Tag Archives: L.M. Montgomery

Ode to the Sunday School Teacher

Unashamedly, I am still basking in the glow of my Prince Edward Island adventure. Upon returning home, I have read The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery for the first time, which incidentally, I purchased from the Site of the Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish Home. The paperback proudly bears the stamp.

And I have been re-reading The Story Girlsupposedly the author’s favorite of her novels.

Combine these readings with the fact that our church has been talking about our responsibility of reading for the sake of the community, and throw in the fact that I just completed Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish by C. Christopher Smith, have been planning Bible home school curriculum for this next year for my boys, and the fact that I have substituted teaching in children’s Bible classes a few times at church this summer, and it is not difficult to see why a couple of these passages spoke sweetly to me.

Montgomery, who married the Presbyterian minister Ewen MacDonald, was a theological thinker in her own right. With a knack for describing hypocrisies and frivolous loyalties to tradition and prejudices, Montgomery often snuck in satirical statements through her most upright and judgmental of characters. Remember the proudly outspoken Mrs. Rachel Lynde? In a letter to Anne in college, she writes,

“I don’t believe any but fools enter the ministry nowadays….Such candidates as they have sent us, and such stuff as they preach! Half of it ain’t true, and what’s worse, it ain’t sound doctrine. The one we have now is the worst of the lot. He mostly takes a text and preaches about something else. And he says he doesn’t believe all the heathen will be eternally lost. The idea! If they won’t all the money we’ve been giving to Foreign Missions will be clean wasted, that’s what!”

~from Anne of the Island, chapter 5 “Letters from Home”

Now contrast Anne’s enthusiasm for the young and lovely minister’s wife, Mrs. Allan.

“I never knew before that religion was such a cheerful thing. I always thought it was kind of melancholy, but Mrs. Allan isn’t, and I’d like to be a Christian if I could be one like her.”

~Anne confiding to Marilla in Anne of Green Gables, p. 172

Wouldn’t we all want this to be said of us?

So, for those of you who are teaching a Sunday school class, who open the Bible in front of young minds and share words of truth and life, you are filling more than an hour’s void.

“The social life of juvenile Carlisle centered in the day and Sunday schools. We were especially interested in our Sunday School, for we were fortunate enough to be assigned to a teacher who made our lesson so interesting that we no longer regarded Sunday School attendance as a disagreeable weekly duty, but instead looked forward to it with pleasure, and tried to carry out our teacher’s gentle precepts- at least on Mondays and Tuesdays. I am afraid the remembrance grew a little dim on the rest of the week.”

~ from The Story Girl, p. 26

You are providing a vision of what it means to be part of a kingdom of grace and love. It is a great service in which the subjects are only coincidentally small. If nothing else, you are narrating a picture of God’s appealing beauty. May your story be consistently bewitching and inviting.

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Through the pages of an Avonlea farm

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!IMG_6485

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.

~L.M. Montgomery

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.

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“…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.

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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.

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Dan and Becky James are second-generation owners of the Kindred Spirits Inn and Cottages where we stayed next.

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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.

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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

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Island Hymn

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

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Touring the Trees

After the winter of continuously plummeting temperatures and persistent ice, came the message of the harbingers of doom for the summer: it would be unbearably hot and sticky.  And yet, the last few weeks have found the Midwest enjoying gorgeously mild temperatures and azure skies with only intermittent days of storms and rain.  Beautiful.  Gently breezy.  Lush with leaves.  Let me just walk into my flip flops and I am out the door.

Both with and without my children I have been on walking trails, about the city, in parks, through mature neighborhoods, and sightseeing about the town I now call home.  A tour of the trees.  Here are a few I share with you all.

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.

-Willa Cather in O, Pioneers

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119. Trees

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain,

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

– Joyce Kilmer

Enjoy the various locales about the greater Indianapolis area through the trees.

Traders Point Creamery

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If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!

– Luke 12:28

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The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.

-Proverbs 11:30

Holliday Park

Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky – up- up-up into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then, I’d just feel a prayer.

-L.M. Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables

 

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Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the LORD…

-Psalm 96:12-13

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Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?

– Walt Whitman

 

Grounds about the IMA (Indianapolis Museum of Art) and 100 Acres

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I couldn’t live where there were no trees- something vital in me would starve.

