Between Things

Marilyn and Steve snuck up behind me on the boardwalk where I’d been trying to still my fiery brain with the sound of rippling water. I’d seen them here before. They scan the landscape through binoculars for blue herons, and wallow in wonder with every glimpse of one. I wanted to wallow in wonder, too.

Blue herons, they say, prefer to hunt at twilight, often with one foot in the water and one on land, staying still for long stretches of time while waiting for the perfect strike. Blue herons, in other words, are creatures of liminality.

After they’d entertained some of my elementary questions about the birds, Marilyn and Steve offered to lead me to an unobstructed view of the sunset, achievable from some abandoned train track bridge just a short walk away. They struck me as worth following. So that’s what I did, followed familiar strangers onto an old bridge at dusk: neither here nor there, day nor night, but somewhere in between. We, too, are creatures of liminality.

Sitting in stillness, paradoxically, exposes a constant and subtle flux at the heart of experience. Much like standing on a bridge at sunset, though, we can practice welcoming and even appreciating liminality—not for certainty in a world of dichotomies, but for clarity in an experience that can’t be contained by them. There’s a kind of clarity found only in moments of suspension, I think, and however rare and fleeting our awareness of these moments may be, I’m reminded by Marilyn and Steve to keep scanning, to keep rejoicing in every glimpse.

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About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

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