Thresholds are magical spaces, which lie in between two places or states. They are neither one nor the other, but are a mixture of both at once. Because they are neither here nor there, they lie in the third place which is not of this place, but is the once-upon-a-time place of fairy tales and myth.
A threshold space can contain opposites, and so it is space where everything is possible. They are spaces where one thing ends and another begins, and so hold both beginnings and endings. Change occurs by crossing thresholds, by passing through liminal spaces, and finding new possibilities to challenge the status quo.
The word itself is quite mysterious and seems to have Norse roots. [Old English therscold; related to Old Norse threskoldr, Old High German driscubli, Old Swedish thriskuldi]
Thres meaning tread or step, and skoldr or skuld meaning shield or skin. So together they give the meaning of a protective edge to the steps we can take. In other words a place where we should pause and chose our steps carefully.
Some thresholds are clearly marked by doors or gates, which bar our progress, literally making us come to a halt before moving forwards. In our inner world these can be feelings or experiences which keep us from changing. The gates or doors prevent us from moving into the transitional space where change and new ways of thinking and doing become available to us. Of course fear is usually the biggest door we will encounter, and fear of change will keep us locked out of an emotional space where we can think in different ways. We may never manage to get passed the gate and into the field beyond where there are new views, new landscapes and potentials just waiting to be discovered. We remain cut off from our potential to grow and change, because of the fear of change itself. Better to stay safely tucked behind the walls and fences of our life as we know it, than to risk stepping over a threshold and allowing all that unknown, unpredictable potential to sweep us away into who knows what. Our egos can feel very afraid at thresholds, and for good reason, because we don’t know what lies beyond.
Thresholds can mark the liminal edges between states of being, between earth and water, between sleep and wakefulness, between night and day. Despite appearances there are no clear cut edges where one thing ends and another begins, rather there is a blurred edge where both states exist at once. The edge of a loch, scattered with rocks and stones is both earth and water, and our ancestors saw in between spaces like this as gateways connecting this world with the otherworld. Where the water and the stones of earth meet something new is created by the mixing, waves ripple back across the water and sound pours out into the air. The encounter of opposites can create something new.
Thresholds are wonderful places, full of the potential to change, to release old ways of looking at things, and to open up into new ways of encountering and experiencing life. Perhaps you can use the thresholds you cross everyday to waken up a little more. Each doorway you step through could be a chance to pause just for a moment and notice where you are and where you are going. Start to notice the changes in light and sound as you cross through doorways from one space to another, and in this way become a little more engaged with your life as it actually is right now, with all of its wild potential.
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Dear Seonaid. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful and beautiful post ❤
You are so good at putting words and pictures to your thoughts. Thresholds for me now are put into words. And, their importance is monumental.
All that gorgeous sunlight brings a smile to my face 🙂
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Wonderful thoughts, Seonaid. You’re so right. Life is full of thresholds, from birth to death. We should not be afraid if we tread wisely. Is that a fairy I spy in the grass? 🙂
I think perhaps it might be 🙂
such a meaningful post in every way, so much to think about and beautiful photos of our wonderful Earth!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post….and that it has left you thinking 🙂
I loved the way the fresh sprouted spring grass looked so lush and green after months of washed out winter!
OK Seonaid … this isn’t funny … not one bit. You’ve been reading my mind and wrote this post as your way of helping me negotiate a very scary threshold that I have been fearful of. For nearly two years now I have known that I was way overdue for a change of scene and a slight shift in professional situation. Literally, I’m not kidding, literally five minutes before clicking to read this post I pushed the ‘return’ key on my computer to send off a cover letter, list of references, and CV to a school in New Hampshire that is advertising a post that looked promising to me. Perhaps because of your psychic energies I have seriously begun to think about leaving a secure position which I have held for nearly 20 years. I approach a threshold, beyond which I cannot see. How frightening. Your words, however, give me strength and convince me that frightening can be a good thing. I hope we are BOTH right. D
How wonderful that my post arrived just in time David. I had been feeling that you were getting restless from some of your posts and thoughts over the winter…..good for you taking the step forward….fingers crossed for you.
What is the new post….teaching I’m assuming?
Yup … teaching … and, hopefully, not quite full-time … perhaps a segue to semi-retirement? Anyway it would be in a part of the world which is closer to family (including younger daughter) and closer to major international airports, which would make trips to Switzerland (to visit older daughter) much easier. D
Would this mean giving up the farm?
