Grace Dow
4 min readJul 2, 2018

(Note: Originally written in June of 2017, I promptly forgot about this little piece. But I like it so much I’m posting it a year late.)

There are icebergs floating past.

Here in St. John’s, Newfoundland it happens every year. I found out about it in all the guide books before I came. It’s part of the image they sell you: you’ve got the pretty colorful row houses and the heritage sites and the music and the locals and the icebergs.

I know they’re out there, but I haven’t seen one yet myself.

Friends keep posting pictures of their sightings. Here’s a photo one friend took a half hour outside of town.

Photo by Jill Jablonski, April 2017.

There’s an Iceberg Finder map that updates regularly with new additions and locations. There are at least ten of them off the eastern coast of Newfoundland as we speak. One could be floating past, silent and serene under the light of the full moon as I type this.

And at the back of my head, on a loop, I hear it: you’re missing out, you’re missing out, you’re missing out.

I’ve spent a lot of iceberg season so far sleeping. Or desperately finishing work on an overdue paper, or eating my feelings, or wasting time on social media, or going out to concerts and trivia nights with friends. I’ve watched Netflix and listened to an audiobook and added (not enough) words to the latest chapter of my novel. I’ve done laundry and washed dishes and fielded passive-aggressive correspondence from my roommate about how we’re out of trash bags and it’s my turn to buy them which shouldn’t be hard since I seem to go out so frequently.

There are icebergs gliding by, breathtaking and majestic, in the chill waters just over a mile from my window. I’m sitting in a tiny cinderblock-walled dorm room, typing an essay about a miracle of nature I haven’t even witnessed.

…you’re missing out, you’re missing out, you’re missing out…

But it isn’t only icebergs. This phenomenon has followed me around my whole life.

When I was thirteen years old we went to London for the first time, and being tourists we ended up at one of those most touristy of places: the Rainforest Cafe. After nearly an hour of enduring the timed trumpeting of the animatronic elephant mere feet from our table, it was finally time to choose dessert: Forbidden Chocolate Lava Cake or Berry Blast Cobbler? Both looked mouthwateringly delicious. To this day that decision haunts my dreams. I know, it’s a totally ridiculous thing. I saw Tower Bridge and Stonehenge and William Shakespeare’s birthplace, and I’m obsessing decades later over a stupid dessert? And yet in choosing the Forbidden Chocolate I gave up the opportunity to ever know what wonders that Cobbler held in store.

…you’re missing out, you’re missing out, you’re missing out…

I read a quote from filmmaker and artist Hayao Miyazaki recently that sums up the situation well:

To be born means being compelled to choose an era, a place, a life. To exist here, now, means to lose the possibility of being countless other potential selves…Yet once born, there is no turning back. And I think that’s exactly why the fantasy worlds of cartoon movies so strongly represent our hopes and yearnings. They illustrate a world of lost possibilities for us.

Hayao Miyazaki with some of his many creations

I see your social media posts, your photos in particular. The young married couples building homes and lives together. The career folks who just got that amazing promotion, or achieved that incredible accomplishment. Newborns, new pets, new cars, new hobbies. Vacations and celebrations, projects and goals, milestones and marvels.

All these icebergs gliding by while I’m not looking. Hundreds of lives I’ll never live. And I look at my own life and think somehow I’m failing.

Do you ever get like this? Do you ever feel just so insanely jealous?

I want to take this world and stuff the whole thing in my mouth and taste all its rich flavors — and yeah, sure, I’d probably choke on it in the end. But what a way to die!

I’ll see an iceberg, I know it.

Maybe I’ll go looking for it. Or maybe one day the conditions will be just right: out for a hike, high up on a hill, looking out — and there.

In the meantime, I shouldn’t fret about missing out. I should stop listening to that voice in my mind.

Every moment, really, is an iceberg — this beautiful, impossible thing slipping past, an opportunity never to be reclaimed. But if you miss it, it’s okay. There’s another, and another after that. As long as your heart’s beating, you’ve got a chance.


P.S. A month after writing this, I encountered my first iceberg in Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland. It was more magical than I ever imagined.