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Saluting the Ghost Ship

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that 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.” ― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

I sometimes dwell in the things that haven’t carried me. Places I might have gone, or lived in, surrounded by people I might have known, as the person I might have become. There’s nothing productive in what-might-have-been’s, unless we use them to set our current sail. This life is just fine, thank you, but the world will always whisper: “Vienna waits for you”, whatever your personal Vienna happens to be.

Strayed puts this beautifully—these are but ghost ships that didn’t carry us. Sister lives we didn’t live. I know that I’ll never hike the Appalachian Trail or live on a sailboat in some remote fiord in Norway in winter, but that ghost of a me that will never be still drift into my mind in quiet moments now and then. Except they aren’t always quiet. Sometimes I’ll jokingly state that we’re selling everything and buying a boat, or a camper van, or just jetting off to the Vienna that haunts me that day. The people in my life know my ghost ships and roll their eyes, carrying on maintaining the ship we’re on in the real world. And so do I.

I blame the artist in me. Creative types create alternative worlds all the time. Not Walter Mitty dreams, for we aren’t daydreamers in that way, but whispers of what may be just over the horizon of our current world, or an idealized version of ourselves as the protagonist. I ought to write more fiction, just to release these would-be characters into the world they crave to be in.

Watching the crescent moon dance with Venus and Regulus in the early morning sky stirred up the ghost ship once again. Looking westward, Jupiter was dipping towards the west. It was magic time, when the universe whispers to the few cherished souls who awaken to be part of it that life is full of possibility. We may choose and love the ship we’re on for this passage while admiring the ones that slip away to the horizon. Some things will never be in this lifetime, but ’tis a beautiful life we’ve built for ourselves nonetheless, don’t you think?

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