summer reading: kindred spirits



photo of Prince Edward Island, Canada, June 2004


“Gilbert drew her close to him and kissed her. Then they walked together in the dusk, crowned king and queen in the bridal realm of love, along winding paths fringed with the sweetest flowers that ever bloomed, and over haunted meadows where winds of hope and memory blew.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

Summer fun reading is the tantalizing carrot for professors. If I can just make it through this Giant Stack of Grading, come late May, I can read, read, read for myself…

Some summers I read purposefully, all pedagogy and class prep. Some summers I let the whims of the library and bookstore decide. This summer, I craved an old, familiar tale. I would re-read (for the umpteenth time) the Anne of Green Gables series, eight books written by Canadian author LM. Montgomery in the early 20th century, set around the turn of the century (one of my favorite literary and historical periods). 

When I first discovered Anne’s saga through the Kevin Sullivan film series airing on PBS in the late 1980s, my world changed. I read all of the books, and read them again. I penned stories that echoed the main themes–romance, academic achievement, pluckiness, wholesome fun. I wandered through the woods behind my parents’ home naming trees and paths and creeks, as Anne had done. I lived in two worlds–the real world of school, baby brothers, blueberries, parents, and the imaginary world of coming romance, beautiful nature, poetic turns of phrase, and everywhere, possibility. 

Reading the novels again, on the eve of my impending nuptials, I reconnected to my younger self, my wishes, my dreams, my possibilities. I laughed to realize that my tendency towards purple prose and verbosity has its roots in these novels and their literary style. My propensity for naming inanimate and natural objects? Straight up Anne of Green Gables. My desire to live in a beautiful world? Shaped by Anne’s imaginative visions. And the search for kindred spirits? Definitely influenced by the deep friendships and romances the novels chronicle. 

As I traveled between my home in Wisconsin, where I live, beautifully and happily with Gregg, and my childhood home in Michigan, I felt tugged between past, present, and future. Gregg and I drove around Lake Michigan more times than I can count, meeting with our officiant, DJ, and making wedding plans with my Mom’s help. I would often stay longer, and Mom and I would dig into the work, running errands, plotting and planning and planting, and making dreams become reality. 

Whatever novel I was reading at the time accompanied me, along with the next in the series, as the slim novels read quickly. And yet, I wasn’t quite able to finish the 8th book before our wedding on July 14th. However, I found what I was looking for–a bridge between my past, present, and future. An insight that though life and place and home changes and expands, there’s a deeper place somewhere within–the place where heart and intellect and soul meet, where traces of all my selves merge. And it’s this rich self I was able to live out these wedding days. And the books helped guide me. 

This past Tuesday morning, back in Wisconsin, I looked at our wedding photos and then finished the last chapters of book eight in the series. Oddly enough, I noticed a story on my facebook feed that seemed to speak to this relationship between childhood reading and adult self. A feature from the Huffington Post, this article explores the Myers-Briggs personality types of fictional characters. It’s no surprise to me that Anne is an INFP, my personality type. Kindred spirits, indeed. 

And, so, indeed is my now-husband.