Anne of Green Gables and L.M. Montgomery

 “…I would like to go away on Sunday morning to the heart of some great solemn wood and sit down among the ferns with only the companionship of the trees and the wood-winds…and I would stay there for hours alone with nature and my own soul.” Lucy Maud Montgomery, journal entry.

If the colour periwinkle can come in a shade that is both subdued and lit from beyond itself with palest gray and shining white, than that is the colour of the sky that blankets this magical place called Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.). Tonight I write to you from Cavendish, the town in which Lucy Maud Montgomery spent almost all of the first 36 years of her life. From age 21 months, when her mother died, until the time she married Lucy lived with her maternal grandparents. Lucy’s mother was a mere 23 when she died from tuberculosis.

Today I saw the little house where Lucy was born and where her mother died. I saw the old site of the house where L.M. Montgomery grew into womanhood, and where she wrote Anne of Green Gables, her first book, published when she was 33 years old. Anne of Green Gables was instantly successful and the first book in 24 that she would write throughout her life. What we have left of her grandparents’ home is now only the stone foundation, surviving pictures and trees that surrounded it. I saw the house that inspired the fictional Green Gables, where more of L.M. Montgomery’s relatives lived. I walked the paths that inspired Lover’s Lane and the Haunted Wood, names given them by Anne, the redheaded girl-child with grey eyes that gazed with wonder from a face inward-lit. I have always loved the character Anne, from L.M. Montgomery’s novels; and after reading many of her journals, I also love L.M. Montgomery herself. What a strong, creative force she was, to have endured so much in one lifetime.

L.M. Montgomery was orphaned, or what amounted to it, cared for her ailing grandmother for about a decade, acquired and education and teaching certificate, wrote novels, short stories, poetry and ceaselessly worked to have them published, then married, leaving her beloved island, to take on the roles of minister’s wife, and mother. She survived the loss of her beloved best friend, to the Spanish Flu in 1918. She survived the loss of one her children, who died shortly after being born. She continued to thrive in a marriage to a severely depressed man; and far from the land she loved. And she continued to create, leaving a legacy that I know reaches far beyond the gratitude I have for her. I wish I could have known her, met her, had tea with her in the afternoon as the sun shone over the rolling hills of the happy place called “Avonlea.”

Today, as I gazed over the rolling farmland, green and gold, that backs the place where L.M. Montgomery grew up, I found myself crying. I had read the following passage, and it brought the tears out of me:

“I am grateful that my childhood was spent in a spot where there were many trees… When I have lived with a tree for many years it seems to me like a beloved human companion.”

I cannot express any gratitude for how or where I grew up; and the void left by that knowledge came to me forcefully today. It seems to me that I love beauty above anything, and that was missing entirely from my childhood. It is that deep love of all things natural and beautiful that creates the base of my deep gratitude and affection for L.M. Montgomery and her character Anne. Nowhere, in all it’s innocent appreciation and joy, is the love of beauty so expressed, artlessly and without shame for its youthful zeal. It is exactly that which I never had as a child, and that for which I cried – for the little girl I was, reading Anne of Green Gables, so happy to finally know I wasn’t alone, and desperately wishing I could be that fictional girl, who found herself in a place that nurtured her creativity, among people who may not have been “kindred spirits” as Anne would say, but at least allowed her to thrive and be healthy. Today, amid all this beauty, I felt keenly my loss. In feeling it, I see again why my soul called me to this journey – to feed it, and nurture it. To give my artist self, the insouciant 13 year old girl-child, full of wonder and fun, some “scope for the imagination.”


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Erin
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 19:59:02

    This was so beautiful, it almost made _me_ cry! (Which might have been a problem, since I’m at work!).

    I love L.M. Montgomery’s novels, but I’ve never read her journals and I’ve been meaning to.

    Even above the Anne books, my favorite Montgomery is _The Blue Castle_. If you haven’t read that one yet, I think you’ll love it!


  2. Michelle
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 01:42:18

    whoa. Keep on.


  3. Sarah Carlson
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 12:22:37

    I *SO* love the Anne of Green Gables books along with the miniseries they inspired. Such amazing characters and places and emotions. Thanks for this lovely meditation and appreciation of L.M. Montgomery. It brought back lots of memories and nostalgia.


  4. John C.
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 21:13:00

    How goes the adventure? I hope that all is well on the road and off 🙂


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