Tuesday, May 21, 2013

With So Much on the Line

With so much on the line . . .

I’ve been wondering about the origins of the phrase “on the line,” in its sense of risking the chance of loss; at risk of failing or being harmed.  I can’t find any explanation of the kind of line that’s holding all that tension here, just that to “bell the cat” is taking a risk of a different sort.

Boundaries?—a borderline between warring countries? 
Fishing?  That seems most likely, somehow, the thought of having on one's line “the big one that got away.”
A ley line, one of those ancient tracks, determining the earth’s energies? 
Genealogy?—not letting down one’s family, one’s noble blood? 
A tether, with a mastiff or lynx snarling at the end of it?

Unlikely, but maybe just the risk of having all one’s clean dry laundry rained on, hung sunnily out hours earlier on the clothesline, with wooden clothespins, in a big yard with an apricot tree or maybe some pines.  This would have been a real threat in Santa Fe in late summer, with an afternoon thunderstorm brewing over the mountains, sweeping darkly into town.  (Though now, all thunder and no rain.)

Having so much on the line right now, I choose this image for the gentle brightly-colored things I have to lose.  Because it's not, after all, quite so bad.

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