That’s a good question. Joanna and I are looking at properties … some which would allow us to bring our sheep and some which wouldn’t. We really haven’t thought that through yet. You are perceptive however in focusing in on the one question we are having trouble answering ourselves … do we continue farming or not? Talk about a mid-life crisis! D
Perhaps a threshold rather than a crisis David, and the daily routines and struggles seemed to have lost their joy for you recently….always time for something to change when that happens 🙂
Following the trail of your thoughts Seonaid is a wonderful journey. I go over the threshold and step into somewhere new and promising …
Well you’re very welcome as always Poppy…it’s delightful to have you over….who knows what adventure we might end up following 🙂
Wise, thought-provoking. Perhaps the thresholds concept helps explain the magic, the particular energy I feel, in the dance between nature & city here in downtown Toronto. I feel it especially in the waterfront parks, with urban development so crisply defined, right next door. I won’t push the analogy too far, but I do think there is an overlap…
Penny I just had a look at that post, and agree totally…..a transitional space between man and nature, scattered with wonderful symbolic statues. Creative space at its most stimulating 🙂
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Excellent writing, but even better photos! I love them! So well done!
It’s great to hear that you enjoyed the mix of words and images….I took the photos a few weeks ago, and this gave me a great reason to use them 🙂
A most thoughtful, perceptive post. Thank you!
My pleasure Michael, I’m delighted you enjoyed it 🙂
A fascinating essay on the power of thresholds. Your scholarly understanding of celtic and norse mythologies gives your words great power. I love the conclusion. Oh if only more people would step into their wild potential.
It would make the world a much more creative place Suzanne, but as always fear can paralyse and trap us in tiny parts of our whole potential self 🙂
Delighted that you enjoyed my exploration of thresholds…edges have always fascinated me, and I work a lot with spaces of potential change, so it was a subject close to my heart. You have picked up my love of Celtic and Norse myths! and I find them woven deeply and powerfully into the fabric and tales of this land where I live…..
Releasing the fears and moving beyond them is also a quality that can be garnered at thin places and at thresholds. Perhaps there are Celtic myths that work with these ideas too. I would love to hear of them if your work, imagination and photographs take you there. 🙂
I love your thoughts on thresholds, which tend to fit in rather well with some magical ones I have been exploring in imagination over the past month or so.
Thank you, they are a rather favourite subject of mine in lots of ways….and I work with thresholds a lot both at work and in play. You have me intrigued about your magical explorations…they are the best 🙂
how beautiful!! it seems like everyone around me is in a threshold right now.. what a transformational time we are in!! my threshold is taking the shape of a 4 month journey, which has quickly locked a door to my past and unraveled a future that otherwise would have been unimaginable. what an exciting place to find ones self. thanks for this, love the pics!
Would love to know where your 4-month journey is taking you Ana if you would like to share with us. I believe your story may inspire many….
I appreciate your interest! I am just now getting my blog started, mainly focused on my personal transformation and travels. You can find me at anasanablog.wordpress.com
I’ve just had a look at your blog…that’s an amazing adventure of transformation you’re going through. Enjoy the new you 🙂
Thank you Ana for responding back! Your blog is wonderful and the food looks so good I want to eat it off the page!! From one traveling gypsy to another I wish you many openings in awareness and possibilities, as well as gentle openings of your heart, body and soul on your journey….Two Hands At My Heart…….http://www.GayeAbbott.com
My pleasure Ana, and how wonderful to catch you on the edge of a life-changing threshold. Transformation is of course happening all around and within us all the time, but there are large steps which we sometimes take into new and unexplored lands…..I wonder where your 4 month journey is headed….it sounds intriguing 🙂
As always, pause for thought. It made me think of some of the thresholds I have crossed, not knowing what was on the other side….
I found that even writing about thresholds set off lots of half remembered transitions of my own. They hold so many wonderful lessons and so much potential, that it’s always worth revisiting…..
The not knowing feels hard, but most of the wonderful things which have happened to me have been unexpected and unforeseen 🙂
May it always be so, Seonaid. 🙂
Socrates, Aristotle, Plato and Maimonides :- Augustine of Hippo
Natural Order of Life. As Gaye Abbott quoted “I feel like stepping through those [fairey lights] door ways . i.e into the supernatural……………..
I’ll send an e-mail that express that feeling
I’m always delighted to provoke or encourage such explorations Anthony….enjoy the fairy doorways 🙂
What a wonderful thing to think about!! Thanks for the loveliness as always!
