A bright, pleasant winter day, twenty years ago this December, I married the guy who brought me coffee every day in the university cafeteria, whether we sat together or not, whether we were dating one another at the time or not. Every day. He was also the guy to whom I read Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” on a park bench in the small town where we studied, and the one who serenaded me on his guitar. I figured with these solids to his credit, my life would likely be headed in the right direction with him. It hasn’t all been “sunbursts and marble halls,” but I have always known I made the right decision. And this July we were finally able to take a trip – just the two of us!- to a place I have longed to visit ever since I was eleven or twelve years old, ever since I became acquainted with Anne-with-an-“e” and suffered the Murrays alongside Emily Byrd Starr. Prince Edward Island!
Come, rest awhile, and let us idly stray
In glimmering valleys, cool and far away.
Come from the greedy mart, the troubled street,
And listen to the music, faint and sweet,
That echoes ever to a listening ear,
Unheard by those who will not pause to hear-….
And near at hand, would you but see them, lie
All lovely things beloved in days gone by.
You have forgotten what it is to smile
In your too busy life-come, rest awhile.
And so, we took her advice.
With little agenda, other than B&B reservations, we both gloried in the rolling emerald hills, the ivory blooms of the potato fields and the red, rusty cliffs of Montgomery’s native island. In short, we fell in love.
“…the garden and the orchard and the brook and the woods, the whole big dear world. Don’t you feel as if you just loved the world on a morning like this?”
from Anne of Green Gables, p. 32
Here is the stately grand home of Alexander McDonald of Cincinnati, built in 1895 where we stayed our first few nights. It is featured as the White Sands Hotel in Kevin Sullivan’s 1985 Anne of Green Gables production starring Megan Follows.
A quick walk across the street led us to pristine white sands and a chilly sea. Devoid of the tourist traps at the eastern edge of PEI National Park, there were a scant number of beach tourists. We felt we enjoyed our own private beach. The seagulls, terns and sand pipers generously made room for us.
Dan and Becky James are second-generation owners of the Kindred Spirits Inn and Cottages where we stayed next.
Just a quick walk through a path in the trees and around the edge of a golf course takes you directly to the House of Green Gables where visitors can tour the home and grounds once belonging to Montgomery’s aunt and uncle, which also inspired the setting for my favorite spirited red-head.
Dan’s father bought the place back in the mid 80s, and it has been well maintained. Quaint and charming, but with convenient amenities, it was a lovely oasis tucked into the trees in otherwise kitschy Cavendish. Dan also gives fabulous sunset tours around the local bay delivering history, bird identification and friendly conversation.
Our last night on the island came too soon. Just south of Cavendish, in the heart of the potato and wheat fields, in glorious green hills which never seem to end, lies New Glasgow, famous for its dairy farms and lobster suppers. My Mother’s Country Inn is also a family acquisition.
The owner’s mother was actually born in in the 1850 farm house and ran the B&B until her daughter and Swedish born husband took responsibility just over twenty years ago. Now, they are looking to retire. This will be their last season operating the gorgeous property, but if you have the opportunity, do not miss the wonderfully bucolic setting. Hopefully, the new owners will maintain it with as much warmth and care.
We have tried to bring back the genuineness of the people and the relaxation we experienced while on Prince Edward Island. I hope to implement the hospitality and openness which inspired me while I was there.
“One clear star hung above the orchard and the fireflies were flirting over in Lovers’ Lane, in and out among the ferns and rustling boughs. Anne watched them as she talked and somehow felt that the wind and stars and fireflies were all tangled up together into something unutterably sweet and enchanting.”
from Anne of Green Gables, p. 181
Now, I am home, my husband is traveling again for work, and my thoughts are focused on getting a new school curriculum started for my kids. A new co-op meeting is tonight for S and G, and A, my oldest, will be starting his high school career at a private school. New beginnings. New worries – or maybe the same ones, just wrapped up in a different bow. Raising boys to men is hard, isn’t it? And it makes me appreciate all those before me who have done it so well. This is when I fall back on God’s grace and hold on to faith, knowing He can do it all better than I. And this is where there might be some parenting reassurance hidden in between the pages of the Cuthbert’s Avonlea farm.
“As it was [Matthew] was free to spoil Anne…as much as he liked. But it was not such a bad arrangement after all; a little “appreciation” sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious “bringing up” in the world.”
from Anne of Green Gables, p. 195
So often I worry, and forget about praise and appreciation and understanding and patience. It’s hard when you are in the middle of fuming at 14-year-old negative attitudes. Oh! If I only had to deal with someone dyeing their hair green! Right? In any case, it was a wonderful break, a lightening of the load, and upon our return I discovered something extraordinary. There are many “kindred spirits” right here in my midst. I am not sure why but it surprised me how many friends approached me asking about my trip, wanting to start comparing “Anne” stories. Growing up, I seemed to love her alone. Now, there are many with whom I seem to connect.
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
from Anne of Green Gables, p. 161
Fair Island of the sea,
We raise our song to thee,
The bright and blest;
Loyally now we stand
As brothers, hand in hand,
And sing God save the land
We love thee best.
Upon our princely Isle
May kindest fortune smile
In coming years;
Peace and prosperity
In all her borders be,
From every evil free,
And weakling fears.
Prince Edward Isle, to thee
Our hearts shall faithful be
Where’er we dwell;
Forever may we stand
As brothers, hand in hand,
And sing God save the land
We love so well.
~lyrics by L.M. Montgomery