After my last post someone mentioned threshold theory to me. This has its roots in anthropological studies of rites of passage, but in educational theory a "threshold concept" is one that, once understood, changes the learner's view of the subject:
These are the difficult bits - the things that are hard to grasp and challenge the learner's existing ideas or understanding. But they are also the parts that make the difference between a working understanding of a subject or true mastery.
This totally makes sense to me in terms of where I find myself. I have these individual pieces of inspiration, skills and knowledge and a sense of reaching for an understanding that will bring them all together .... that is tantalisingly just out of my reach. And to reach it, I may have to let go of some of my existing approach ... which is discomforting. In the meantime, there's that sense of dissatisfaction - that nothing is quite in its place.
But while it was fascinating to me to come across this thinking and to see how it relates to what I'm doing, the real lightbulb moment related to a different aspect. I realised just how strongly I'm attracted to things that encapsulate that liminal edge - the space "in between" where one thing becomes another.
In the landscape, it's where the tide alternately reveals and conceals the land;
... where the sky merges into the sea so that you can hardly see the horizon;
... where dry land merges into mud and then water on the marshes.
It's also those other transitions - where one season begins to turn into the next, changing light at dawn or dusk, marks of ageing or decay ... I could go on but you get the idea. I like the fact that the edges between these things are not clear or distinct. There is an ambiguity, in which you know that something is changing but it is a pattern of one thing flowing into another - not a clear stop / start.
And these are just the visible manifestations. I can also see links to ideas that are important to me about the boundary between knowing / not knowing; processes of change and transition; and the nature of our relationship with the wider natural world.
Salts Hole (above) used to be connected to the sea via a network of saltmarsh creeks. It is now cut off by a ridge of sand dunes and pine woods that has taken many years to form. The water is salty enough to support saltwater creatures such as sea-anemones, even though it is now almost a mile from the sea. The brackish water both reflects the sky and conceals what lies within the pool. It is both transparent and opaque. It is the essence of a liminal space. In many cultures, pools have been seen as gateways (thresholds) to another place - the underworld, underwater lands - and as a symbol of the unconscious. So many layers of liminality.