And what a wonderful comment, thank you! I’m always happy to provoke interesting new thoughts 🙂
Inspiring thoughts. And the lovely thing about thresholds is that we can, with the right practice, sometimes move through them without knowing (although at ‘deep level’ we do ‘know’) we have done so. The ‘fear of fear’, the ‘fear of change’ – is so much part of the human condition. 🙂
That’s so true Rachael, fear is a very deeply embedded emotion, and it can be so limiting. I guess the trick is to begin to notice when the fear is based on something we are assuming, perhaps based on old out of date patterns of thinking….rather than on the actual experience we’re having. Most fear is about what ‘might ‘ happen, rather than on what is actually happening at that moment…most but not all. The exceptions to this are the real fears we should pay close attention to in order to make useful and safe choices 🙂
So, so true. In my experience the fear never goes away – it’s a vital reaction for survival – there’s a hard wiring. It just gets distorted over the years from life’s hard knocks, and we build layers of ‘meaning’ around it, obscuring from ourselves what it really is. I suppose, I’m thinking mindfulness again – as ever.
Loving your photos too 🙂
Thresholds seem scary but you have framed them in such as way as to be inviting.
That’s great to hear Kellie, and they really can be enticing exciting places….if only we can dare to look we might find something wonderful. Starting a blog is of course a threshold, and you helped me to cross that one 🙂
Perfect in every word and picture. Thank you for this marvelous post.
What a gorgeous comment, thank you, I’m delighted you enjoyed the journey across thresholds. I took the photos in that space between day and night, between winter and spring, on the edge of the woods, in dappled shade…..so many thresholds 🙂
Very beautiful said about thresholds! Gorgeous photos!
They are beautifully enchanting spaces Amy, and I’m delighted you enjoyed the words and the photos….they were taken a couple of weeks ago and seemed perfect for the challenge.
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As soon as I saw this challenge I thought of you, it was made for you wasn’t it?
Thanks for writing about the roots of the word, I find that really interesting 🙂
Oh Gilly it’s so true….I’m fascinated by thresholds and liminal space. Delighted you liked reading about the roots of the word….I love to know where words have come from, and often for me it helps me to understand the word in a deeper way, making new connections and triggering new thoughts.
I loved your take on this, thresholds as mysterious, subliminal…and great images too. Your descriptions of thresholds at the start put me in mind of Alan Garner’s worlds.
Thanks Sue, I find them fascinating places, and work with their symbolism a lot. The images were taken in the fading twilight on the edge of spring at the edge of the woods 🙂
Thanks also for introducing me to an author who I feel ashamed to say I had never read…his stuff looks right up my street, and I will explore…..
How very gorgeous!
Thank you Fi, I loved the late light of twilight catching between the trees and their shadows….and of course that lush early spring grass 🙂
I love it! I use thresholds to analyze data, I discard everything below it, most of the time using a software. I’m so use to it, I think I am doing the same with my life, discarding things without paying attention. Now I’ll before careful.
Elizabeth that’s so interesting to hear about the ways that thresholds are embedded into your life…..so if it’s not interesting enough it never even reaches your attention…lots of food for thought there 🙂 Thresholds can mean so many different things, and appear in all sorts of guises…
I like interpretation of the theme very much, Seonaid. Well done!
By the way, we’re preparing our trip to Scotland, our first stop will be on the Holy Island. Have you walked the John Muir Trail, by any chance? I’m wondering if it’s worth paying it some attention on the way to Edinburgh?
Have a great new week!
Delighted you enjoyed my take on thresholds, it’s a subject I work with a lot.
How wonderful that you’re planning your Scottish journey, and Holy Isle is a great place to start….although I love Bamburgh Castle, just a few miles further South, even more.
I often walk parts of the John Muir Trail with my dogs….lots of my costal photos are taken from parts of it. My post on lighthouses features Barns Ness which is on the trail. Another nice stop might be Cove, near Coldingham, again you can see photos of it in my post on rock textures.
Email me if you would like to ask more questions
What dates are you up here?
Thank you for your kind offer, Seonaid! I’ll certainly get back to per E-mail when we have sorted everything out. I have put Bamburgh Castle on my list, fits well, we’re staying at Bamburgh View on Holy Isle. 🙂 We arrive there on the 20th of August (2 nights) – what do you think: should we plan 1-2 nights on the John Muir Trail on the way to Edinburgh?
Thanks a lot for your kind help. I’m sort in a rush to get packed and go to back to Germany – see you! 🙂
Perfect metaphor for where so many of us are in our lives right now. I feel like stepping through those “fairey light” doorways in your images just to see, feel and experience a tad more of my wild potential! Thanks Seonaid!
Glad that the metaphor touched you Gaye, thresholds of change are a subject dear to my heart. The fairy light doorways are a perfect way to encounter our wider, wilder potential….enjoy the exploration 🙂