Not long after my daughter Wendy moved into her first apartment, she decided to share her new space with a little kitten that she named Novalee. Nova, as we came to call her, was wicked smart and an absolute terror, and I’m fairly certain that my ankles still bear the scars of her nighttime attacks whenever I would sleep over. She has grown into a magnificently large animal, the absolute alpha of the house who still displays flashes of her former kitten feistiness on a regular basis. One of my favorite things that she would do was stretch out in the doorway between the kitchen and living room, prompting me to always sing a few bars of the Van Morrison song that has the same title as this post. According to Joseph Campbell, a dweller on the threshold, otherwise known as a threshold guardian, is thought to be “what stands between the old world and the new world of personal growth.” If we view life as a series of journeys, the dweller holds the key to our understanding the one that is coming next. We meet him or her at the threshold, and the experience we have during that encounter depends a great deal on how ready we are to move forward and how willing we are to heed any advice the dweller may have for us. In mythology, where archetypes such as these are often very black and white, the dweller will be benevolent so long as we are prepared and open minded, or very nasty if we display ignorance or arrogance. I’m not sure how much Joseph Campbell Nova has read, but she still spends a lot of time guarding thresholds, and I step by her carefully as she tends to still take a swat at me, claws in these days. Apparently I have passed her tests.
Psychologically speaking, threshold guardians are real components of personal growth and not just mythological symbols. If we reflect back on any major life change that we have initiated, resistance was most likely the first force that we encountered once our decision was made. This feeling of being immediately blocked represents the guardian stepping into the threshold, surfacing as a result of internal limitations or external restrictions that we must learn to navigate. As children, our parents and elementary school teachers taught us our first lessons of self control and appropriate behavior. For many, these early experiences were positive and loving, but for others of us, they may have planted the first seeds of self-sabotaging behavior. A certain fear of failure, rejection, or abandonment may come to the surface, accompanied by powerful feelings of guilt or shame that may stop us from moving forward. In this case, the guardian acts as a mirror, reflecting back the repressed limitations that we hold deep within our psyche and offering us insight into our character. By exploring and understanding the reasons why we feel resistance and fear, we absorb and incorporate this type of childhood guardian and take our first step on embarking on whatever is next for us. External guardians, on the other hand, may come to us in the form of friends or family members who tell us what we can’t or shouldn’t do, or they may be very real constraints such as financial obligations, personal debt, or cultural restrictions. In these cases, we may view the guardian’s challenge as a trial or kind of puzzle that we need to work through. Are we as prepared as we need to be? Do we have the resources that we need to move ahead? Sometimes the answer is no, and we are forced to re-evaluate, returning to this particular threshold only when we are ready.
In either case, threshold dwellers can serve us well if we are open and receptive to hearing and following their guidance. This idea inspired me for today’s post since last week we talked about the fact that the current astrology in the sky shows Pluto crossing over the doorway into Aquarius, bags and laptop in hand and ready to stay a while. Astrological signs are each 30 astronomical degrees, with the entire zodiac creating a complete circle of 360 degrees. When a planet’s orbit moves it into the next constellation, it sits at 0 degrees of that new sign. Faster moving planets like Mercury and Venus, or a luminary like the moon, will not be at this place for very long, but an outer planet like Pluto will seem to remain there forever. In terms of astrology, a planet at 0 degrees of a new sign has met the challenge of the dweller on the threshold and stands in that new place hopeful, excited, and willing to learn. The impact of that placement for us is that it offers an opportunity to take our own next steps, but since any life change requires us to also cross a threshold, we must encounter the dweller that guards it. If we are willing to embrace the idea that Pluto’s big move is urging us towards regaining the humanity we are at risk of losing to technological advancement, we have to ask ourselves what personal demons do we need to confront in order to do just that. Technology, especially in the realm of interpersonal communication, offers a certain level of protection from the vulnerability that we must be willing to feel and display in order to deepen our relationships. Why does this insularity appeal to us in the first place? The response will differ for each of us, but one thing is for certain, our threshold guardians know the answer. In fact, they are the answer, and if we are to learn from them, we must first acknowledge the resistance we feel, but then rather than push back against it, or retreat from it, we will need to allow ourselves to soften and become one with whatever restraints are holding us back. By incorporating these limitations within ourselves, we will overcome them and stand ready for all the possibilities that lie before us, knowing that when we encounter the next guardian, we will be that much more receptive and prepared.
For today’s cocktail, I liked the idea of beginning with a bourbon because aged spirits undergo such a transformation in the barrel. They cross their own thresholds, so to speak, and are not released until their flavors have developed, softened, and met the challenges of the aging process. I then chose guava as the main profile that I wanted to build the cocktail around, because I love the way the tropical flavors show up in a drink: quirky, excited, and ready for action. Lime and banana are perfect companions for guava; one turns on the lights, and the other one slides right underneath and creates a perfect foundation. For my simple syrup, I decided on cinnamon, partly because one of the things it symbolizes is healing, and threshold guardian work will definitely bring that to us, and also because I wanted some spice that could marry with the deeper flavors in the drink. Finally, there needed to be a bit of heat to this cocktail that could conjure up some of the giant monsters that are the threshold dwellers of mythology. What could be more perfect than Bennett’s Scorpion bitters?? The end result is a drink that has more layers than we would actually anticipate, with each flavor expanding and building on the next. Personal transformation can also be this way. If we are willing to make an important change knowing that there is so much ahead of us to learn, knowing that it will require humility and strength, knowing that we will need to follow the guidance only we can offer to ourselves, we can grow in amazing and unexpected ways. Cheers everyone. Happy Sunday!
Dweller on the Threshold
20 second shake over ice.
Single strain into a rocks glass over one big cube.
Lime zest garnish.
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