I’ve cut them down to the ground. But I can’t convince myself to pull up their roots. They were leggy and black spotted, chewed on and curled up. But at one time they had been so beautiful. Now they were nothing more than brown sticks with thorns. They were no longer blossoming deep red and heady with fragrance. They were no longer my lovely roses.
I had not planted these roses. They didn’t just come with the house, either. In fact, they hadn’t poked their heads above ground until I’d lived here for almost six years. They had simply shown up – wonderfully unexpected and graciously timed, the very spring after my mother died. That was almost fourteen years ago now.
They had come on their own, growing wild and rambling within the plant bed beneath my front bedroom windows. They reached up to the windowsills with sassy arms and wrapped themselves around the shutters. At the time, they brought me great comfort and peace and joy. Now, however, I suspect they were signaling to me that it was time to let them go.
And so, I have cut them down to the very edge of the earth. But perhaps I will leave the roots still there, just in case they want to come back some day. By chance or in nature’s own time. For me or for someone new.
It feels very much like a “liminal time” decision. Liminal time and space is that uncertain transition between what is past and what is yet to be. It literally means “threshold” – like having left one room or stage of life, but not yet entered into the next.
I suspect we all feel as if we are living in a liminal time and space right now. The world is changing so mightily around us. Everything that once was, feels gone or nearly so; what is to come seems blurry and unsure and beyond recognition. Sometimes it feels as if our very reality is becoming strange before our eyes, shaking beneath us, spinning out of control, turning us upside down. And our vertigo is crippling. So all we can do is just stand in the doorway – the threshold – and hold on for dear life, rather like we’re taught to do in an earthquake, rather like we’re caught in a liminal time and space.
August is always the most liminal time of the year to me, regardless of the state of the world. It’s not quite done with summer, yet autumn is nowhere near. It’s not a time for planting, nor a time for harvesting. Most of the baby animals are well on their way into adulthood: nests are empty, hawks sail high, foxes become quiet, bunnies dance, tadpoles have grown arms and legs, butterflies are remembering what it was like to be caterpillars, even cicadas are singing about the end of the season, geese are thinking about heading out before long.
Then, in the midst of it all, The Perseids come – that annual meteor shower that saves its best for the middle of August. And we lie outside on our backs on blankets in the grass just before dawn, and we call them falling stars and make wishes on them. I hope we all saw them this year (at their best and brightest just a week ago). I hope they reminded us – this year especially – that transition can sometimes be joyful as well as fearful, filled with anticipation as well as anxiety. These falling stars are, after all, the ultimate example of transition – transforming as they do from rock to fire to ashes to wishes. They could harm us, but they typically don’t – delighting us instead.
I suspect waiting for them, watching for them, they give us hope – the hope that liminal time can be a time for rest, a time for standing quietly and safely in a threshold, or lying on our backs under the sky. A time for letting go, yet keeping what is good. A time for leaving parts of ourselves behind, but leaving ourselves open, as well – for unknown wonders we cannot even imagine.
Perhaps we are meant to use this liminal time – this August – to cut back all the spent roses, while leaving deep roots for new generations; just as we are meant to watch ancient stars falling, as we hold fast to wishes of new things yet to be.