Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Alpine Path: Lucy Maud Montgomery

If you've been a Seasonal Soundings reader from years past, you know that I was not raised a reader. But something almost instinctive inside me loved books. I loved to go to the library and would bring home a stack, yet hardly able to get through one before the due date. Having had the typical 60's education, I learned to read with Dick and Jane and never had real problems learning to read but was slow because reading was not cultivated in my life.

I began to change all that as I got older, became acquainted with living-book authors, and as I had money to buy my own books. It was through a book that our journey into homeschooling took root and through another book that the cultivation of classical education blossomed. And it was through all this that I met Anne Shirley in my thirties.

As a thirty-something with four young children, I read every night to catch up on what I had missed in childhood. I'm still catching up! Once I read Anne of Green Gables, I was hooked on all the Anne books. I can remember reading until 2 a.m. with tears wetting my pillow. Anne is such a likeable girl who matures into a lovely woman with adventures still following her. My own girls read her books, and later, I had my eighth grade students read her. Everyone should read at least the first book.

It was through Anne that I became curious about the author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and her prodigious publications. Always curious, yet I never pursued meeting Lucy Maud. Until now. As we scheduled a fall trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and the recreated Green Gables where Montgomery's stories came to fruition, I searched for a biography about Montgomery. What I found was her autobiography.

In less than one hundred pages, Montgomery in The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career briefly surveys her life that produced the Anne books. Montgomery uses rich descriptions and vocabulary that makes you think, certainly not commonplace language of today. Certain events in her own life can be seen translated into Anne's life.

While I was somewhat disappointed with the brevity of the book, I am glad I read it and noted two passages in particular. In the first, Montgomery is describing her beginnings in school (emphasis mine):
"The next summer, when I was six, I began to go to school. The Cavendish schoolhouse was  a white-washed, low-eaved building on the side of the road just outside our gate. To the west and south was a spruce grove, covering a sloping hill. That old spruce grove, with its sprinkling of maple, was a fairy realm of beauty and romance to my childish imagination. I shall always be thankful that my school was near a grove -- a place with winding paths and treasure-trove of ferns and mosses and wood-flowers. It was a stronger and better educative influence in my life than the lessons learned at the desk in the school-house."
I believe had Lucy Maud and Charlotte Mason known each other, they would be fast friends and kindred spirits. 

Another interesting-to-me bit  was her diary entry during her "dream-come-true" trip to London. As I read it, I realized that it was just one year ago, almost to the day, we were in London doing -- and feeling -- the same thing!
"So much has been crammed into this past fortnight that I have a rather overfed feeling mentally. But when time is limited and sights unlimited what are harassed travellers to do? The British Museum, the Tower, Westminster Abbey, Crystal Palace, Kenilworth Castle, the Shakespeare Land, Hampton Court, Salisbury and Stonehenge, Windsor and Parks and Gardens galore!"
Of that list, we visited all but Kenilworth Castle. What an apt description: "a rather overfed feeling mentally."

Lucy Maud Montgomery was a gifted writer because, no doubt, she had an inquisitive imagination and was an avid reader. Two prerequisites for an enduring author and two qualities we parents and teachers want to cultivate in our children and students.


Michelle said...

Have you seen the movie versions of Anne of Green Gables? They're beautifully interpreted. Megan Follows really captures the spirit of Anne. Here they are:


I'm certain that can be ordered off of Amazon as well.

By the way, I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle,

Yes, I watched all the Anne movie and think they are absolutely delightful! You are right, Megan Follows is Anne in my mind's eye.

Thanks for stopping by! Hopefully I'll attend to writing more now that I'm not working. :)

~Seasonal Soundings

Cat said...

I recently read "Lucy Maud Montgomery-the Gift of Wings" by
Mary Rubio. Pretty bleak picture of much of Montgomery's life, but a great read. The Blacksburg public library had this, so I would think every other library in the world would have it.