I passed, and then sat on a favorite wooden bench just above the churning waves. Only to abandon it and clamber gingerly down the rocks and wade into the tide pools that beckoned, foraging seaweed, admiring anemones and playing with hermit crabs. The wind tousled my already-crazy hair, seagulls cried overhead, and sunlight refracted on the blue water like ribbons of flashing diamonds.

With my senses, heart and soul cast wide to the sea, it seems unlikely I could actually return to the desert to live. Yes, the dryness of the air is balancing to my damp earthy nature, and the sunshine greatly offsets my melancholy inclinations. And I always feel that somehow I just belong in that landscape, like the piñon pines, ebony ravens and copper rattlesnakes. 

But the desert, whether low or high, doesn’t sing to my dear mate, and our choice to remain in a cohabiting, committed relationship means finding a place that works for both of us. And like my dear cypresses, I’m not sure I can leave the shoreline anymore. Since our time in Spain living among the olive groves of Andalucia, where a bright blue wedge of the Mediterranean greeted me daily, and then followed by our return to Hawaii, and on to this toehold in California, I’ve lived near the sea. (Most of my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood too.) Even in our years in England, the ocean was never far away.

solar_cypressMany thresholds exist, not simply the shoreline, alluring and powerful as it is. Like the cloud forest where I once lived, or at the edge of a wild mesa, it’s anywhere where man’s influence wanes and wildness takes over again. (We could say something similar about the subconscious and psyche.) 

More than once over the years I have written a post about being a threshold dweller, the most revealing one when I lived on Maui in a misty cloud forest ‘upcountry’ on Maui, a realm of spirits and ancient voices. [Read 2013’s  “Living At The Threshold Between Worlds“] “At the edge of the forest or village is always where the shamans, witches, sages and healers dwelt. Madmen and undesirables, too. Often it’s a fine (and arbitrary) line between such distinctions, one that is easily blurred.

Those of us with a foot in two worlds sometimes lean more into one than the other. 

Threshold dweller or not, if we are on a conscious journey, I think perhaps what is most important in whatever place we inhabit is that it mirrors something essential back to us, that we somehow become more fully ourselves by living there. It should be healing and inspiring. And just like the very best of love affairs, it should summon our eros while simultaneously drawing us deeper into relationship.

I wonder sometimes, do I have more to learn from ocean and mists, like fluidity and flow…? Or from sagebrush, pine trees, and thunderstorms? 

I have heard it said, if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space. The edge is always where we misty_treegrow, never in the perceived safety of the status quo. Evolution happens at the fringes. 

At the moment this post goes out (thanks to automation), I am away in Northern California on a healing retreat, distanced from computers and free of mobile phones, quietly wandering another misty realm among those other coastal threshold dwellers, the redwoods. There I am considering even more deeply and reflecting on what is mine to bring as a Green Man of the New World, roots always sinking down in search of healing and nourishment… and a place to finally take hold at the edge.

Friend, here’s hoping that in your own way, you’re living at the threshold; pushing out from the familiar zone that contains you (walls, habits, environment). And that in that reaching, you will embody more of yourself, or become somehow more authentic by what is mirrored back (especially by nature).

As Soul Artists, we are each charged with bringing something of value to the world, and it is not likely to be found until we cross the threshold and step into the unknown… over the edge from where we might like to comfortably remain.


(As has happened before, Facebook says this post does not exist and people have been unable to link to it or “like” it. If you are able to “like” or share it from here, it would be appreciated.)

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