Photograph by Michelle Engberg  A water-filled rendition of me at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Arizona

Photograph by Michelle Engberg

A water-filled rendition of me at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Arizona

While visiting the website of Joseph Campbell, one of my favorite writers, mythologists, and cartographers of the soul, I came across an article about The Haida. The Haida, according to the article, are indigenous island dwellers, whose lives and identities are defined by the fertile, fluid, and elusive borderlands between the earth and the ocean. I feel gratified by the vision of them nourishing themselves by the abundance of the tides and forests of the borderlands. Here, they've sanctified their time to create, playing at the axis of the natural, the human, and the divine. This vision is a metaphor for how I yearn to live.

The author presented a paradox in The Haida’s reality that resonates with my own: being at the borderlands of the world, and yet, at the center of the universe.

My parents are essentially island nomads by birth-- my mother, Italian, my father, Sri Lankan, who had found each other in central London, and raised children primarily in America. Our home is dispersed throughout and between these territories, where the “center of the universe” is ocean-side. The ocean-side, I believe, is both the reality and the metaphor for a creative life. This place embodies the communion between sentient beings, and our environment of infinite possibilities.

To embrace my own borderlands, I've had to release the security in stagnation. I've spent the majority of my life-- though my identity is oceanic-- living in the Arizona desert. Here, I've cultivated an inner expansiveness through layers of inertia, which has led me to a rich creative and spiritual life: reading, writing, practicing yoga, and enjoying profound friendships. Meeting my significant other, Justin, has been my long-awaited catalyst to drawing this fecundity out into the world. I, in (re)turn, have been his catalyst to cultivating his own inner richness. His six feet, five inches of grace and determination have propelled me into the pleasure of possibilities-- marriage, family, career, community—all organic to the nomadic, oceanic identities we share.

I've begun to realize that women’s bodies are borderlands, especially at the threshold of marriage and childbearing. Yet, whether or not we take the path of marriage and childbearing, our bodies compel us to create homes and lives in a sense of communion between us and our environment. Whether a woman chooses the desert or the ocean, the quiet stability of a small-town home, or the chaos of a major metropolis, a life fulfilled more in solitude than in the company of others, or a world busied with the messy wonder of people and other living beings—these choices must be aligned with the rhythms and yearnings of her body.

Wherever you, my readers, choose to claim yourselves, I hope you define your path there by the steps you take to nourish, heal, and love what has constantly longed for nourishment, healing, and love in your lives. As your bodies progress through illness and health. As you hunger for and overflow with beauty and life-affirming pleasure.  As you transform yourselves through suffering and deep fulfillment…  

What geographical and spiritual spaces define home to you?

What places, literal and metaphoric, have helped to fulfill your need for healing, beauty, and love?

How do you define the borderlands in your life, those realms where you’re constantly at the verge of possibilities for inspiration, creativity, and growth?

How are you being challenged to define or embrace your own borderlands?


Information about The Haida was derived from “Living in the Between: Raven and Story in Haida Culture” by Allison Steiger: