Nothing is planned by the sea and the sand. – The Who
My husband and I arrived at Folly Beach, South Carolina, just outside Charleston, last night. The purpose of our trip, of course, is to view Monday’s solar eclipse in its totality. We had decided month ago to make a family vacation out of it, and met my husband’s parents and my brother- and sister-in-law here at a rented house just a short walk from the beach.
We drove from Washington, D.C. and arrived late last night, after 10 p.m. Now, I have to say that I have not spent a lot of time on the beach in my life. I didn’t see the ocean for the first time until I was 11 years old. I had a couple of trips to the Jersey shore in my childhood, and then as an adult have been fortunate to spend some time on beaches in Italy, Greece, and West Africa. Still, all told, not a lot of lifetime beach time. So when we arrived last night, I couldn’t wait until the next day to see the ocean. My husband and I took the short walk to the beach in the dark. There, we walked across the vast, empty stretch of sand, listening to the crash of the waves, and stepped right into the place where the earth meets the sea.
As we waded into the ocean, I was reminded of the magic of liminal spaces. The times and places that are in between, that transition from one state to another. Dawn and dusk both blend day into night, night into day. Druids often invoke the power of earth, sea and sky. This place where I was standing was such a liminal space, a space where earth, sea and sky all meet.
In Celtic lore as well as in the traditions of many other cultures, these liminal spaces are rife with magic. Take two of the great celebrations from the Year Wheel, Samhain and Beltane. At Samhain, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is said to be thin. Beings from either side may pass back and forth more easily. Opposite Samhain on the Wheel we find Beltane, when the veil between our world and the world of the nature spirits or fae is thin. These are the times between, the times that blend times, the times of ending and beginning of the seasons. And we recognize their magic.
The liminal state between sleeping and waking is another such space. We have a brief window to bring a bit of dreamtime into our waking state. We may feel we hover close to the world of the dead in our sleep, our unconscious state. From those spaces we gain power, and we learn lessons. We may see things more clearly. We can invoke these states too through shamanic practices, touching the places between worlds. In nature we are drawn to the places where the elements of life come together- where the sky meets the earth (mountains), where the earth meets the water (oceans, lakes, rivers).
Here at the beach today, I thought about liminal spaces as I stood in the ocean, feeling the waves crash against me. And the thought hit me as the waves hit me- these liminal spaces strip away the illusion of separateness. They allow us to see the great truth of the universe- that none of us is separate, that nothing is separate. We all are made of all the elements we see around us. The water that sustains life is taken up into the air and then released back to us. We are relatives to every living thing on this planet, and we all come from the dust of stars.
This is always true of course, and we can always be aware of this. The truth is there, all around us, always. But when we come to these liminal spaces, we come face to face with this truth, in all its mystery and majesty and wonder. If we are open to it, our consciousness can shift through the experience. What could be more powerful and magical?
On our drive down to South Carolina, we listened to a podcast about preparing to see the eclipse. One of the podcast hosts talked about what a transformational experience it could be for people- that it could being a knowledge of oneness with the cosmos. I know the eclipse will be a magical experience (I plan to blog about it here in a few days). But I also know that I am always one with the cosmos- I just need to be reminded of it, and to fully experience it. I hope that more and more I will be able to live that knowledge and experience in the day to day, because that seems to me the deepest magic of all.