We’re Closer Than We Seem (On Liminal Spaces and the Smell of the Sea)

I was thinking a lot about distance today, as I walked around the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. With few updates to the collection since the last time I visited, I spent most of my time wandering around the beautiful out-door terrace, overlooking the Doha Bay. From the first gust of sea-breeze, I felt the thread of a connection to other beaches I have visited.

There is something that is common to all liminal spaces. I am comfortable in liminal spaces: beaches, theaters, trains, libraries* and interdisciplinary projects in particular. The commonality between liminal spaces makes them closer together for me than spaces that are clearly all one thing. All theaters are more similiar to each other than they are to pastures, whether the theater and the pasture are in Japan or New Zealand.

Like Half-Moon Bay (my connection to the ocean at home), the Doha Bay smells like salt and elderly sea-weed, with a hint of city exhaust. Both have birds of prey and plastic bottles in the water and barnacles growing on everything. Standing on the terrace in Doha, I felt closer to California than I ever did in Pittsburgh. Feeling the wind in my face, brushing my hair all crazy, I smelled home.

Inspirational Quote:

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” – Rudyard Kipling

*Terry Pratchett’s L-Space is a great kind of example of a liminal location.


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