Anne of Green Gables and Kindred Spirits

I first encountered Anne Shirley the summer I turned 11, and it totally changed my young life. Here was a novel about a chatty, imaginative, free spirited little girl who wanted to be a writer! I don’t think I’d ever encountered a heroine quite like her at that point. There was of course Sara Crewe of A Little Princess, but as good as her imagination was, she didn’t want to be a writer. Jo March always seemed so much older than me; even reading Little Women as an adult, Jo intimidates me!

But Anne was very nearly perfect! She taught me the meaning of different kinds of friendships and introduced me to the concept of Kindred Spirits. She stood up for herself against bullies, and was proud to be smart in school. I loved her competitiveness and her drive to succeed, and it encouraged me to do the same in class. The book taught me people can and do change for the better. Her grief over Matthew was my first encounter with grief.

Of course I went on to read the whole series (what was available at that time in the mid-seventies). I collected everything Anne I could find. I made my very own kindred spirit friend, Marielle, who reconnected with me at the end of 2014. Kindred spirits are friends forever, you see. She and I made Anne storybooks made from pictures we cut out of magazines and mailed each other (that’s snail mail; email hadn’t been invented yet). We had so much fun sharing Anne! I still have the antique copy of Further Chronicles of Avonlea she gave me for one of my birthdays.

In my twenties an Afterschool Special did its adaptation of Anne, and with that the floodgates seemed to open on all of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work. There was an adaptation of Jane of Lantern Hill, and Canadian television produced The Story Girl, which led to the TV series Avonlea, or sometimes called Tales from Avonlea. The wonderful adaptation by Kevin Sullivan of Anne, starring Megan Follows remains one of my favorites of all time.

I discovered Emily of New Moon then, and fell so totally in love with Emily Starr. She too was imaginative and a writer, but her story is a bit darker (Emily has a creepy older man stalker who wants to marry her so he can tame and control her) and a little less sweet and charming. I don’t know if I’d have understood Emily at 11 the way I did in my 20s.

I started collecting all of L. M. Montgomery’s books: The Jane books, the Pat books, the last two Anne books, Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside. Of course I got The Story Girl Books, and all of the short story books.

I also got my first couple of Anne dolls. In Epcot, in the World Showcase, there was a store that was mostly dedicated to Anne and Green Gables related merchandise. I got an Idlewild bath and body kit there, an Anne hat with long red braids, an Anne figurine and a rag doll. Other dolls came into my life later; a Barbie Anne, a 2′ doll from Toys R Us, and most recently a Pulip doll from South Korea. She’s my favorite!

In my 30’s I discovered her books for adults, A Tangled Web and The Blue Castle. I fell madly in love with the story of Valency, a young woman living with two uptight crotchety relatives who put her down constantly and went out of her way to control her (that part hit home; been there, done that). When Valency believes she has terminal breast cancer, she decides to ditch her home and chase her dreams, which lead her to the doorstep of a reclusive writer.

This is a Romantic novel, not just a love story, but a celebration of nature, of animals and the ideal of living in total simplicity. It might have been sappy in the hands of a less gifted writer but in Montgomery’s hands it’s a work of art. It became my favorite book of hers of all time, and at last count I have 4 paper copies and 1 electronic copy. (I’m not obsessed… no, not me!!)

In my 40s, I discovered her journals and so many biographies. Volume 2 was my favorite- we were of a similar age, her in her journals, me in the here and now. I started writing her letters, commenting on her journal entries and then telling her about myself. I know that has to sound corny as hell, but Maud became even more important to me. Kindred spirits throughout time.

Imagine my distress then, when I learned in 2010 than Maud’s death was not from natural causes, a heart attack as most of us believed. The Gift of Wings by Mary Henley Rubio, a Montgomery scholar, tells us that Maud killed herself with an overdose of opiates. It turns out she may have been an addict, frazzled and depressed by her husband’s schizophrenia and one of her sons’ constant trouble with money and the law. She also injured an arm that made it difficult to write or type.

I was so sad and heartbroken that this amazing woman, who gave us such wonderful heroines and glorious stories, suffered so much and was so depressed that she felt ending her life was the only way out of her pain.

I think my connection to Anne and Maud Montgomery is stronger than ever. Marielle, my childhood kindred spirit, is always finding me Anne related things – from body lotions, soap and nail polish, to Marilla’s brooch to Avonlea wax cubes. I love it all! ( Thank you, Marielle!)

The Montgomery love continues. The Anne With an “e” adaptation hit Netflix last year to some critical acclaim. I found it a bit dark and a little bit anachronistic, and I still haven’t seen all of it. I do have to say Amybeth McNulty makes a terrific Anne. I heard there was supposed to be a season 2, but don’t quote me on that.

There’s a new set of journals out, supposedly complete with nothing excised. I’m looking forward to collecting them, of course.

And of course my dream is to make the pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island, something I’ve wanted to do for four decades.

I think you can tell from my enthusiasm and delight in opening my #coffeeandaclassic box how much Anne means to me.

