Departures

The airport in Denver, Colorado is bustling. Bright, clear signs with neon orange letters proclaim the destinations and times of countless flights while booming, eternally cheerful voices tell you to keep an eye on your bags and your children as leaving either unattended is quite suspicious. Hundreds of people fly down the halls, through the train tunnels, up and down the excalators, and about the countless little shops full of books and trinkets sold for silly prices. It has a very similar feel to most other airports: that of a miniature city that is both packed and deserted, full but without a single resident.


I have always thought that airports are something of a good symbol for our lives as a whole; they are crossroads for important places and events, hubs for community and interactions between them, and shining, shouting displays of local culture that say "Look here! Pay attention to us in your brief respite between destination and home! Experience this place between places!" We are always moving, running between places and people and events, jumping from one part of our life to the next with very little regard for the moments mid-leap.


There is a word for the feeling of a place that is between places: a limnal space. It's used to describe places that are not meant to be noticed: a bridge that runs over the ocean to an island, an aisle in a store that is bare-shelved as it is restocked, a school hallway when the last bell has rung. They are places that our minds tend to gloss straight over until we linger there for too long, because when we stay, we lose the sense of purpose that drives us most days. Without a purpose, we panic; where should we be, what should we do, what are we forgetting or neglecting?


What fascinates me about airports is that they are limnal spaces without a limnal feeling. Airports are built to be lingered in as well as to be run through in quite a hurry, and so we do not lose a sense of purpose when we recline here. We are waiting, anticipating, recovering from a trip and the hassles of travel before we must continue our journey. This place is defined by its impermanence, and yet demands our attention as a physical place, a waypoint between worlds that is a world in and of itself.

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