Thresholds and Sanctuaries: the Mysterious Power of Place
In working on my second book, which is anchored in place even more deeply than my first, I just read Robert Hamma's Landscapes of the Soul: A Spirituality of Place.
Says Hamma, Places where we come close to the raw power of life and death are holy places. When we stand on this ground we sense ourselves on a threshold, on the edge of the border that divides what we see from what we cannot see.
This statement converged, for me, with three seemingly disparate things: Bill Srickland's journey, my on-line life, and a description of the Nihonga style of painting I saw in Mako Fujimura's slim volume River Grace.
For Strickland, the raw power of life he felt through working clay and through his teacher's passion for art fused with the art room and the teacher's dining room. As he remarks, these places became sanctuaries where he developed a new basis for his self-identity.
In a similar way, I consider that this blog— where over time I am forging a more raw, pulsing relationship to writing, art, artists and my own inner landscape— has become a surprising ' holy place' in a non-traditional form (usually we think of place as having a certain three-dimensionality that some would say is absent here). Oddly, this reminds me of Nihonga painting, which accrues memory-traces of the painting process as layers are built up; in their semi-opaqueness these layers birth 'ambiguous spaces [that] create their own quality of light.' In other words, not all space is as concrete as we expect and its reality, its dimensionality, might be related to memory and luminous impact as much as it is to concrete material.
So that, perhaps the holiness of a place, a space— even a cyberspace— is as Hamma suggests somehow related to the experience of threshold, shift, possibility. We stand in a certain place, even an ambiguous space, and like Strickland we find a new identity emerging. Suddenly, the place is both threshold and sanctuary. Whether we make it so or the place itself makes it so is a bit of a mystery.
Golden Fire art by Makoto Fujimura. Used with permission.
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