I have finished the first seven books in the ‘Anne’ series and will start the 8th as soon as I finish the second in the ‘Emily’ series.
I only discovered Anne of Green Gables about two years ago, somehow missing this whole wonderful world as a young girl. A friend who knows me well bet me I would like the Emily of New Moon series better. I thought, sacrilege!, but she is right. I have become completely enamored with some of the elements of L.M. Montgomery’s writing style, specifically what she does with fantasy and Nature. And while it blooms (pun intended) in Anne, it is a starburst in Emily.
I am a tree hugger, an I-feel-God-in-Nature kind of a gal. When I hike and trail walk or look up at the night sky, I say, “thank you” for the intrigue I see. Though I live in an urban area, it is full of trees and stretches of open space where coyotes, raptors of many kinds, water birds, raccoons and possums remind us to whom this land really belongs. I imagine all sorts of things about my crepe myrtle tree and the huge sycamores that dot my neighborhood. And I call an incredibly large, gnarled old tree, Grandfather. I don’t know if that is weird, normal or if I need therapy, but I have come to see it as truth in these series and I take great comfort in that.
Anne Shirley personifies trees, forests, flowers and springs with a universal evocation of imagination. Emily Byrd Starr does the same, but in addition she also has The Wind Woman and the flash. These later two are supernatural and fairy-like reminding me of the innocent childhood inventiveness that we are supposed to grow out of, but that many of us will not ever.
Just last night I was reading a passage from Emily Climbs and was deeply touched. It has all the elements of imagining, connection to nature and creative thought Montgomery does so well. Though Emily is walking home alone in the middle of the night, she is really being escorted along the way by an incredible cast of characters:
As she walked along she dramatized the night. There was about it a wild, lawless charm that appealed to a certain wild, lawless strain hidden deep in Emily’s nature—a strain that wished to walk where it would with no guidance but its own—the strain of the gypsy and the poet, the genius and the fool.
The big fir trees, released from their burden of snow, were tossing their arms freely and wildly and gladly across the moonlit fields. Was ever anything so beautiful as the shadows of those grey, clean-limbed maples on the road at her feet?
And it was easy to think, too, that other things were abroad—things that were not mortal or human. She always lived on the edge of fairyland and now she stepped right over it. The Wind Woman was really whistling eerily in the reeds of the swamp—she was sure she heard the dear, diabolical chuckles of owls in the spruce copses—something frisked across her path—it might be a rabbit or it might be a Little Grey Person: the trees put on half pleasing, half terrifying shapes they never wore by day. The dead thistles of last year were goblin groups along the fences: that shaggy old yellow birch was some satyr of the woodland: the footsteps of the old gods echoed around her: those gnarled stumps on the hill field were surely Pan piping through moonlight and shadow with his troop of laughing fauns. It was delightful to believe they were. *
Emily is a young writer and crosses the line between fancy and reality on an almost daily basis, by which she is jeered at and criticized by her reality-based family. It never daunts her, though, no matter how hot the teasing. She is secure in how she sees the world, which is such a great lesson for me. She is my role model.
Though I missed many “children’s books” as a child, I am kind of glad. I have a treasure trove to dig from as an adult. It is never too late to learn more about yourself, especially in regards to your imagination and creativity.
* L. M. Montgomery, Emily Climbs (New York: Bantam, 1993), 151-152.