The power of words

My descriptions of the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, in part have been intended to empower people with knowledge and to help readers value the place that plants have in our world.

In this connection, I want to explore the word ‘liminal’. This word is fashionably used in a number of creative fields but it is not a word I hear used in conversation. Different ways of explaining the meaning of this word include: Liminal means

  • at the threshold, exploring the potential of what can be
  • occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold
  • relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process
  • a state of transition between one stage and the next, especially between major stages in one’s life or during a rite of passage. 

Perhaps we might say that there is a liminal period when a person begins to volunteer in the Food Garden but is still too inexperienced to be confident in all decisions.

As Food Garden volunteers we might experience a liminal feeling. From an emotional perspective, this might describe the time between the ending of one part of a person’s life and the beginning of the next phase. There was a time before I was a gardener while I pottered around stumbling ‘in the dark’, and it wasn’t until I began learning from my Food Garden experiences that a new phase of my life began.  I recall feeling apprehensive before my first day, but also excited – if I understand the word appropriately then this was a liminal feeling, and therefore this word summarises my situation at that time.

As I approach the end of 2022, and the end of three years enduring the uncertainties brought on by Covid changing the world, I feel at a threshold ready to anticipate moving to a new way of living in 2023. I would like to think I will be able to explore ordinary, common, familiar places to find details not often noticed or talked about,  as well as to find places less travelled.

Who else is at a liminal moment in their life and are you transitioning into making personal discoveries in and of the natural world?

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5 Responses to The power of words

  1. wilfredbooks says:

    Thanks for the definition: that really helps me understand how to use this lovely word. In a sense, perhaps we are in a state of permanent liminality, if we learn & progress as humans? I am liminally adjusting to being retired, but not finding it too difficult, thanks to a wonderful family and a few good friends. You are very lucky having the food garden close as a learning & assistance resource: I don’t know of something similar in my vicinity, but local supermarkets are now good at donating surplus foodstuffs to foodbanks. Cheers, Jon.


    • Hi Jon It was a relief and a joy when I retired – I was free. And my life became so full of doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it (eg And that wonderful situation of me having more control over my life hasn’t stopped. Makes me smile as I type this. Wish I had retired years earlier – it is certainly cheaper to be retired that a worker and I could have been free earlier. But I didnt know until I was in this situation. As for your supermarkets doing the right thing that is a good sign. Being open to opportunities and giving new things a go is also fun – some you like and want to continue with and others you simply let go.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful description, thank you!
    I’ve never felt like a competent gardener, yet I love visiting gardens and appreciate all the work they require.
    I also find myself in a period of transition as we prepare to pack up our house and begin boat life. I vacillate between the liberation of casting off possessions and regrets about losing connections to people and the land. Perhaps when we return in years to come I’ll get stuck into gardening more seriously.


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