When I was about 11 or 12, someone gave me a complete set of Anne of Green Gables novels. The covers were each decorated with a romantic portrait of the novel's protagonist and beautiful script letters. I read the first novel immediately. I learned about and loved Anne Shirley. Sometime around then, I also saw the 1985 Kevin Sullivan adaptation. I am almost positive that it was airing as part of a PBS pledge drive. Every 10 minutes or so, the hosts interrupted the film to promise tote bags and mugs for pledges. I endured it because, even now, I have never been as in love with a movie or with a heroine as I was with Anne Shirley (and, let's be honest, Gilbert Blythe).
That's how long I've loved Anne Shirley. A long time. She was the girl I wanted to be so badly that I'd wished to become transported into her life. She felt everything so intensely and I always felt like I did, too. And, just as Marilla was often exasperated with Anne's histrionics, so was my mother. I wanted to be as driven as she was. I wanted to be smart and determined. I wanted to break a slate over Gilbert Blythe's head for calling me 'Carrots'.
So, I decided that since I was on this journey and I had plenty of time, I was going to
Prince Edward Island. The moment I crossed the Confederation Bridge (8 miles long which is really something to consider when you realize that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is 4.3 miles long), I began to cry. Sometimes, a place means so much you can't even really accept that you've arrived. Religious pilgrims who travel to Mecca might know this. Or, perhaps, child actors who finally make it to stand on Broadway. It's a place of which I dreamed. For years.
I took a couple of days at the campground to research and rest. On my third day on the island, I drove from Charlottetown to Cavendish (Lucy Maude Montgomery's childhood home and the basis for Avonlea). I went to LMM's birthplace, the Cavendish cemetery (where she's buried), the Anne of Green Gables Museum (a family home where LMM spent a great deal of her youth and likely the basis for Green Gables), and then checked myself into the Kindred Spirits Inn. It was a perfect day. Or, close to perfect anyway. I loved every moment. To stand in the places that inspired LMM to create Anne...that's a thing I didn't imagine would mean so much to me.
My fourth day on the island, I at blueberry pancakes in the Kindred Spirits' dining room
before I drove myself out to the Cape Tryon Lighthouse. In the 1985 movie, Anne and Diana take a stroll there among the golden grasses. The lighthouse sits on the edge of some red, sandy cliffs. The road that led there was narrow and red (like all the soil on PEI). Two other cars passed me, but I was lucky enough to have room to move the ol' van over for them. Thankfully. At the end of the road, I parked and walked out to the lighthouse and out toward the cliffs. It was so beautiful and solitary and I was alone with myself to feel all the things I wanted to feel about being there and about Anne and about me and my relationship with those books and the place. You'll be shocked to know I cried, quite a bit, and loved the sound of the waves against the rocks below.
That afternoon, I visited the Green Gables Heritage Place (a museum and replica GG)
and purchased a few more souvenirs. The same souvenirs appear everywhere: Anne dolls and artwork of Anne and Diana clasping hands, Raspberry Cordial soda, straw hats fitted with red yarn braids. Each one demonstrates to me how much Anne means to so many people. At the Green Gables Museum, the guide explained that many Japanese people visit each year and often come to be married in the same parlor where LMM was married.
When I was a girl, I loved Anne because she knew what she wanted and, although she made mistakes, she found ways to move forward. She was resilient. I never really felt resilient when I was little. I felt each bump and barrier was impenetrable. I had trouble bouncing back. So, Anne's grit gave me hope that maybe I could be tougher. One year ago, I wasn't sure how long I'd last on this trip. I didn't know if I'd make it the whole year. And capping the year (the completed year) off by visiting Anne's home seems like exactly the kind of tribute I should pay her. She has always inspired me to be tougher and more resilient.