Between

In the park, the wild cherry is the last tree of autumn.  The others have already embraced winter, skeletal limbs clawing at the sky.  But the cherry still shimmers with golden leaves that drift drowsily to the ground.  A pool of saffron encircles its base.  Where the other leaves in the park are crisp and shrivelled, those from the cherry are sleek and shiny as though they still live.  The tree is like a beacon on this otherwise grey afternoon.  It draws the eye and not only because of its colour but because it is clearly something ‘other’ in the drab landscape.

Walking under the cherry is like walking into another time or place.  Time slows as the leaves descend.  I am in a different world, lit from within by the gold-clad branches and the fallen sun beneath.  My skin sings of yellow and gold and I’m sure that if you saw me, I would be glowing with light.  At this moment, the cherry is a threshold to another world.   I feel different standing underneath it.  I’m in the park but outside of it.  Beyond the cherry tree is a different place altogether.

On this evening, I am between: between an amber sunset in the west and a half moon in the pale southern sky.  Between a blazing cherry and a congregation of sleeping naked giants.  Between seasons.  It is no longer really autumn, but not quite winter.  The shift from one to the other is often impeceptible, and this is the time of uncertainty, when there may or may not be frost on the grass, when my breath might cloud the air or my winter coat may be too warm.

As a child I was entranced by a world at the back of a wardrobe, enchanted by a garden that appeared when the clock struck thirteen.  I have always been drawn to thresholds, the places that are between.  I’ve come across unexpected portals: a tree with a swing in a darkened glade,  a bridge overgrown with grass and lichens, towering stones and a circlet of trees.  I wonder why these places are so enticing.  It is because this world isn’t enough?  Or because we sense that the world really is suffused with magic and these between places give us a glimpse of it.

Stories are portals too.  Even those that are tales of the most ordinary places still transport us to another world for a while. Writing a story is like being in another place: I become apart from the world as it is and engrossed in a world that isn’t – yet.  Most of my stories offer a hint of the between, a thread of magic brought back from that other world.

Some places are so soaked in magic that they are always between places.  But sometimes, it takes only a shift in the time of year, or a crease in the fabric of the landscape for the door to open.  It will not be open long, but it is enough to show a glimmer of something else.  In a week or so, the cherry will shed the last of its leaves and the between place will wink out.  The grey will close in and cloak what was for a while a crossing point to another world.  But I was here.  I stood for a moment in that place of gold and light and knew the enchantment of the in between.

109 thoughts on “Between

  1. Your affinity for the thin places in the world is incredible. Your ability to share those portals to these otherworldly places is wonderful. Thank you for sharing these journeys with us. May the upcoming Solstice bring you another opportunity to bridge the gap between this world and the magical one.

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  2. Beautiful post Andrea! Now I better understand why I like your writing so much. It always speaks to that connection and portal to the deeper world. Even though you write mostly of nature, you always hint at the magic within. Thanks for the lovely peek inside your beautiful world. 🙂

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  3. A few things you said resonated with me. When you were glowing with the autumn gold, I’ve often longed to dive into the colors and become one with them. I even posted a poem about that once.
    I also love this line, “we sense that the world really is suffused with magic and these between places give us a glimpse of it.”

    We opened the door to winter, and it smacked us in the face with 10 inches of snow overnight. Roads are a mess. But, I guess I can expect nothing less from Chicago at this time of year (although it’s a bit early).

    Lovely post and photos, Andrea.

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  4. Good morning Andrea. As always poetically beautiful. When I read your blog, I can close my eyes and see and experience everything so intensely – as I have said before you paint with words.. Thank you – Janet 🙂

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  5. Spring treated us well in October but is now showing its sour face. I can’t wait till the lovely long twilights return because it is at twilight that I always feel I am on the threshold of something wonderful and mysterious. Your post reminds me of some of John O’Donohue’s writings, especially those in To Bless the Space Between Us.

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  6. Lovely, Andrea. It is a magical time, when our awareness allows the unknown/unknowable to be glimpsed. Maybe that’s why we turn inward at this time, and why our writing time is often so productive…

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  7. Nice Andrea. Like you I think that the best fantasy is that which just flits on the edge of reality. Sadly I’ve only every really considered the cherry as a fruit, or indeed a beautiful hardwood.

