“That is one good thing about this world...there are always sure to be more springs.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
Anne of Avonlea is the perfect example of the beauty in simple things. Of all the books in the Anne series, it is I believe the book that represents Anne Shirley the most, and her philosophy and outlook on life. And as spring begins to roll in, as it has every year since I first read it, this book is the first thing that pops into my mind.
The opening paragraph of the book always sends a thrill through me:
"A tall slim girl, 'half past sixteen', with serious gray eyes and hair which her friends called auburn, had sat down on the broad red sandstone doorstep of a Prince Edward Island farmhouse one ripe afternoon in August, firmly resolved to construe so many lines of Virgil."
This opening paragraph immediately causes me to tear up whenever I read it. There's something so beautiful and comforting about the simplicity of this scene. Anne is merely sitting on her front steps writing. But there is so much more there when you read between the lines:
There would be birds chirping. The sun would be shining down on Anne, illuminating the hair which her friends call auburn. Everything would be in full bloom, no doubt surrounding her, from wildflowers to full grown tree leaves. I always imagined her wearing a shawl around her arms, as there would probably be a slight breeze. And I believe she'd be hugging her knees right up to her chin, breathing in the fresh summer air. It is such a simple description, but there is so much meaning and beauty behind it. Meaning that is, for those who are able to appreciate the truly romantic.
“Fancies are like shadows...you can't cage them, they're such wayward, dancing things.”
I never used to like spring or summer that much. As a child I never regarded it as much more than the period between school ending and school beginning. But as I get older, I realize how truly unique is summer, and question why I could never see it before. And I believe Anne is the reason why I have come to value this time of year so much.
Anne's character has such a love for nature, it's almost as if her mind lives in a fairy garden. Her imagination and poetic thought for everything live and beautiful is constantly rampant, even when she isn't able to fully drink in her thoughts as she's working or having a "Jonah day."
I often reflect on her many sayings during the spring and summer seasons, as I go on walks or look at the rose bush that blooms outside my bedroom window. I can actually feel those words, as my mouth forms an automatic smile and my heart skips a beat.
I carry her wisdom with me always, but it's always so much more prominent when the sun is shining in through my window, and the air smells of buttercups and dew. Anne is the personification of spring and summer, and I believe it would be very difficult to understand her if you didn't at least have a little bit of love for what those seasons bring.
“After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string."
I find the air and the attitude of summer to be so calming and peaceful. I believe I think more clearly when I breath in that dewy morning air, and feel the sun begin to settle on my back. Frankly, I wish I wrote about it more. Being a writer, you'd think I'd have no problem coming up with various ways to describe my affection for this season. But I suppose there are some things too wondrous, that they surpass words in being able to describe their beauty; Anne herself had that same problem in trying to describe The White Way to Light. It was too lovely for mere prose.
As powerful a thing as words may be, they cannot possibly cover everything. L.M Montgomery had a way of choosing her words carefully, so that they carried more context than what was written on the page. She always said more than her ink and pen did. But this is especially true in Anne of Avonlea. I find a good portion of the story revolves around Anne being in nature, whether she's going for a ramble in the woods with Gilbert, or picnicking at Crystal Lake.
It's clear that Lucy Maud knew rightly where Anne belonged. She was Anne Of the Woods and the surrounding gems masquerading as flowers and tree leaves, just as much as she was Anne Of Green Gables.
“If a kiss could be seen I think it would look like a violet,' said Priscilla. Anne glowed. 'I'm so glad you spoke that thought, Priscilla, instead of just thinking it and keeping it to yourself. This world would be a much more interesting place…although it is very interesting, anyhow…if people spoke out their real thoughts.”
My favorite chapter of Anne of Avonlea is chapter thirteen, "A Golden Picnic." I believe it encapsulates the entire feeling of the novel. Anne is picnicking with her friends in the woods, where they happen upon two beautiful spots they would come to cherish- Crystal lake and Hester Grey's garden. The part where they find the garden is my favorite of the chapter. There is something so wonderful about the idea of a hidden garden, and I know wholeheartedly that Anne agrees with me.
I loved how through the duration of the book, Anne continued to bring flowers to Hester's grave, even though they had never met. To me this speaks to lovers of the bygone era, those of us who are homesick for a time we never lived in, a place we've never known, and the people we'll never meet. It's almost as if the longing enhances our appreciation, because there is always going to be a sense of wonder about those things, keeping the desire for it alive in our hearts.
Anne herself always seemed to have a sense of longing for the things she never knew, like the story of her parents and they place she was born in. It made perfect sense to me that Anne would carry so much affection for Hester Grey, and become a loyal friend to her even beyond the grave. There are some people, some places, some things that understand us so well, that we hold onto them with the tightest grip we can muster. And for myself, Anne of Avonlea is a book that understands me, perhaps even better than I understand it.
My life changed immovably the moment Anne of Green Gables made her way into my life. She shaped my teen years, and helped me look at the world in a new way. Her appreciation of the beautiful and lovely is what inspired me to become a novelist, and write my own books about the wondrous and impeccable.
I've never been able to come up with a way to describe the reason that I write about the things that I do. They aren't grand or important, but are merely a reflection of my own thoughts. I believe Anne summed it up perfectly for me, though, when she said to Gilbert one day:
"I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. "I don't exactly want to make people know more. . .though I know that is the noblest ambition. . .but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me. . .to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born."
L.M Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
Have you read Anne of Avonlea? Which Anne book is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!