Growing up, one of my sister and I’s fave things to watch over and over was the 1980’s miniseries Anne of Green Gables. This was no small feat considering a back-to-back viewing took around 8 hours. So I was surprised to learn that the miniseries did not even cover the complete series of original books. And since Butchy recently picked me up a used copy of L. M. Montgomery’s Book One, I decided I must read my way through them all, past what I know and into Anne’s adult life.
How does this relate to the F that S spirit? Simple: Montgomery’s intense nature-appreciation, completely passed over by the filmmakers in favor of Anne’s dramatics, is written in the most richly textured way that it is borderline poetry. This book should first be read for the wonderfully touching and hilarious story, but don’t overlook the supporting cast–the landscape of Prince Edward Island:
They had driven over the crest of a hill. Below them was a pond, looking almost like a river so long and winding was it. A bridge spanned it midway and from there to its lower end, where an amber-hued belt of sand-hills shut it in from the dark blue gulf beyond, the water was a glory of many shifting hues–the most spiritual shadings of crocus and rose and ethereal green, with other elusive tintings for which no name has ever been found. Above the bridge the pond ran up into the fringing groves of fir and maple and lay all darkly translucent in their wavering shadows. Here and there a wild plum leaned out from the bank like a white-clad girl tip-toeing to her own reflection.
Anne: “Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray…I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep woods, and I’d look up into the sky–up–up–up–into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.”
That bridge led Anne’s dancing feet up over a wooded hill beyond, where prepetual twilight reigned under the straight thing-growing firs and spruces; the only flowers there were myriads of delicate “June bells,” those shyest and sweetest of woodland blooms, and a few pale aerial starflowers, like the spirits of last years’s blossoms. Gossamers glimmered like threads of silver among the trees and the fir boughs and tassels seemed to utter friendly speech.
The Barry garden was a bowery wilderness of flowers…It was encircled by huge old willows and tall firs, beneath which flourished flowers that loved the shade. Prim, right-angled paths, neatly bordered with clam-shells, intersected it like moist red ribbons and in the beds between old-fashioned flowers ran riot. There were rosy bleeding hearts and great splendid crimson peonies; white, fragrant narcissi and thorny, sweet Scotch roses; pink and blue and white columbines and lilac-tinted Bouncing Bets; clumps of southernwood and ribbon grass and mint; purple Adam-and-Eve, daffodils, and masses of sweet clover white with its delicate, fragrant, feathery sprays; scarlet lightning that shot its fiery lances over prim white musk flowers; a garden it was where sunshine lingered and bees hummed, and winds, beguiled into loitering, purred and rustled.
The two little girls hastened out hand in hand…across the crusted field beyond, for the snow was too deep to go by the shorter wood way…The night was clear and frosty, all ebony of shadow and silver of snowy slope; big stars were shining over the silent fields; here and there the dark pointed firs stood with snow powdering their branches and the wind whistling through them.
Anne came dancing home in the purple winter twilight across the snowy places. Afar in the southwest was the great shimmering, pearl-like sparkly of an evening star in a sky that was pale golden and ethereal rose over gleaming white spaces and dark glens of spruce. The tinkles of sleigh-bells among the snowy hills came like elfin chimes through the frosty air.
A cool wind was blowing down over the long harvest fields from the rims of firry western hills and whistling through the poplars. One clear star hung above the orchard and the fireflies were flitting over in Lover’s Lane, in and out among the ferns and rustling boughs. Anne watched them as she talked and somehow felt that wind and stars and fireflies were all tangled up together into something unutterably sweet and enchanting.
Anne was sitting at her open window…as she drank in the beauty of the summer dusk, sweet-scented with the flower-breaths from the garden below and sibilant and rustling from the stir of the poplars. The eastern sky above the firs was flushed faintly pink from the reflection of the west, and Anne was wondering dreamily if the spirit of colour looked like that.
Anne went to the little Avonlea graveyard…she lingered there until dusk, liking the peace and calm of the little place, with its poplars whose rustle was like low, friendly speech, and its whispering grasses growing at will among the graves. When she finally left it and walked down the long hill that sloped to the Lake of Shining Waters it was past sunset and all Avonlea lay before her in a dreamlike afterlight–”a haunt of ancient peace.” There was a freshness in the air as of a wind that had blown over honey-sweet fields of clover. Home lights twinkled out here and there among the homestead trees. Beyond lay the sea, misty and purple, with its haunting, unceasing murmur. The west was a glory of soft mingled hues, and the pond reflected them all in still softer shadings. The beauty of it all thrilled Anne’s heart, and she gratefully opened the gates of her soul to it.
“Dear old world,” she murmured, “you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”