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  8. Your post got me thinking about how much I love dusk, a very in between time. On holiday in southern Italy earlier in the year it was a shock to discover there wasn’t any really. The sun set and it was dark. A bit of a shock to the system. I love those summer evenings when you can watch the swallows giving way to bats – the perfect in between experience!

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  9. I always love reading your late autumn posts, Andrea. While other people complain about the weather, your magic places are still welcoming and enchanting. There is always a portal, a miracle, a promise.

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  10. Anything to do with liminality always attracts me. It struck me as I read this that your writing takes place in a liminal world. It’s never fully here nor there, but in some magical place where anything can happen. That is an extremely attractive quality! Going to pin this to my liminality board on Pinterest where nothing is liminal, it just is.

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  11. I love the idea of finding portals. The Secret Garden definitely comes to mind. How I loved that magical moment when they found that special place! But, it was ordinary too. Just a garden a woman used to love. The magic was the hidden part, the just out of sight part. Thank you for the lovely reminder of this “space between.”

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    • Thanks Angela, have you come across ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’? That’s the most magical garden story of my childhood. I actually only read The Secret Garden fairly recently and was surprised at how mystical it was.

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  12. What a beautiful meditation on the magic of thresholds and the in-between spaces. I love how a tree is also a portal. And stories! Just beautiful, Andrea. I’m wondering if you’ve read any of John O’Donohue’s writings? He is fascinated by thresholds, too.

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  13. Andrea, what a beautiful way to describe the idea of in between. I. too, love the idea of portals and where they may take us, but I have never stood beneath a tree slipping through the seasons and thought of it as one. What a concept. I love it. I think animals understand it better than we. (or at least, me.:-) )

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  14. Such lovely photos and writing, Andrea. I love the idea of the threshold, those liminal places when we feel things deeply. Like Victoria, I love the twilight as well as the dawn, as transitions contain so much beauty, both in nature and in our lives. Beautiful!

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  15. It’s what I love about fiction, especially Sci-fi: It transports me to somewhere else, someone else, something else – Horror does it too, but at a cost. I love to focus on a story, movie, or whatever.
    You are right, we are between seasons, even now. Winter starts in 20 days, fall is coming to a close, yet here we are, weather-wise, appearance-wise, it still looks a lot like fall.
    Thanks,
    Scott

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  16. Your writing is beautiful, Andrea. I love your description of portals between places. There was a tamarack tree at the borders of a wood I remember from youth. In autumn, it turned bright gold. Such an intense color, that at twilight it seemed to glow with its own internal source.

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  17. What an enchanting post …
    I love all the colour – a pool of saffron, fabulous. Yellow brings us so much. Hope mainly, I think. Hope of sun, hope of light, hope of warmth.
    And your writing as a portal. Of course. Thank you for threading that magic.

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  18. Such a magical post, Andrea. As I read it I felt my breath catching as if I was standing under the cherry tree myself! I love the books you mention, too; that otherworld that seems so much more exciting than reality and is so close that we can surely get there if we are lucky, is described so well by CS Lewis and Philippa Pearce. My daughter read The Moondial by Helen Cresswell when she was 9 or 10 which is another magical transportation book.

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  19. I love the soaked-in-magic places! If wishes were dollars, I’d be rich for all the ones I had about my mother’s bureau becoming a door to an enchanted garden. And I understand the “under the cherry tree” moments. When young, we had a house with a large cherry tree in the back. Hours spent in its branches soaking up the magic . . . I’m glad you’ve not stopped. So many of us lose this sense when we become adults.

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  20. Andrea, thank you for bringing us to the magic infused world of the cherry tree, truly incredible and I’m nodding in agreement with all your reflections of our search for the between. You capture the magic of stories and writing perfectly…to lose oneself in another world is like entering a new dimension!

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  21. I love the between places too, and I wholeheartedly agree that stories are portals. I get lost in the worlds I create (if I’m writing) as well as the worlds in books that I’m reading. Stories are one of the best escapes.

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  22. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe … The Secret Garden. This piece hints at portals and places that enchant and delight. As does your evocative writing that makes nature come alive in delicate watercolour pastels. What a way you have with words!

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