Mind Matters — Thresholds: in between Past and Future

Some talk of thresholds as being sacred, a liminal space between worlds: a time of transition where you’re neither here nor there. Certainly in the past month or two, I have been ironically feeling homeless and caught between worlds not really having landed anywhere yet. This is absurdly ironic because we are dealing, at present, with two houses with mortgages, the one we’re leaving in Chadds Ford and the one we have bought in Massachusetts. Save for a queen size Aerobed, computers and a chair and food and beer in the refrigerator, our home of thirty years is empty. Meanwhile, the attempt to downsize into one floor of a two-family home in Massachusetts has had the ludicrous outcome of having had boxes piled to the dining room ceiling there.

Transitions are generally not easy and they entail loss even when there is a gain.

But this move, while it is a beginning of new life with daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter, also marks an end. When we moved to Chadds Ford, it was difficult too, but I was forty-one years old, creating a future filled with plans, building my practice, raising two wonderful children, caring for aging, then dying, parents. We also envisioned an addition to our house that was a dream come true, with a kitchen any chef could love and views that made it feel like a very comfortable tree house. Those walls witnessed joyful times and sad times, from illness and dying to weddings and babies and baptisms.

Never have I ever lived in a house where light beams in such miraculous ways. Is it the Brandywine River light that the Wyeths and others are drawn to (pun not intended) that also comes into our house and touches on a painting or a corner and dazzles the eye? Once, another person and I witnessed the Wyeth print of the Kuerner Farm come alive when a ray of sun beamed in straight to a window in the print. Another time, at one of our many Easter Sunday feasts, light struck a Gorman print on the wall above our fireplace. A friend called me to come “look, quick!” The light was such that the entire picture of a desert moonrise came alive.

Some may go “tsk, tsk” at these stories, but these startling events of light never happened anywhere else for me. The artist Jacqueline Beam has painted our house in perspectives that show it bathed in light. It is a special place and as such it is hard to leave—hard to leave its spiritual light.

Right now I sit writing at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, peering out the windows down at Miss Gratz, the cow sculpture, that resides by the water. I will miss her and this museum where our children played and my daughter had her wedding too. There is so much to love here: the beauty of the river, of Longwood, of Winterthur. In the past week, I have been trying to bathe all my pores with Brandywine light—the trees, the hills; ah, the shadows, the shadows that counterpoint the light.

I never missed my childhood row home. In fact, I always wanted to escape it, but then so did my parents. They finally did build their little dream house with trees, but not until I was almost out of high school.

So our Chadds Ford home of thirty years is the longest I have lived anywhere and I did fulfill my dreams here—of both a solid career, while raising children, and bringing to fruition a beautiful addition.

It would mean my living to one hundred and one to have thirty years in our next home. Whether 101 or not, even at 71, I need to envision a larger life that allows me to continue to grow. Until I die, I refuse to stop living. So what does that mean? Where will I next find meaning to life and beauty in life? Certainly our grandchild (grandchildren?) will be a large part of that.

Yet, I will also continue working and writing and discovering natural beauty wherever I am.

So, to thresholds I say, I let go of the past, and say “here I am” to the unknown that is the future.