This series might start existing under the alternate title “Friend Crushes on the Internet and People I Wish I Had Gotten To Know in College.” Eleanor is the latter. She has a poetic voice and an eye for beauty. I love running into her at weddings of friends and on the internet. She has been a strong voice of encouragement on my blogging journey and having read her wonderful work, I am always blushing when she compliments mine. I’ve loved watching her and her husband Scott raise their son, observing the beauty and intentionality with which they live and make their home. Eleanor invites us into a process of wonder about the divine and I hope you’ll connect to this piece as much as I do…
I have dreams. Dreams of an ocean, of a hive of bees and a tribe of children, of tea taken promptly at four o’clock (and always with a slice of cake), of beauty as far as I can see. In these dreams I write poems for a living and work on a novel in my free time.
But for now I’m living a different sort of dream in the coast-less Midwestern plains with my man, a very ornery pug, and one little boy whose nap ends promptly at four o’clock (I’m still trying to get into post–pregnancy shape anyway), with a view of neighbors’ closed shades and a busy through street. In reality, I recite nursery rhymes and change diapers for far less than a living—and what free time?
And it’s wonderful. It wasn’t always.
I cried every day for a year when we moved from Savannah to Omaha. Those who have been to both (most likely vacationed in the former, endured a layover in the latter) can surely empathize.
We left endless Southern sunshine for Midwestern malaise. When, within that year, I was in labor for the birth of our son (a drug-free torture I had devised for myself and the reason I will probably never actually have a tribe of children), I called out to my god—and heard only silence. In that hospital room, with the midwife, nurses, doula, and Scott by my side, I had never been so deserted.
After that, I searched for signs of God everywhere. More to prove he wasn’t there than with any confidence in discovery—I like to have the last laugh. But the more I searched, and learned, and listened, the more bits of belief I recovered.
I held fast to my little faith those first sleepless nights with a new baby and clung desperately to it in the throes of depression and anxiety that followed.
God was there after all in both sleeplessness and dreams, in Paradise and Middle America. Not quite the same god I had knelt before as a child, followed to Christian college, and cried out to in that hospital; I’m not entirely sure that god ever existed. But I digress.
I had a brief moment as a Catholic once, mainly defined by my earnest efforts to avoid Purgatory – that temporary state between Heaven and Hell. Now, I begin to understand the purpose of such a place.
One needs to lose God to find him in the first place. My small period of darkness—triggered by a move and most marked in the maternity ward—was essential. And so there is a certain beauty, a sacredness even, in the absence of God.
I might have written this post about the sanctity of motherhood, or the freedom I gain in growing my own food, or the beauty of the everyday. But that would be to confuse God and the sacred with good—connected things certainly, but not the same.
And in truth, I see God now more clearly in the monotony and unpleasantness of today; I come across holiness strictly in unexpected places.
This is real-life, written amongst piles of laundry and wilting houseplants, where most days I do more waxing poetic about compost and cloth diapers and couponing than writing poetry.
But God is still in the dreams too. Lest the everyday become too everyday, I am taking tea when I can, and drafting verses in my head, and pinning that dream house. It’s just that finally I am at peace with wherever the road winds—even if it takes me in the opposite direction of those tides and waves.
Eleanor is a professional writer who is currently on hiatus in order to, in the words of one of her fictional heroes, Anne Shirley, “write living stories”—aka her two-year-old son, Clay. She and her husband, Scott, were caretakers of the blog, Things We Notice Now, about the journey of parenting. They might update it someday.