Well, I guess it’s about time you were formally introduced to Ellie….
Ellie May. Ellie Belly Bear. Lelly Belly Bear. Miss Googlebutton. My sweet Ellie girl. I have been waiting for just the right moment to introduce you to my Ellie.
She found her way to me eight short years ago as a puppy in need of a good home, a family. I very nearly did nothing. You see, in the span of a few short weeks I had lost two of my four constant companions to time and age. My heart was still raw with loss and grief. I wasn’t so sure that I was ready to open up a new chapter just yet. Rose and Katie were still in the prime of life and full of love and adventure.
A neighbor down the street thought differently. She had been at a corner store where someone was giving away puppies. Something about the people and the puppy didn’t add up for her. It tugged away at her until she could no longer ignore it and she brought the puppy home. All the while she knew quite well that her husband didn’t like dogs and would never let her keep it. But my neighbor had faith that she could find a good home for the little one. That’s where I come in, of course. Mrs. K. had seen me with my own dogs. She knew full well that I was a dog person. That’s a mild understatement. And so her question came prefaced with a compliment to soften me up. – You’re so good with dogs. My husband won’t let me keep her. She needs a good home and I thought of you. Would you like a puppy? – Obviously you can see where this is going. She was so small and scared and gentle. Ellie, not my neighbor. Still, I managed to go home without her. My uncertainty keeping me momentarily in check. I’ll think about it, I said nonchalantly.
By the following afternoon she was exploring a new home, and yes it was mine.
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. Forgive me Mr. McEwan, but I usually tell people, I read a miserable little book. But then I also tell them how it changed me deeply. Three years ago, On Chesil Beach came to me much the way Ellie did, in the midst of a life transition, albeit one of a different kind. It’s funny isn’t it, how things find you. A touching book arrives in my life much the way my dogs do, unsearched for. Providence at work when I’m not paying attention.
You muddle through the miserable little details page after page just as the early days with a new dog are challenging whether they are still a puppy or all grown up. You thought you wanted to do this, read the book or share your life with four new paws. But here you are 50 pages in, two weeks along. Doubts creep up from behind. You don’t have to do this, you know. It’s not too late. You could get out now. Let someone else read the book. Let someone else trudge through the chewing and digging and house training. You’re not all in yet…or are you? A beautiful phrase catches you. The little one flies to your side after a brief absence reminding you that you are already loved and deeply missed. Of course the reminder may come with jumping that nearly knocks you over. (I have big dogs! Why don’t the small ones ever find me?)
You have reached a turning point. The moment of no looking back. You’ve read this far. You might as well continue on if only to find out what happens. You realize that you missed her too. She chews mostly on her own toys which have taken over the living area and she has left your shoes alone for two whole hours. That’s something! It’s awfully cute the way she tries to curl up in a basket near wherever you happen to be. And after all, you’ve finally settled on the perfect name after trying out so many. Now, you’ve reached the edges of true unadulterated commitment. Are you in trouble? Perhaps. You’ve come this far. You may as well finish what you’ve started…On Chesil Beach…Ellie is my girl now.
So, you keep on. You grumble through the aggravating plot twists that you’re powerless to control. You can only read along and see what the author will do. You can only let the little one into your life and your heart not knowing how things will go.. One day each will end. The book will reach its final page whether I approve of the outcome or not. The gift of time with my sweet friend will not last forever.
Word by word…I continued to read on… Day by day…I opened my heart to Ellie. Then all at once in a single page at the very end of the book, McEwan turned the entire story into a parable. All of the miserable little details came round in one magical instant. Tears sprang to my eyes. It rang through me as clearly as a tolling bell!
The course of a life can change because one person does nothing…
Ellie came to me when my heart was bare with sorrow. I wasn’t sure if I was ready so soon. But there she was placed before me. Her story and her little eyes sang to me a song of hope and healing. I’ll not forget that first night and her distress. Ellie must have been missing the only world she had ever known, the soft comfort of mother, and her brothers and sisters to romp and roll with. I reached down and gathered her up and cuddled her next to me. Tiny (hard to believe Ellie at her sturdy 100 pounds was ever tiny) and scared, she pulled in close and fell fast asleep. She slept all night long close to my heart. Ellie was home. She knew it right then, even if it took me a while to catch on. Dogs are always a bit smarter than we are.
Perhaps the book found me in a similar way when I was uncertain of so much. The story knew what I was ready to hear better than I knew myself. The layers unfolded as it swung back and forth from Edward’s private thoughts to those of Florence. Although there was something sweet between the couple they never quite managed to open up to one another and fill in the gaps. What could have been a beautiful moment at the beginning of a lifetime together, turned into a terrible misunderstanding instead, leading to a hurried and painful ending. The young man and young woman were both paralyzed by fear and self doubt. Time and again there was a chance to say Something. Neither did. With each passing day it became easier to keep on doing nothing and let the tragic moment dig deeper within their own hearts leaving little room for hope. Nothing. They didn’t do Something. They didn’t do Something wrong.
Everything fell apart because they did absolutely Nothing at all. The Nothingness filled the space between them leaving room for nothing else. Just nothing.
In life of course there are lots of times when nothing is exactly the right thing to do. One of the many pleasant surprises I’ve had since writing on WordPress is that I have in fact become Ellie! At first it made me giggle. It’s a natural mistake. My site is named Ellie. I must be Ellie. And so I have become. I rather like being Ellie to tell the truth. She has a powerful voice because she knows what she wants – me, all to herself…and cookies – the world’s most perfect food. She is comfortable with all people at all times. However, if another dog comes near me she will shake the rafters with her thunderous note – That’s too close!! She never hurts a fly but if you don’t see it coming you could easily find yourself wearing your iced tea rather than sipping it. There are no misunderstandings with Ellie. No needless suffering. Life and relationships, even doggy ones, are clear.
Ellie is good for my writing too. Even now she lays at my feet keeping the other dogs from stopping me in mid sentence. Go ahead and write…I’ve got this. Thanks girl.
So here on WordPress, I’ve done nothing. Until now I’ve done nothing at all to dissuade people from thinking my name is Ellie. No harm done. And perhaps I’ve grown a bit in the meantime. Sleek fur, perky ears, a nose full of dirt? My oh my how I’ve changed!
How often though in life do we sit back and do nothing when something would be better and far kinder? Fear keeps us quiet. Self doubt holds us back. Life is messy. What we think we see or hear or know to be true is never the whole story. We misconnect a great deal. Wait – stop – maybe – one word, one gesture, could stop something before it causes harm, could help someone to believe in themselves, could open the door to a lifetime of love. One word could make all the difference.
Ellie came to me when my heart was grieving and unsure. On Chesil Beach came to me when my life was hurting in other ways. I could have let fear stop me from letting Ellie into my heart. I could have let doubt about the direction of the book stop me from reading. In each case I could have done Nothing. And if I had, everything would be different. I would have missed the gift of my sweet Ellie girl. I would have missed the treasure of a miserable wonderful little book.
In one small moment similar to so many others, I chose to do something. I chose to open myself to the beauty right in front of me and learn a bit more about the woman I’d like to be. I am still afraid. I am still plagued with doubt now and then. I will probably always have both of those with me in some form. But now when I face them once again I ask myself…
Will I be the one who does nothing?
One day if I have the pleasure of meeting Mr McEwan I will smile and perhaps share this story with him. I’ll ask him to please sign my miserable wonderful little book. my name is suzanne…but could you please make it out to Ellie…