Elissa Carey, 2009
Interstitial. Liminal. Betwixt and between. Borders. Gaps. Spaces.
When I see these words, I think of mystery, paradox, crossroads, dichotomies, and a thousand other words and phrases that encompass the warp and weft of my life and my feelings. There is personal history in there, emotional resonances that harmonize with my beliefs as well.
Interstices are the spaces between one thing and another. As such, they are not only the borders, but a thing unto themselves. They’re a miniature paradox we rarely think about except when elevated to a grand scale. Case in point, the Berlin Wall. It was merely a wall separating East from West, a border from one place to another, but what it represented meant much more. We did not celebrate the dismantling of a brick, mortar and concrete construction, but the end of an era of oppression.
The Grand Canyon. The generation gap. The Continental Divide. The curtain between business class and coach. The gaps between prison bars. A bird’s bones. Flutes. The 12-step program. The Internet. Personal space. Streets. Rivers. State lines. Hermaphrodites. Genderqueer.
It is a both-and-neither place and mindset. You can affix a label, if you like, but you know either instinctively or empirically that’s really a shortcut way to deal with it, and it doesn’t really fit.
As of this writing, I am in the process of moving. For the majority of my life, it seems, I have been moving. It’s such an odd and stressful time in our lives, moving, that as soon as you tell someone you are, many things can be forgiven. You are juggling past, present, and future all at once, so if you happen to drop one of those balls at some point – “I’m sorry, what was your name again?”, “I forgot to go to the store today,” “Have you called to set up our cable at the new place yet?” – people nod, help you pick it up, and set your juggling back into play.
But although you are doing so much, you still haven’t accomplished the main task: moving. That is, picking yourself up and going from Point A to Point B. You’re in a middle place that has seemingly infinite steps, like Zeno’s paradox, where progress is not measured in physical steps but rather in how much you have prepared for the physicality itself. Time behaves very differently here, racing along yet plodding at once. You have too much and not enough time.
Moving is a shift, a change, in the status quo.
In physics, there is a wonderful paradoxical concept where in something can be a liquid and a gas, or a liquid and a solid, at the same time. Friends who work in this field can supply the specific name for it, but generally, it is the precise moment when the item is changing from one state to another. This shift effectively has a state all its own, but has both qualities and neither at once. It, like many other concepts, is liminal, straddling the demarcation line and being possessed in itself.
My love of the seasons and their changing is rooted in these ideas. Autumn and Samhain (or Halloween) in particular – it is a Celtic new year. It is the fading of the light and coming of the dark. It is the border between this world and the next, and other worlds besides. We say, “The veil is thin.” We can peer through, make contact, unfold the future, and immerse ourselves in the change itself.
Change is good for us, because too much stability turns to stagnation and overgrowth.
Normally, we fear change. It upsets our views and makes us reconsider what we thought we knew. Humanity needs a sense of stability to thrive and grow: continual upset gives no space for that. (And when you think of change as space, that thought becomes an even more interesting tangle.) And yet change is good for us, because too much stability turns to stagnation and overgrowth. We must weed and prune, too, to allow for new growth.
Throughout the years, I had adapted to change. It was a constant – new apartments, new schools, new friends, new books. New music, after I awakened to it. New emotions, thoughts, feelings when dealing with adolescence, sexuality, expanded social expectations. Leaving home did not change this – it became even more a part of my life, so much so that it took the military (a previously destabilizing force) to stabilize me. It brought me yet more change: travel, personal growth, learning a language, broadening my horizons, a marriage.
Then, for 14 years, I stopped embracing change. I settled in myself, in who I thought I was supposed to be, and thus lost who I was in the slow ossification I’d brought on myself. It didn’t need to happen that way; I blame no one but myself. And so it was that I slowly and painfully came to realize that, and broke free. I am now back in the flow of change – it is where I am comfortable. Odd thing for someone with a Capricorn sun and Scorpio moon, but I’m also a Gemini rising, you see. Aquarian Venus. My Saturn and Uranus tend to butt heads often. I will war with myself.
And that’s as it should be. I am both and neither and in between. I can contradict myself. I am Dichotomy Jane. I belong to the Morrigan, who is love and war and prophecy, and Hulda, who is housekeeper and Wild Huntress and sister to the Norns and wyrd. I also belong to science and reason and logic. I see nothing contradictory in this though that seems contraindicated.
I belong in no particular circles, though I am acquainted with many. I’m the welcomed outsider. I am a messenger, a scholar, a trickster, a lover and a fighter. I am in myself interstitial, like the Borrowers I read as a child.
The messenger has a message, and it is about the interstitial – not only what it means to me, but what it can mean to you.
There is writing, art, and music that fall between the spaces of the genres and classifications of what we know. You’ve read them, seen them, heard them, felt them – maybe even tasted them or smelled them. (There are stories in perfumes, after all.) Maybe you’re the one that’s created them. They seem particularly special to us because of the wonder they evoke, what they are and what they represent. These are the things we want the world to see and know, and yet precisely because of what they are, it is that much harder to bring them to light and scrutiny. It is like trying to sculpt mercury, hold a beam of moonlight in noon, or touch a shadow always just out of reach. It’s not impossible, but it requires so much effort that all you can do is reduce it in scope and tell your friends.
However, that is with individual effort alone. What if you had help? Just think of the wonders the world would know, then. We could dwarf the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and create libraries to rival Alexandria. We can also make them available to everyone, at any time. OK, this is incredibly grand, but at least right now, we can showcase those creatives and their works that defy classification, and because of this are just a little more numinous and need a little help gaining recognition.
Let the Great Work begin.
About the Author
Elissa Carey can be found spilling her guts at http://elissa-carey.livejournal.com, where this essay was originally published and through which she found out about the Interstitial Arts Foundation. She is earning her BFA in interior design at the Savannah College of Art & Design in Atlanta, where she lives with her fiancé. She is a proud mother of two teens, a former Chinese Mandarin linguist in the USAF, and has written freelance for a variety of roleplaying game companies. She thinks interstitial art is the niftiest thing since sliced bread.