Do you ever have the feeling you’re missing something, or someone, but you can’t put your finger on what or who it is? You look up and around you at the light blue sky, you close your eyes and hear birds singing in the swaying pine trees over your head, you listen to a horse neigh in a nearby field—because like you, he’s enjoying the sunny day too—but despite the seemingly blissful moment you’re in, there’s still something nagging at you, there’s that thing you miss.
I’ve finally decided what, or rather who, it was for me today that invaded my heart more powerfully than my mind. It’s a friend I’ve seen into the heart of, but whose face I’ve never greeted. True friends are always together in spirit though, aren’t they? Today I wished Lucy Montgomery was beside me in the warm sunshine and cool breeze as we walked side-by-side enjoying each other’s company. With the fact of her death in the 1940s it’s a rather impossible feat to say ‘hello’ to her today, so I read about her life a little online to be better acquainted with who she was.
I longed to know if Lucy, the author of one of the best love stories I’ve read, had herself, fallen madly in love, enjoyed a dazzling romance, married a faithful, loving man, and had many beautiful children. I wanted this to be true, partly so I could count another reason to continue dreaming of its beautiful reality. In studying her life, I discovered her childhood was strict and lonely, but it was what inspired her intense imagination. Coming out of this sad childhood she grew into a lovely and fashionable young lady and became friends with several young admiring men. Over the years a few of them proposed, but for various reasons and lack of a deep romantic love being the central reason, she turned down each of their offers.
By age 27 she had ceased looking for romantic love, and married Ewen Macdonald, with the feeling that her prospects were low and she should be married. This beloved author, who knew so well what love could be, how it should feel, and how it is given, had settled and married a man she did not love, and who didn’t truly love her.
For children, she had three sons, but this family failed to be the source of joy she longed for. The second son was a stillborn and by raising the other two and caring for her mentally-ill husband, she became deeply depressed and bewildered of how to cope with her duties… and with life.
Each of these discoveries about her landed with a thud in my heart. This lady, who wrote of such beautiful life, had such a difficult one full of trials, and empty of any great love… any that she recognized anyway.
Laid beside her bed the night she died was a note. Some say it was intended as a journal entry, others say it was a suicide note. An excerpt of the note reads “I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best.” In these words she sounds exceedingly hopeless, sad, and lonely. Many years earlier, when writing the Anne stories, she gave young, dramatic, exaggerating Anne the line “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes,” but I wonder, is this how Lucy felt about her own life?
Her life was no more perfect than the rest of ours. Though I think it’s easy to think it was by the way she artistically and warmly wrote of love and joy, just as if they surrounded her on all sides and walked hand in hand with her through life.
“There is such a place as fairyland – but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.” We call her an artist, but like she describes in these words, she may have felt more like a child finding fairyland than a being in a life she belonged in. Did she find more life in the imaginary world than the real? She longed for the real to be better, but was it ever as satisfying as the stories in her head?
I imagine her story mirrors so many authors’ and painters’ stories we hear… the stories of men and women searching for something beautiful, but never finding what is the most beautiful (and I’m speaking of Jesus and his love). Often times the ending of these artists’ biographies tells of their ugly death by suicide following their sordid life of depression, alcoholism, or other such tactic of hiding from reality. I sympathize with these stories, because in a small way I can relate. I could see myself leading this kind of life if I let myself… living in my head, writing my dreams, having friendships only with those I keep in my mind. Miserable people like this miss out on life because they discount the worth of it and the worth of the people around them. There is beauty in imagination, but I have found it’s its most beautiful when I realize it’s not the most beautiful.
Those who live in their dreams fail to live at all. Love, true love, is only found in life; in dreams it is merely mused upon. And in love there is life.