” …a ‘threshold’ appears first as a boundary and then once approached, you realize that it is only the limit of one layer of understanding while, at the same time, it acts as the doorway to the next, deeper layer.”
Quote by English Professor Michael Chambers
The boundary that defines my body from other is my skin, the boundary that defines my thoughts are my intentions, and the boundary that separates my heart from the unknown is my fear. Thresholds are access points between boundaries, between what I understand to be self and other. Whether I create distinctions between physical boundaries, conceptual boundaries, or emotional and energetic boundaries, there is a commonly held perception that a boundary will help provide personal safety, define a range of motion, and articulate a spatial parameter. The most protective boundary is dense as this functions as an interior and exterior shield. Why then entertain the idea of becoming porous?
When I was emerging as a young woman I felt no clear boundaries between myself and my family’s disturbing behavior. Where did I begin and their anger, fear, pain, and acting out end? All I knew was that it felt scary and painful to be around them. Creating clear boundaries was my first intention that I exercised by separating from my family as soon as I was old enough to leave home. It proved, however, to be a conundrum: in an attempt to protect myself, I ended up feeling isolated and alone.
As a conceptual artist teaching flexible sculpture, I explored thresholds as a theme with my students. There was this creative curiosity I had with the shifting sand and the water’s edge, the inner womb and outer home, and the edge of a ledge and the space beyond. When I began exploring the world of sensation (what is currently referred to as Somatic studies), I discovered that boundaries definitely clarify intentions, articulations, and differentiations. Where I placed my attention could, quite literally, help define an experience: the expression of an organ, the movement of a joint, the flow of my blood. Spending time intentionally sensing helped me feel contained while separating me from other. I began to be my own person and this boundary helped me feel at ease, less fearful, and more grounded in my life. I discovered within the depths of my sensory system a bio-intelligence that I came to trust. It’s what I now refer to as coherency. But the exploration of thresholds continues as a living inquiry into the larger question of who am I.
Forty-five years have passed, and my inquiry has manifested into a fluid system (for lack of a better word). A vast terrain of non-form and non-distinction. The discoveries are an immersion into a new way of sensing self, the world, and other. Originally the specificity of the self was my container that allowed me to be moved by a wave, a current of internal fluid. What resulted, however, was the experience of feeling my own limitations. Years of articulating have allowed a freedom to emerge — what might even be perceived as the essence of diversity — but it has not directly challenged the density of my being. Similar to a log floating on a vibrant rushing river, what I really wanted was to become the sea. Skin, I have been told, is a boundary that tells our embryological story, revealing our lived stress, shock, and trauma. Hydrating tissue by using sound and micro-movements I started to awaken my skin, cells, organs, and tissue. As my tissue awoke through the invocation of fluid movement, I slowly became more porous, my being breathed, opening beyond any defined boundary. I was moved in ways that felt incredibly supportive, non-personal, and even global. My longing to become porous increased exponentially.
I continue to explore the threshold between containment and porousness in multiple threads of my life. Each thread weaves a story where there are thresholds between protection and innovation — a continual paradox of growing desire. Culturing food and composting are two simple dynamic processes of interactive permeability that merge within and without. Multiplicity, an architectural project I discovered online focusing on permeability of structures such as living roofs by growing materials using microbiome material, excites my conceptual threshold. Spending time in the inner city of St Louis, MO brought home a deep sadness as I recognized that my white privilege has starved my soul from others that offer rich cross-cultural pollination. I am the isolated one as boundaries can over protect and constrict. Whether these boundaries place me on one side or the other of a definitive wall, being human is a visceral disconnect from dynamic living. So, I begin again evoking thresholds and immersing my articulated self in a process where bones float in connective tissue; wave motions flood my heart and then recede; where porous tissue breathes life into dense attitudes; new thoughts appear; and where longing thrives as it is moved by forces unimaginable that playfully coax the interactive flourishing of all living beings.
Photo Credit: Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash