Facilities Manager Daniel Tidwell reflects on the beauty that grows in the in-between spaces.
After graduating from The Seattle School in 2010, I moved to West Seattle, where I have lived ever since, learning to run and breathe beneath forests of big leaf maple and Douglas fir. For seven years now, I have called Seattle home—or more truly, I have been slowly finding that it was always this water, these forests, and this mountain that have been calling me home (there is, of course, only one mountain here that requires designation).
Many students begin and end their Seattle School journey concomitant with their journey of life alongside Puget Sound, coming here for a few short years before returning to homeplaces and communities elsewhere. Others, having grown up on one side or the other of the Cascade Mountains, have always called this region home. And some, like me, become entwined with this landscape, softly settling into a belonging that had been waiting for us to be drawn out.
As Facilities Manager at The Seattle School, I offer up a playful reminder during my talk each Fall on safety and emergency preparedness: “You know, that mountain over there—it’s a volcano.” It’s a part of my one sermon to every person who comes through the doors of our building—my invitation to pay attention to this place, to how we are being shaped.
I spent most of my years as an MDiv student living in a studio apartment one block from the school. For two and a half years I walked through the pre-dawn hush to Pike Place Market, where I spent cold mornings below ground in the prep kitchen of a bakery. Coated in flour, I’d resurface and trek back, through wind and rain, to this brick building where we learn about the apocalyptic goodness of the story of God and about how we bear witness to the holy ground of stories of the people we encounter.
Now, I talk to students about how we care for each other by caring for the interstitial spaces, those gaps between solid things—pockets of time and space that draw connecting fluid of moments and meaning into the hollowed out places in the world. The examples I use are mundane: the space between the fibers in the carpet that hold onto spilled coffee, and the layers of a single paper towel that can hold more water when folded and fully dry your hands without the need for more wasted trees. We’re talking about the kind of spaces between more solid things that can contain things more fluid that might otherwise be lost.
This is a metaphor. And this is not a metaphor.
It’s not uncommon to hear words around this building about “the space between”—the relationship that occurs between two people, the therapeutic encounter, the middle place of the Spirit. These are all ways of talking about the kind of shadowy fullness that is drawn out in the relational space between two people—ways of naming how two people, in relationship, can open up a space to contain the wild spectrum of our human stories.
But all this talk about interpersonal space is deeply rooted in the real spaces between solid bodies of matter. It is a recognition that our bodies matter, and our stories are written between us in very real measures of distance and time.
And if our stories are written in these tangible ways, so too, their redemption—their intersection with the story of God—must be written in the real landscapes of our lives with our bodies.
The interstitial space between us draws me out beyond myself, inviting me to listen, to pay attention. I know that, together, beautiful stories are being written—stories of movement and solidity, and stories of finding home that can hold the wonder of both bodies and betweens.