Every Life has a Sister Ship

June 25, 2016


My niece Sadie, she is so dramatic and theatrical and she shines on stage and behind the camera. So it’s totally natural that she would want to gift her best friend a photo shoot for her birthday. Sadie politely asked if I would snap some shots behind the camera for the two of them. I told her I wasn’t much of a portrait photographer but when you’ re fourteen I am not sure you care as much about the photographer as long as you get to play behind the camera. She’s such a sweet girl and has the gift of sweet talk so I threw aside my lack of self confidence to call myself any kind of photographer (a story for another time) and said “sure thing Sade”. However, for one reason or another, probably Montana weather, the shoot was cancelled back in April and I finally cleared space for them last week.

Sadie and Ellie

Look at these two. They’ve just graduated junior high and they have their whole lives ahead of them. Looking through the lens, I couldn’t help to see my summer leading into high school. That summer seems so distant yet so idyllic. Moving cows in cutoff shorts and a bikini top and lazy afternoons around the pool eating stacks of Grandma’s sugar cookies and Grandpa’s favorite Hershey toffee nuggets. I laugh now because I use to give my Dad such a hard time about his white legs. Now its jeans, cover ups and white legs for me too. I think for a moment there, I actually wished I was 18 years younger with tan lines and not a calorie care in the world. Anyways, I had so much fun with these girls. I told them we’ll do it all over again the summer before they venture off to university.

I’ve recently given a lot of muscle in converting the cardboard box maize upstairs into a guest bedroom. I get in these organizing moods sometimes. So it seems I’ve been Spring cleaning since Spring. I’m also determined to figure out a system to keep my personal life and work life on track. I currently rely on stacks of notebooks. It doesn’t work though. It use to work when I was an engineer with one job and one notebook and what seems like a sharper memory. While trying to consolidate and encrypt my notebooks I found a scribble “Poem, The Blue House”. Wondering the context, I searched the poem and after reading it found it very relevant in my life right now and perhaps yours and the girls’ too.

It’s easy to day dream about the good ol’ days or perhaps a chapter we never read but think we should have read. Tomas Tranströmer writes in the poem “Every life has a sister ship. One that follows quite another route than the one we ended up taking. Whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

It’s important to acknowledge and live in the present and be forever thankful. It’s also important to know yourself. Can you be happy and content saluting your sister ship from shore? If not, I say take command of your sister ship too! If you find yourself struggling at times, I have found great power and transformation in seeing the familiar from a new, more distant perspective. Sometimes that’s all it takes, perspective. Trust me, I had to walk a half mile down our driveway to see from a new angle that our little farmhouse might actually be the perfect place right now!


The Blue House

It is night with glaring sunshine. I stand in the woods and look towards my house with its misty blue walls. As though I were recently dead and saw the house from a new angle.

It has stood for more than eighty summers. Its timber has been impregnated, four times with joy and three times with sorrow. When someone who has lived in the house dies it is repainted. The dead person paints it himself, without a brush,  from the inside.

On the other side is open terrain. Formerly a garden, now wilderness. A still surf of weed, pagodas of weed, an unfurling body of text, Upanishads of weed, a Viking fleet of weed, dragon heads, lances, an empire of weed.

Above the overgrown garden flutters the shadow of a boomerang, thrown again and again. It is related to someone who lived in the house long before my time. Almost a child. An impulse issues from him, a thought, a thought of will: “create. . .draw. ..”  In order to escape his destiny in time.

The house resembles a child’s drawing.  A deputizing childishness which grew forth because someone prematurely renounced the charge of being a child. Open the doors, enter! Inside unrest dwells in the ceiling and peace in the walls. Above the bed there hangs an amateur painting representing a ship with seventeen sails, rough sea and a wind which the gilded frame cannot subdue.

It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life!  And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.

A motor far out on the water extends the horizon of the summer night. Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands.

-Tomas Tranströmer


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