Airports are non-places.
You’re not really here but not really there yet. You’ve said goodbye and haven’t yet said hello.
At an airport, you’re not quite in the air but not exactly on the ground.
Usually, in airports we’re in too much of a hurry to contemplate the liminality of such spaces.
It’s too crowded and there are the security checkpoints … taking off shoes and pulling the laptop out of the bag and drinking 20 ounces of water so the water bottle will be empty and you’ll be able to get it through the checkpoint.
Usually, there’s the getting to your gate on time and trying to figure out which group you’re boarding with and making sure you’ve got your ID and your boarding pass and haven’t forgotten anything important before getting on the plane.
But sometimes …
Sometimes you get stuck in these in-between places.
Stuck not really here and not really there.
Stuck having said goodbye and having not yet said hello.
I’ve always been fascinated with in-between places, liminal spaces … not really one place and not really the other.
Liminal: at the threshold. At a point of beginning or entering.
Sometimes these liminal spaces are ages …
Like teenagers, not really children and not really grown.
Like my daughter, the one I just said goodbye to before heading to this airport to fly out … and she, staying to attend college 2,212 miles away from home.
She is still a teenager … in a few days she’ll be turning 17 (yes, she has moved away from home at 16, but her mother did something of the same so I’m not one to tell her that it’s not time for her to leave just yet).
Liminal spaces can also be times …
Those in-between times. Not quite day and not quite night.
Like now …
Looking out the window. All day, I’ve seen the clouds overhead hanging low, a sight for sore eyes (cliché, I know, but true for a girl who has spent the past decade in the drought of California’s Central Valley).
Never enough clouds.
Never enough rain.
For now, the sun hasn’t yet set … although it will soon. It’s not quite day and it’s not quite night.
It’s in between and I am in between and my daughter is in between. And sometimes it is hard to be in between.
The already and the not yet.
The seeded but not fully grown.
The sun setting and you know the dawn will come but you don’t know how long the night might be.
The goodbyes when you know there will be a hello but you don’t know how long away it might be.
I sit here now, at the airport – this in-between place – waiting for a flight that should have taken off hours ago in the full daylight …
When I would have seen the land dwindling below and the clouds growing closer, then suddenly around me, then suddenly below me and nothing above but sky and sun and brilliant whiteness bouncing off clouds that are never the same twice.
But now, it looks like we will be flying up into the dusk, up into the darkness.
The here and not yet there.
The goodbye and not yet hello.
The hug, squeeze, kiss with maybe a tear or two and a choked-back “I’m so proud of you” and “I know you’ll do fine.”
Perhaps an airport is the perfect place for me to have spent these hours, in this in-between place.
Although it is busy and there are more people around than I would like, and it is inside and I think better in the outdoors with the sky and clouds overhead and perhaps a hint of rain in the air …
Perhaps it is the right place to consider how often we are in these in-between places, these waiting places, the already and the not yet.
Perhaps, in some ways, it is where we spend most if not all of our lives.
Perhaps it takes seven hours stuck in an airport to realize that.
Perhaps – although I try to embrace the moment and to be present within it and to seek out these liminal spaces in which to write – I don’t really recognize them until I have no other choice.
Even as I write, I recognize the privilege of this ability to contemplate and reflect in this place …
The vast disparity between me waiting for a flight in peace and comfort, in an air-conditioned building with the assurance of a flight at some point in time soon and a family to greet me at my arrival.
A home to return to.
The disparity between my privilege and those who have fled to airports in the past week, in Afghanistan …
Some saying goodbye for the last time, many leaving everything behind, and even more not even making it on the coveted flights to a place of safety …
Remaining behind in uncertainty, terror, sorrow.
I have no answer for this inequity, no solution that would lead to peace and equality for all people everywhere.
Some of us find our voices in spite of difficult upbringings or harsh environments.
Others would if only they had a chance …
Their voices, their reflections, their art and music and songs, would be beautiful.
And we, all of us, are diminished in some way without them, even if we do not recognize it.
We miss something, we have some sense of disquiet, some longing speaking to a sense that all is not as it should be.
Even when the flight is on time and there is no wait line at the security check, still, we are stuck in this in-between space …
Knowing things like hope and beauty and vast, inescapable dreams of better things, and yet not seeing them.
Seeing only shadows, only glimpses.
Seeing the dark side of a liminal cloud when above the sky is clear and the sun, so brilliant.
So, what do I do, what do we do, in these spaces in between?
Here and not there … not yet.
I suppose we continue to hope.
We give …
In whatever way will lift up the better world for which we hope.
We create with words and music and clay, we people of words and music and clay.
We paint clouds and airports. We sing goodbyes and hellos. We shape into an image of beauty for the beauty that has imaged us.