-L.M. Montgomery in Anne’s House of Dreams

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The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

-John Muir

Around my suburban trails

American Sycamore

That each day I may walk unceasingly on the banks of my water, that my soul may repose on the branches of the trees which I planted, that I may refresh myself under the shadow of my sycamore.

-Egyptian tomb inscription, circa 1400BCE

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 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

-Psalm 100:1

DSC_0086_2510Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

-Psalm 90:1

And for those ultra-local….

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Can you name this location on a windy road?

 

What we would be reading if I had girls

May I preface this post with two small clarifications?  First, I really do not regret having all boys.  How could you regret the loves of your life?  I do, however, wonder from time to time what it would be like to share some really great children’s literature with them from my own childhood, you know, the kind boys just don’t truly appreciate.  This brings me to the second clarification – yes, there really are differences in girls and boys.  As much as I detest the pink aisles of toy departments in box stores, as much as I dislike labelling “boys books,” we all must admit, there are just certain subject matters to which one gender or another naturally gravitate.  This is particularly true as children grow past those early years.  So, what follows is a wonderful (and personally dear) collection of books which I would still be reading aloud if I had girls.  The list may not be surprising.  They are mostly classics, widely read, but if you do have a girl in your life, snuggle up next to her and share a treasure, a shared language of  literature.  Or, try some of these out with the little man, too.  At least as long as he will allow you.Spring2014 004

 

Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Oh, sure, A was partially toilet-trained on chapters like “Grandpa and the Panther,” and “Mr. Edwards meets Santa Claus,” but even a wild prairie tomboy does not generally hold the interests of boys in the same way that I was captivated by Laura’s trek across the grasslands of pioneering America.  Reading about sugar snow, Pet and Patty, Nellie Oleson and Laura’s early romance with Almanzo after the long, long winter held me spell-bound and made me wish I had also traveled by covered wagon.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich is where young girls might go after they have grown a bit older and read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories.  Beautifully written, they are told from the opposing perspective of the pioneer girls.  Ojibwa is from the Omakaya tribe near Lake Superior around 1847.  She is mysteriously discovered as an infant on a neighboring island, but grows up strong and full of curiosity.  Her people go through difficult times, and though the culture is a new one for most of us, through Ojibwa’s eyes, it is full of humanity and love.  This is a relatively new read for me.  They were first published  fifteen years or so ago, after I was well into adulthood.  However, I can imagine treasuring Erdrich’s books as a youngster.  Also in this series Chickadee, The Porcupine Year and The Game of Silence.

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Anne of Green Gables/ Emily of New Moon series by L.M. Montgomery.  I cannot emphasize the importance Montgomery’s writings had on me as  an 11 and 12-year old (and far beyond!).  I feel, like Anne-with-an-e, we are “kindred spirits.”  I cry every time Matthew gives Anne the “puffed sleeves” at Christmas, and I laugh when Mr. Carpenter “goes out with the tide” warning Emily to “beware of italics. ”  I have never been able to decide which series I enjoy more.  Emily is certainly darker, but more grown-up.  I will always be grateful to Lucy Maude not only for her characters, but also for introducing me to poets like Tennyson, Keats and Byron.  I would still love to make a pilgrimage one day to Prince Edward Island.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  Putting on plays in the parlor, eating apples in the attic, timidly playing the piano in the neighbor’s house, befriending the boy next door, reading war letters from father, growing up a March…..Who has not loved this family?

All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor.  Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, Gertie, then later, little brother Charlie.  Growing up Jewish at the turn-of-the-century in New York seemed neither strange nor unfamiliar. The books are full of sisterly love, patient parenting and Jewish holiday traditions.   I loved Ella as the Purim jester!  My favorites were always Sarah, who loved to read, and Henny who was always getting into so much trouble. All of a Kind Family Downtown, More All of a Kind Family, All of a Kind Family Uptown, and Ella of All of a Kind Family portray Mama’s and Papa’s girls (and baby brother) as they grow up before WWI.

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Betsy-Tacy-Tibseries by Maud Hart Lovelace.  Was there a happier place to live in than Deep Valley on Hill Street? Modeled after her own childhood experiences in the turn-of-the-century Minnesota, Lovelace helps us feel what it is like living in a community and growing up with best friends.

No surprises here in this list?  What were your favorites growing up?  Which childhood character seemed more flesh and blood than words on a page to you?  May you and your own “half-pint” bury your noses in a book, may you love every leaf, every page as you turn them together.