Old Places Liminal Spaces

Last week, the day before I flew out to Denver for a long time good friend’s wedding, I made a brief detour in my hometown and adjacent town. I visited the adjacent town because other long time friends have made a major decision to relocate to northern Wisconsin for a fresh start and new work opportunities. I visited the town for a suit fitting for my mother’s remarriage to someone who has basically been in my family for the majority of my life and is already my stepdad effectively.

On my journey I decided to add a few stops. It was a beautiful spring day in early June. Midday and not too warm. First I stopped by a little mystical and occult shop that I’ve picked up supplies for since I was a high schooler. I stocked up on incense of every variety so that I would be ready for a long time!

Then after that I decided to hop by a local Chinese buffet that some old friends and I used to frequent. It’s simple, moderate quality comfort food where I could sit in silence for a bit and contemplate. I was feeling nostalgic this day and I wanted to make a couple more odd trips around town to see how far we’ve transitioned out of my old life as a young man into full adulthood. Since 2004, my hometown has been in steady decline. The departure of heavy industry like Maytag and Butler sent the town into an economic spiral that its never truly recovered from, even twenty years later. The relentless march of capitalism, globalizing economies and changing consumer demands has left towns like mine, which thrived in the 90s as not much more than hollow husks falling into disrepair.

After my stop at lunch I decided to pick up a pack of Pokemon cards at an old haunt. I don’t know if I was feeling especially nostalgic or what but I felt a spiritual need to visit some old places as all these areas in my life that have changed to be nearly unrecognizable. As I’ve hinted at before, my religious beliefs are a little wishy-washy but in general I would describe myself as a Neopagan. I generally find that while I am spiritual, I am not a monotheist but rather somewhere between an animist, polytheist and pantheist. Sometimes I am more of an agnostic deist even. Lately I describe myself especially as an animist because I find that such a way of intuiting spiritual things feels the most natural to me. I think John Halstead’s website entry about animism is very illuminating for a quick rundown of what this entails.

I can write on the topic in more depth in the future but the short version is that there are natural places in my life where I have had profound moments and as I grow older, now with my son, I want to return to some of those sites and pay homage. One specifically is at my old, abandoned elementary school. A collection of trees under which, at about age ten or fifth grade, I had a sort of revelation about what I think of the universe. It’s too numinous to describe here but I remember it as if it was yesterday. My best friend was standing near me at the time when I had this thought and I even remember the direction I was facing: southwest. So I visited this location and collected some pictures.

This was a positive, reflective experience for me where I got to relive a lot of childhood memories running around with my friends imaging worlds in a way only a child can. There was a sense of sadness at seeing this place closed but also a serene sense of peace. It was nice seeing that some of the open space was dedicated to solar fields. As an environmentalist its nice to see that even in small town America, there are some real sustainability initiatives. Hopefully the trees of my childhood stand for a long time and continue to tell their stories.

One takeaway from this is that I would like to learn how to identify trees better. They live long, venerable lives and tell such stories that it seems only appropriate to learn more about them. Furthermore I am inspired to visit sacred groves and give offerings more to nature spirits to deepen my religious faith. This might seem such a strange takeaway to an outsider but for me it was a deeply fulfilling experience that left my mind at ease and my heart full. Though people move away, businesses close and things change, the memories were made here. That energy of human experience in one place remains with us so long as we remain and even afterwards, in the descendants of those people. I hope that everyone reading can find those places that put them truly in sync with themselves where they can reflect on the beauty in our world.