On the Threshold

On the Threshold book coverDrawing from the physical and spiritual terrain that she has inhabited throughout her life — predominantly around Minneapolis, Minnesota — the author leads the reader on an honest, subtle quest toward a contemplative life in contemporary society.

Elizabeth J. Andrew’s meditations turn to the details of household maintenance—the cluttered pantry, the loose-screened porch, the dim bedroom—and to neighborly relations, using lath-and-plaster language to address the sometimes empty, sometimes exuberant, seasons of the spiritual life. Occasionally whimsical and always introspective, On the Threshold connects the commonplace to an interior realm of doubt, memory, imagination, and prayer.

From the book jacket. . .
“You have to put yourself into a good relationship with a building in order to live well there,” my friend Frank told me. I ponder his words as though they are a formula for finding my place in the universe. The back door is holding up, but the pantry floor is not. My cat’s habit of dipping in the watering cans here has, over time, caused the paint to buckle and peel. After four years in my home, I’m finally discovering how much effort this relationship demands. Unlike the more abstract spiritual disciplines, learning to live well here is, at least, a tangible chore, one with both visible and invisible results.

This is my spiritual discipline, this reading of my house for heart and meaning. Of course I still plug away at more traditional means, attempting meditation every morning, occasionally struggling with sacred texts, attending my liberal urban church where I fidget through the sermon. Unfortunately, devotional holiness isn’t practical for me. I don’t know how to pray, although I try. I’m too bound to the world, to the delights and foibles of the flesh, to a feminist unraveling of tradition, to my mortgage. I love my cat and claw-foot tub too fiercely to ever follow an ascetic path.

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On The Threshold: Home, Hardwood, and Holiness