Anne of Avonlea (CBR4 #45)

I love Anne. I love how she strives for goodness, embodies true friendship, and endeavors to live by her principles. Although much has changed in Anne’s world she and Marilla have settled into a relationship of easy affection and mutual respect. In this outing we experience a string of events in Anne’s life over the course of two years picking up after she decides to put off college following the death of Matthew.

Like all new teachers Anne has some idealistic and rather unrealistic notions of what she can achieve, but that does not stop her from trying and eventually achieving a great deal. Not to worry though, our Anne continues to find herself in and out of scrapes including accidentally dyeing her nose red.  It’s against the backdrop of teaching young minds that Anne seems to come into herself as an adult. By the end of the novel she has taught the three Rs, she has also learned how complicated life can be. Anne’s adventures include forming the Avonlea Village Improvement Society, meddling in her neighbor’s romance, and helping Marilla bring up two orphans at Green Gables.

There’s an undeniable undercurrent in the book about romance. In fact, marriage and married life is one of the strongest elements of the book and the theme of communication in relationships between women and men and the danger of unhappiness caused by unresolved misunderstandings is played out over and over again in the various stories encapsulated in each chapter. The reader  glimpses into the stages of relationships from the eyes of Avonlea. Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s husband is ill, and she must deal with his death and what that means for her future. Mr. Harrison’s tale of separating from his wife over a prideful argument and her eventual return to him on Prince Edward Island shows another side of the theme. Miss Lavendar and Mr. Irving finding each other again in their ‘old age‘ and moving beyond the prideful fight that had separated them in their youth. There are also a variety of other couples and old maids in the neighboring environs whom Anne interacts with. As Anne encounters each of these characters she also must deal with her own ideas of her future. As any true friend should Diana attempts to point Anne in the right direction, to which Anne asserts that she will find her ideal or she will happily remain unmarried.

This leads inevitably, to Gilbert Blythe. Ms. Montgomery shows her authorial hand just once, but it’s unmistakable.  “Gilbert stretched himself out on the ferns beside the Bubble and looked approvingly at Anne. If Gilbert was asked to describe his ideal woman the description would have answered point for point to Anne, even to those seven tiny freckles whose obnoxious presence still continued to vex her soul.” Gilbert’s time at White Sands is greatly ignored throughout the narrative, but there are hints that there are many in the teenage set that displayed loose morals, to Gilbert’s eyes. He had made up his mind that his actions now must match the future he envisioned with Anne.

To the faults – in my mind the new young children made for the most grating parts of the narrative. While  Dora and Davy Keith add life to Green Gables and show Marilla and Anne’s growth it is hard to be enthralled with either of them. Dora is so well-behaved and plain as to be wholly forgettable and it seems Ms. Montgomery felt the same as she is absent from the story quite often. Davy is so mischievous that the reader simply wants him off the page. Davy is, I’m rather sure, meant to show the growth in Anne herself from her own impetuous youth, but instead simply grates on the nerves.  Then there is Anne’s favorite student Paul Irving’s grating habits.  Paul seems too good to be true, and combines every one of Anne’s more imaginative habits. But I think the part of the writing of this character, and others which grated on my nerves the most was his speech pattern. Montgomery developed for her characters very specific mannerisms and speech patterns and Paul’s is ‘well you know teacher’. He intends it as an inside commiseration of two kindred spirits but I could not help but to read it as whiny pre-teen speech patterns.

However, I love spending time in Anne’s world and would recommend this series to the adult reader who may have missed it in their own growing up years.

a vehicle’s worth a thousand words

I don’t remember where I was when my car’s odometer went past 10,000 and it bothers me. When I bought the car it had just over a thousand miles on it, and as I was driving it the over fifty miles home I remember thinking that I would never get those miles back, and I didn’t know when the next time I would be able to get a new and not just new to me car would be so I should cherish the miles as they went.

When the car crossed 30,000 miles my brother and I were driving down the Overseas Highway to visit my sister at camp. Our mom had already gone down; still struggling three years later with the loss of our father.

When the car crossed 60,000 miles I was driving to work at a middle school on one of the coldest days of the year in my small central Florida town. I remember thinking it was fitting being my first winter out on my own that my baby would have a milestone.

When my car passed 90,000 miles I was on my way to Graduate School. I only had one class left after the next semester and I would finally get to graduate, a year behind my cohort. I remember being sad and a little lonely since most of the new friends I had made were already back in their home states, and how this new northern state was my home now.

This morning on my way into work, a 23 mile commute each way if I can take the ‘shortcuts’, my car crossed 100,000 miles and currently sits in the parking lot at 100,010. I love my job now so much more than I ever loved being a classroom teacher, but has it all been worth it?  Driving more than 10,000 miles in 7 months and that’s being a conservative driver? My student loans? Moving away from friends and family?

It’s another milestone that my car has measured for me.

a writer you say?

I have never thought of myself as a writer. Seriously. I have written a lot in my academic career, and should in fact be working on my thesis for my Master’s degree so that I can graduate in May. I know many of my friends in my program were absolutely petrified about writing the thesis, which must be at least 40-60 pages of original research. I was never concerned about the writing; I have always been concerned about the research. And that also feels silly. I’ve been writing in-depth and intense research papers for over a decade.

But even though I have always enjoyed the feeling of sitting down to write or type and the sort of bliss feeling that accompanies it, I have never thought to prescribe the term ‘writer’ to myself. I’m a student, a teacher, a friend, an elder sister, a reader,  a goofball, a history lover, a social liberal, a caffeine junkie, a semi-practicing Catholic, an aunt…

But never a writer, until now.

Approximately eight months ago I joined an incredibly informal writing/critiquing group with two friends from work. One of whom is absolutely committed to becoming a published writer and has many projects under way at any given time. The other has two bachelor degrees; one in English and one in Art. She has been writing as part of her profession and studies for nearly a decade and does partly define herself as such. Artist first, writer second. And then there was me. I honestly joined the group in order to spend more time with two ladies I quite enjoy, and partly because I thought it would provide the appropriate peer pressure to write the damned thesis (you can gather that has not happened).

Within a few weeks I was bringing original fiction to the table every two weeks when we met. Admittedly I only have forty or so pages written at the moment but this is the first time in over a decade that I have written for fun. For me.

I love it.

Since my conversion to blossoming writer I have also started commenting more frequently on the websites I browse, use my twitter feed more often, started reading more for fun, started this blog, and joined up with that crazy Cannonball Read 4.

So what does all of this mean? I don’t know. But I can’t stop thinking about something my Psychology teacher in High School told me just before I graduated. He told me that he always thought I’d be a writer. Perhaps a teacher, or a professor, certainly a lover of history, but definitely someone who chronicled and wrote.

So, here we are.