A Place at the Edge

If you're overwhelmed by the dramas of life, escape somewhere that you know will always be safe and peaceful.


I’ve always liked being on the edge. On those few occasions when, as a kid, I took part in school plays, I’d get a strangely pleasant feeling when I stood on that spot behind the curtain at the edge of the stage where the actors who were going to be in the next scene would gather, waiting for their cue. If I craned my head a little, I could see row upon row of parents sitting in folding chairs, watching the action at the center of the stage. One step forward and I’d be onstage myself, pulled into whatever was going on there and totally visible to the audience. One step back and I’d be totally out of sight again, invisible to all and free of whatever dramas were unfolding just a few feet away. But at that one little spot in between, I was both in the action and out of it, both visible and invisible…

And for some strange reason, that felt like the perfect place to be.

I’d get the same sensation, sometimes, when bodysurfing at the beach. There was a certain point when, an advancing wave almost upon me, I had to choose to either turn and swim with the wave as it broke or else duck down and let it pass over. If I chose the latter option I’d have to be sure to go



the way down, or else the wave would suck me up and take me with it as it rumbled past, spinning me head over heels.

Sometimes, ducking a big wave, I wouldn’t know till the very last moment whether I was going to be safe from it or not. Flattened down as close to the sandy bottom as I could get, I’d feel a sudden shift in the water as the wave swept by above. Was I out of the wave’s reach, or would it pull me up and take me with it? For a split second I wouldn’t know, and in that split second I’d again be taken over by that feeling of being neither in nor out, neither here nor there. And once again, I loved it.

As an adult I spend a lot less time in the waves at the beach than I did as a kid--and I haven’t been in a play since junior high. But I still, sometimes, get that feeling of being on the edge. Reading a book or jogging or sitting on the subway, I’ll suddenly become aware that there is a larger me behind the me that is going about its business down here in the world. This larger me sees my life and everything going on in it--from the good to the bad, the beautiful to the ugly, the exciting to the boring--just like the smaller me does. But it sees it all from a place on the edge--a place that is free of all the turbulence, all the fear and desire and other emotions that are always threatening to sweep me up and take me away with them.

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Ptolemy Tompkins
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