Is this your threshold moment?Aug 20, 2023
I've just come back from spending a week in a house surrounded by forest in Connecticut. It had no internet, so I got away from the keyboard and the scrolling and spent time reading, resting and reflecting.
On my way there I stayed two nights with the vibrant and thoughtful Juanita Brown and her partner David Issacs. We agreed we were all in a "threshold moment."
Thresholds offer a moment of liminal space -- a boundary between before and after; a moment to consider who you choose to be.
And they are not easy. It's uncomfortable to stay in the "not knowing" for long enough for it to bear fruit. To avoid the temptation of taking action just for the sake of it. To really sit, sift, and let a field of potential unfold. Then to sense in and let your inner voice -- not your mind -- lead.
I've thought a lot about thresholds, from more than one perspective. I lived in Denmark for a few years and they have physical thresholds at each doorway. If you don't pick up your feet it can be painful and you will trip into the next reality. Literally.
And I've thought about thresholds from the story perspective. They often show up as a crossroads, or as a boundary between earth and sea, the meeting point of two different realms. They mark a decision point. Will I stay here or move on? What do I need to let go of to move on into the next reality or level of being? What do I now need to get past or accept?
These decision points keep coming at us if we truly want to be awake in life.
Sometimes what you need is a friend to stay the course with you. Juanita and I agreed to support each other. She reminded me of the unique story contribution I can make as someone with the skills to host, harvest and care for story, wrapped in the passion I carry for it. She said: "Don't give up at this critical moment. This is your time." I needed to hear that.
Maybe you need to hear that too.
While away in the Northeastern part of the United States I visited the homes of two very influential storytellers -- Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women and Samuel Clemens, know to most of the world as Mark Twain, a key celebrity around the world during his lifetime. Two key talents with very different lives.
Alcott's father was an educationalist, far ahead of his time. He was aware that people had different learning styles and worked to find out what they were. He believed children needed play and invented recess. The school he built behind Orchard House was, in fact, the first adult education center. His pupils loved him, but the establishment didn't. He kept getting fired, which meant all the women in his family needed to work.
Little Women was the book Louisa was asked to write and didn't want to. Even the publishers didn't really want it. No one knew what a runaway success it would be, establishing a market for women's literature. It was a reflection of her own life and the power of both feminine relationships and a mother's care in shaping young lives.
Apparently Louisa was every bit as creative and as opinionated as her character Jo. She produced the work in two parts. She never married herself, but Jo's history might have been what she wished. Instead of bowing to the fans, Jo found her own perfect unusual match and retained her independence at the same time.
Orchard House is situated in Concord, Massahusetts.
Samuel Clemens was also quite opinionated and his quotes would have made him a hit in social media if he'd been around now. Like:
“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”
"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
And my favourite "Travel is fatal to prejudice."
His house in Hartford, Connecticut is both amazing and beautiful, with the work of Tiffany and other well known artisans. It has 25 rooms and 7 bathrooms. He both played and worked on the top floor in the billiard room. It was said he smoked 20 cigars a day and lived up to his wish to come in with Halley's Comet in 1835 and depart with it too, in 1910.
He practiced his prodigious oral storytelling skill by regaling family and friends with new material. Every night he told his three daughters a new story using the objects on the mantelpiece in exactly the same order,
During his summers in Hannibal, Missouri as a boy he listened to the stories of Daniel Quarles, an enslaved man on his grandfather's farm. He said: "I have not seen him for more than half a century and yet spiritually I have had his welcome company a good part of that time." Daniel's voice became that of Jim's in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Jim's situation and Huck's commitment to freedom made them a powerful statement about racism and slavery. It is still one of the most banned books in America.
These two would make fascinating dinner conversation, but I don't think they liked each other. Clemens was reported to have commented that Alcott was taking food from the mouths of male author's children. Those were, thankfully, different days.
And finally, I had the pleasure of working in the local Wheeler Library in Stonington, Connecticut, for a day. What a beautiful spot! But just in case you think it makes you more proper to become a marble bust at the end of your life, have a close look at this one.
Isn't it time to have a brilliant ally on your side?
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