TEN THINGS ANNE OF GREEN GABLES HAS TAUGHT ME

My quest to read “just because” for a while is allowing me to revisit some of my much-loved favourites. Last week I dusted off Anne of Green Gables (it was in Miss Attitude’s room which, if she bottled dust, she’d make a fortune) and immersed myself in Anne-with-an-e’s world for a few blissful hours. No matter how many times I read this book, I never get tired of it.

I remember the first time I read it. A friend of my mother’s had left a box of books at our house – they were to go to the op shop – and of course, I just had see if there was anything I wanted to read. Inside this box were a number of old copies of L.M. Montgomery books, including Anne of Green Gables, which had a hard yellow cover. It was about thirty years old at the time, with yellowed pages and that old-book smell.

Within moments of opening it, I was enchanted. I wanted to visit Prince Edward Island immediately, be best friends with Anne (interestingly one of those “Who would you be in Anne of Green Gables quizzes revealed I would actually be Diana), and use big words to my heart’s content. I was half-horrified, half-awed when Anne smacked Gilbert on the head for calling her “carrots”, and if the phrase “You go, girl” had been invented back in the ’80s, I’d have silently mouthed it to Anne when she gave Mrs Lynde a talking to for judging by appearances. I have no idea of how many times I’ve read the book, but each time I do, I get something different out of it.

This time, I got something far more than a trip down memory lane. Instead, I was struck by how much I could learn from Anne. Here are 10 of my favourite words of wisdom from Anne.

‘But the worst of imagining things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.’ (Anne, p39)

So true. Sometimes I get so busy being a grown up I have no time for imagination, though I used to be quite fond of telling Bear and Monkey to use theirs when they were younger. The thing is, I do have quite a good imagination – I just need to give it permission to come out from its box. When I do, I feel so much happier.

‘How dare you say such things about me?’ she repeated vehemently. ‘How would you like to have such things said about you? How would you like to be told that you are fat and clumsy and probably hadn’t a spark of imagination in you?’ (Anne, p80-81)

This is that “You go, girl” moment. Why do we feel the need to judge others by their looks? Whether we give voice to it or not, we all do it. But, as Anne says, “How would you like it?” I still remember being told by a family member I love very much that I was just average looking. Twenty years later, it still burns – it might be true (and no, I am not fishing here, but I didn’t need to hear it. Even worse, was when I was told by someone else that as a teenager I looked “awful – too skinny and no bosoms”. When I said, “Oh I don’t think I looked awful“, she said, “Oh yes, you did.” I wish I could have responded like Anne!

‘Saying one’s prayers isn’t exactly the same thing as praying,’ said Anne meditatively. (Anne, p94)

Such an astute observation! If praying is what you need or choose to do, the important thing is to say it from the heart, wherever, whenever.

‘And you know one can dream so much better in a room where there are pretty things.’ (Anne, p149)

Anne is inspired by the beauty of nature as much as is words. When she is surrounded by beauty, she can let her imagination run free. I get that. If you’re surrounded by negativity, how can imagination flourish?

‘But really, Marilla, one can’t stay sad very long in such an interesting world, can one?’ (Anne, p169)

In one sense, this is such an innocent, child-like view, yet there’s truth in it. We each have one life. Good things happen. Bad things happen. A lot of it is just in between. Hopefully, even when we experience a season of darkness, we are still able to see some good.

‘You know, there are some things that cannot be expressed in words.’ (Anne, p177)

She’s nailed it. Nothing to add.

‘Kindred spirits are not as scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.’ (Anne, p196)

My life is better because of many of the people in it. People who make me laugh, think, challenge me, help me, share my interests … they’re my kindred spirits. I love discovering new kindred spirits … and they are not always who I expect.

‘Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it?’ (Anne, p217)

Yes. Just yes.

‘And that is just why you should be sorry for me,’ said Anne, ‘because the thought that it is all my own fault is what makes it so hard.’ (Anne, p229)

Don’t you hate it when you stuff up? I do. And I have so many emotions to express this … frustration, shame, guilt, embarrassment …. that’s when we need a good old hug.

‘But the best of it all was the coming home.’ (Anne, Anne of Green Gables, p291)

No matter how many times I go away, home is home. There’s just something about walking in the door of your place, seeing your “pretty things”, and feeling that rush of familiarity. It’s where you are most evident, and where you can really be yourself.

But wait. There’s more. These two from Marilla and Matthew were too good not to share.

‘Don’t give up all your romance, Anne,’ he whispered shyly, ‘a little of it is a good thing – not too much, of course – but keep a little of it.’ (Matthew, Anne of Green Gables, p280)

Aww. Matthew is such a gentle soul. I love these words – it’s a reminder that it’s okay to dream, to be excited by little things.

 ‘Folks that has brought up children know that there’s no hard and fast method in the world that’ll suit every child.’ (Marilla, Anne of Green Gables, p245)

Couldn’t have said it better myself. One of the biggest things every parent needs to know. It’s trial and error, all the way.

Sadly my old copy of Anne of Green Gables is long gone. Guess what I’m asking for at Christmas – hint: it’s this version below! What’s next in my “just because” journey? I’m thinking Chocolat by Joanne Harris.