I was listening to Anne of the Island while making dinner last night, tears in my eyes for the 5th or 6th time, and I realized that I really think Anne's story may be the most beautiful I've ever read (or ever will read for that matter). The joy and light that she brings to Matthew and Marilla and the love and care that she receives in return - it's just heartwarming-ly perfect. The community of Avonlea just seems so homey and imperfect yet perfect all at the same time. And of course, there is Gilbert. Anne and Gil's love story is the thing of dreams and I just love the journey that they both take to realize their love for each other, and then the life they build together once they are (finally!) married and living in their house of dreams.
The way that it is all written just soothes my nerves and fills my heart with warmth and a sense of beauty and makes these books a true pleasure to read year after year. I love the descriptive passages that in other books might seem somewhat tedious and boring. I've come to realize that the setting is what really completes the story and makes it so incredibly lovely. From the first time I read the books, I knew that Prince Edward Island is the only place that could ever even tempt me to move away from Alaska. And Anne 'lived' during a time when daily life was so different than it is now, so simple and yet full of hard work. I've often daydreamed of living then, and when I read these books I am even more convinced that I was meant to live during a different time (although as this blog indicates, I do enjoy some modern convinces ahem). Regardless of when I was meant to live, I know that I would have enjoyed it then - the dresses and the mannerisms and the language - I could go on and on. There are many things about life then that can be emulated now - the simple way of living, the knitting and sewing and cooking and wood stoves.
This simple living is one of the reasons I so loved visiting my grandparents at their cabin with no electricity or running water, but more 'scope for the imagination' than could ever be found at home in Anchorage. There was a smooth stump a little way down the hill from their cabin, past the blueberry bushes, among the tall spruce and birch trees. Sitting there and looking out over the valley below I could breath and think and imagine all kinds of things. I loved it. There have been many times over the years that I've thought of that stump and wished to be there, in the peaceful quiet, enjoying the smell of the woods with a little hint of wood smoke drifting down from the cabin. There are so many times in the Anne books that she ventures out into nature and just sits and is alone with her dreams and I always loved to read about it. It is so comforting to read about person so similar to me, a kindred spirit.
Perhaps my most favorite thing about the books is that they follow nearly every season of Anne's life. It is always so hard to invest yourself into a story, and get involved with the characters of that story, only to have it come to an end on that both hoped for and dreaded last page. I often find myself in 'the depths of despair' when I've finished a particularly good book or series, wishing so intently to stay in the world and to know what happens to each character as time passes for them. If only more authors would keep writing through each season of their characters lives, though I can imagine what an exhausting exercise that must be.
This morning I am half-way through Anne of Windy Poplars and as I push on in the series, I am so excited to read about Anne's experiences as a new mother for the very first time since I have become a new mother myself. If you haven't read the books since you were a child or a teen, I sincerely encourage you to read them now. There is just so much richness in the many pages that chronicle Anne's life and I wish for everyone to experience the warm pleasure I have found while re-reading (and re-reading) these beloved books.