What could a girl from a tiny little island in eastern Canada possibly have in common with a girl growing up over 4,500 miles away in the desert mountains of Wyoming? Once upon a time a mutual friend introduced me to Anne of Green Gables, and I’ve never been the same.
The Magic of Words
I was one of the lucky ones growing up. Love filled our home to overflowing in the beauty of the rural countryside. Oh, sure, the usual sibling squabbles, bullies at school, and childhood heartaches inspired their share of tears. But best friends, beloved teachers and afternoons and summers that we packed with imagination, free play, fresh air and good books tipped the balance to happiness. I was so very blessed.
When Anne came along she didn’t teach me to see the world differently, really. She didn’t teach me to love things I had overlooked, or appreciate my friendships more. She gave me words. I had always loved to read, but here, on the pages where she lived, I finally found the words to describe what was in my heart.
Words are a powerful gift. They capture the fleeting moments of joy and preserve them on our shelf of life like so many jams and jellies. Cold, wintry days are bound to come along and there, on that life-shelf, is the delicious sweetness kept for just such a moment.
I thought I really knew her, then. I thought I understood how much she loved her island home. When she described the feeling of walking through the trees and “feeling a prayer” it described so precisely the way I felt. The sound of rain on the roof, the delight of wading barefoot in a cool stream, the sacred sweetness of finding yourself surrounded by Creation with a capital “C” – I truly thought we understood each other.
We are kindred spirits after all.
But then I found myself far from my own home. I missed the way the slightest breeze could set the leaves of the aspens quaking with a sound like rushing water, shimmering as they caught the sunlight. I missed the cheerful, babbling sound the creek made as the water tumbled over the rocks.
Although I was surrounded by beauty of a different sort, it didn’t have the same power to fill my soul. I thought of her then, yearning to hear the waves crashing on the shore, and wander through her dear old woods and gardens.
Not wanting. Longing.
And I finally understood that those things were an essential part of her. There was an emptiness in their absence. She was an island girl, just as I was a mountain girl.
Understanding that about myself somehow made it easier. I began to take a moment to close my eyes as we walked past the trees in a park, to drink in the sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze. Fountains, with the tiniest bit of imagination resembled the sound of water tripping over the rocks in a creek.
I learned from Anne that you can find a little bit of home anywhere in the world once you finally understand what to look for.
Recently we became reacquainted as I picked up these old favorite books again. Lucy Maude Montgomery wrote children’s books like Jane Austen wrote romances. If you think that’s all they are, you’re missing the very essence of what is written there.
Life has stretched and broken and rebuilt and filled my heart over the years. And with each reading, Anne with an “e” seems to find her way into a new little spot there.
Sometimes it’s her sense of humor that provides a cheerier perspective on life. Other times, it’s the tears, both happy and sad, that echo the mixed blessings that life brings. From her childhood through youth and then motherhood, she still reflects unexpected little glimpses into my soul.
A good friend once introduced me to Anne, and life has never been the same. If you haven’t met yet, I hope you’ll allow me to do the same for you.