Death Will Tremble
Most hotels don't have a graveyard on their front lawn.
But if you visit the Oceanic Hotel on the rock off the coast of New Hampshire known as Star Island, you'll find one there.
Originally established as a small fishing village, the island eventually became a conference and retreat center in 1915. Today, it's jointly owned by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.
The place is haunted. Its history is filled with ghost stories, the most famous of which is a tale about the Lady in White walking the shoreline waiting for her pirate lover Blackbeard to come back from his exploits.
On my first night there, our conference gathered on the far east side of the island for evening worship. Phosporescent plankton shimmered in the ocean, mirroring the starry sky. It was an almost otherworldly sight.
Our minister talked to us about the spirits that call the island home. The souls that wander there have unfinished business. They are tied to it, like the barnacles on a rock, still trying to follow Walden's imperative to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life," even after leaving this world's earthly constraints.
Just like the spirits are one with the island, we were tasked with becoming one with each other that week. To get to know one another so deeply, we'd create something larger than ourselves.
Are the ghosts real? That's the wrong question to ask. If your experience there leaves you feeling haunted – so in awe of the beauty of the sunsets you feel a little bit dizzy, your senses so heightened that the impending night reignites your childlike fear of the dark – then aren't they real enough?
Recalling my experience that night reminds me of a line from this quote from Charles Bukowski: "We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."
Let's haunt each other today.