Eleanor has one fortune cookie left, so she follows her usual routine -- breaks it in two while still inside the plastic, and eats the first half before reading the fortune, followed by the second half, sealing the fortune. Good fortune or a cautionary fortune, she goes through the same routine every time.
Today's fortune reads: "Happiness will bring you good luck."
Eleanor is next to me and she recognizes the house where she was created (see left-side column), and she remembers the Catholic church that was just across the street, and how in the mornings, when we got up early to write, sometimes the lights were turned on and we could see the stained glass windows glowing brighter than any full moon we'd ever seen, and with all of those colors.
"Am I Catholic?" Eleanor says.
I'm not sure what to tell her. As much as I like my Saints (and I was not brought up Catholic, but I once was perhaps 10 feet from the Pope in Vatican City and did feel a strong spiritual presence; call it what you will) -- I am not sure if Eleanor has a religion. In my mind, at least initially, the first response is, "No." And then, "It's not that you don't believe in God, it's that you're not sure what God means."
"What about St. Therese and the flowers you picked for her?" Eleanor asks. "Doesn't that make you part Catholic, and then I am part Catholic too?"
"I like the story of St. Therese," I say. "And I like the flowers. The idea of flowers. The actual flowers themselves."
"Well, I like flowers, too," Eleanor says. "So am I Catholic now?"
"That's not exactly how it works," I respond. But then I'm curious. "Do you want to be Catholic? Do you want to be religious as I write your story?"
Eleanor is sitting silently, thinking about this. It's one thing to ask the question, and another to have it asked back at you.
"Maybe I can pick a flower for St. Therese, and we can start with that?" she says.
I smile. "That would be a fine thing."
"But I do believe in God, don't I?" she says. "I mean, I can be confused and everything, but I have to believe in something, don't I?"
She does. I can't deny her a belief.
"How about this," I say to Eleanor. "You go and find that flower for St. Therese, and you believe in that flower, and you believe in St. Therese -- as a person first. If you still believe in her as a Saint, then we can talk some more."
Eleanor giggled. "How come I'm always telling you things like this?"
"Like directions to go with my story," she says.
"Because that's who you are, Eleanor," I say, and I say it with emphasis. "You will always surprise me, and that's okay. That's what makes this process interesting."
"Well, I want it to be exciting," she says. "And extraordinary. And amazing. And beautiful. And I want my story to be unexpected. And I want people to like me, even if they don't like me at first. I would rather them hate me, and then like me later. Could you write me like that? I want to scream, like I'm on a roller-coaster. So, I can just scream at the people who hate me. And then when the ride's over, they can like me. When they get to know me, who I really am, I mean."
She turns her fortune over. On the back is the Chinese translation for the word, "Helicopter."
"Look," Eleanor says -- "Happiness isn't just good luck. It can make you fly, too!"
To Reach The Green Light At The End Of The Pier
FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES: "We are saving ourselves through the words," says Eleanor, the leading lady of a novel-in-progress. This exploration into the creative process -- which includes plenty of distractions/tangents /thoughts & rants by Eleanor, her Biographer, and selected guest artists -- will continue until Eleanor is certain her story is "right." (But we dare not jump ahead of ourselves.)
There will be the occasional typo (as Eleanor points out), and much of this is intended to be "original draft" -- what comes out of our mouths (heads) first, and then set down in that order. Not all of it will be included in the novel, but all of it is happening in real time.
ELEANOR says: "Please turn the page. Keep reading."
For more of Eleanor and her Biographer -- as well as the work of our many guest artists -- check out the older postings. "Everything is part of the process, and the process is the journey," Eleanor says.