I believe the rest of you Kindred Spirits will understand.

#AnneofGreenGables #LMMontgomery #TheBlueCastle #The StoryGirl #Tales if Avonlea #JaneofLanternHill #MeganFollows #AnneSpelledWithanE #AmybethMcNulty #MaryHenleyRubio #GreenGables #PrinceEdwardIsland

Ride With Me

I’m so sorry I’ve neglected my blog and my readers, but I spent the majority of March super ill.

But, as promised, The Adventures of Mary Starling… (PS: my first attempt at anything resembling a romance or a western.)

Mary was a girl, really, trading one hard life on for another. Not that she expected work as a saloon girl to be easy, but at least she was free of a dried-up farm and equally dried-up family. Mary wasn’t pressured to be one of the “upstairs girls” (yet) and she made enough to make ends meet in her tiny room at the boarding house. She kept her savings in a small bag in a pocket sewn into her bloomers.

Customers said she was sweet, and Sam, the owner liked to play with her hair and call her “Curly.” He thought she was docile, but her parents didn’t raise a fool. Mary knew the score.

She swiped her rag across the grimy saloon table. The supper crowd had gone and it was still hours until the evening rush. When the door opened, she jerked her thumb toward the corner. “Sit there, mister.”

She looked up, ready to take his order, or demand, and her mouth dropped. He wasn’t one of the town drunks looking for an afternoon shot. He had dark hair that fell slightly past the collar of his duster and a neatly cropped beard. He had the obligatory cowboy hat, but wore it at a jaunty angle, and while his coat and clothes had the usual fine layer of trail dust, he was relatively clean.

He took off his hat and nodded to her. “Hello, miss. I just rode in from Juarez. Could I get a drink and a bite to eat?”

“The drink I can do, sir, but we’ve not much in the way of food right now. Kitchen’s closed ‘til dinner time. What’d you like to ease your parched throat?”

“Just a shot of whiskey, ma’am.”

It sure wasn’t every day that she was addressed as ma’am. Mary dropped her cloth and went behind the bar. The bartender was upstairs catching a nap before the usual hell broke loose at night. Mary grabbed a bottle of top shelf whiskey and poured him a drink. “What’s your name and what brings you to our little town?” It was nice to talk to someone new, and a handsome gentleman at that.

“Ethan Starling, and I’m just stopping through on my way to Yuma.” Ethan’s blue eyes studied her, looking deeper into her own green ones than most of her patrons did. There was something about him that made Mary believe he was no ordinary cowboy. He asked her, “What brings a lovely lady like you to a town like this?”

“The usual, just looking for a new life.” She met Ethan’s intense gaze with her own.  What was it about this man that was drawing her to him?

They stared at each other for several minutes before the saloon doors burst open and three men strode in with guns drawn. “There he is, boys. That’s the scoundrel who robbed my stage!” The man who spoke, well, he was the kind of man she saw every day, a wannabe villain out of a dime novel.

Mary gasped, even though she should not have been surprised. This, at least, was business as usual.

Ethan remained unperturbed and spoke. “I’m sure there’s been a misunderstanding, fellows. I was just retrieving what rightfully belonged to the people of Juarez.” He sipped his drink like it was tea and he was at a house party.

You son of a –! I want my gold back!”

“Take it outside, guys!” Mary said. She pulled a shotgun out from behind the bar and laid it on the counter. “I’m giving you thirty seconds.”

The oldest of the gunslingers had the grace to look abashed. He tipped his hat to her. “We don’t want no trouble here,” he said, “Ethan, you have 29 seconds to follow.”

The men exited, as Mary pulled back on the hammer. They were preparing for what they thought was an easy fight. Men like that always thought the fight would be easy and the win a given.

Ethan was the kind with other ideas. “My horse is tied up in back. I kinda expected these fellows.” He grinned. “I ride out to set right a wrong involving a friend and a mining company in Yuma.” He looked at Mary with that irascible smile that made her feel something she’d never experienced before.

“Ride with me?”

Mary thought about it. Thought about endless days of waiting on drunks and gamblers, the tedium and the future she knew awaited.

She lay down her dishrag and grabbed the shotgun. Sam would probably miss the weapon more than he’d miss her.

“Let’s go.”

She led him through the kitchen to the back door.  Sure enough his horse was tied up at the back rail where the saloon owner usually kept his beast. Ethan’s brown stallion was heavily laden with bags of supplies and who knew what surprises. Mary felt for the first time what so many others had described to her: the thrill of excitement.

Ethan helped her up on the horse, and then settled himself behind her.

He whispered in her ear. “You ready for this?”

Mary nodded, a strange feeling of freedom sweeping over her. No more farmer’s daughter, no more barmaid. She could be her own person now.

Ethan kicked his horse into a gallop. The world was going to be theirs for the taking.

To be continued…

*****Honest feedback welcomed and desired!!!

#flashfiction #western #romance #marystarling #starlinggang #amwriting