The Blue House – Tomas Transtromer
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, Upanishades 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.
I came across this poem the other night and fell in love with it, it expresses something that I’ve been feeling recently but haven’t been able to eloquently put into words. This poem can apply to so many different life circumstances and choices, but for me, right now, it’s speaking to my decision to not have kids. It’s a decision I’m happy with and one I don’t regret. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.
No matter what decisions we make in our life, we will inevitably wonder what might have been. How life might have been different. Where we would be if we had chosen X instead of Y. Where we would be if we had chosen Y instead of Z.
I don’t think these thoughts necessarily always come from a sense of regret, but instead from a natural curiosity. We only get one life, and some decisions require a firm either/or decision, there’s no compromising in the middle. Of course we’re going to wonder about our life’s sister vessel and the journey it took, because it is a journey we were not on.
It’s easy to get caught up in a “grass is always greener” mentality when viewing our life’s sister vessel, because while missing out on that journey, we’ve also missed out on the unique struggles we would have faced on that journey (in fact, often it’s difficult to even imagine what they might have been). I think that remembering this allows us to look objectively at the life we might have had.
I also think that it’s okay to “miss the alternative” to an extent. Sometimes the “sister vessel” feels so close, like it’s pulled up alongside my own vessel and I can glimpse everything. And it’s beautiful. I can literally see our potential children and hear them laughing. I can feel the bubbling up of love that we would have for them. I almost want to jump ship, into this new vessel and experience this journey. But then my current, beautiful life would become the sister vessel, sailing ever further into the distance, and this is not something I’m willing to do.
What about you? Does your life have a sister vessel? Can you feel it steering nearby at times, or is it far out to sea, almost out of sight and out of thought? Let me know in the comments!