Posts Tagged ‘Anne Shirley’

irises garden cambridge ma

Anne, correcting examination papers in the tower room one mid-June evening, paused to wipe her nose. She had wiped it so often that evening that it was rosy-red and rather painful. The truth was that Anne was the victim of a very severe and very unromantic cold in the head. It would not allow her to enjoy the soft green sky behind the hemlocks of The Evergreens, the silver-white moon hanging over the Storm King, the haunting perfume of the lilacs below her window or the frosty, blue-penciled irises in the vase on her table. It darkened all her past and overshadowed all her future.

“A cold in the head in June is an immoral thing,” she told Dusty Miller, who was meditating on the window-sill. “But in two weeks from today I’ll be in dear Green Gables instead of stewing here over examination papers full of howlers and wiping a worn-out nose. Think of it, Dusty Miller.”

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery

I have felt exactly like Anne this week – with paperwork in lieu of examination papers – as I’ve been in the grip of a decidedly unromantic, un-summery head cold. (Kershoo!) We’ve had gray skies and blustery winds here in Boston, though we were spared the hail that hit West Texas (and filled up my Facebook feed). Despite my cheery Summer Manifesto, I’ve felt as droopy as my balcony garden, which is definitely not getting enough sunshine. (Neither am I.)

However, like Anne, I’ll soon be at Green Gables – or close to it, when we head to Prince Edward Island on vacation later this month. And before then, there’s a bit of sunshine in the forecast, and a few fun social events on the calendar. So things are looking up.

Wishing you a lovely (sneeze-free) weekend, friends. And if you’ve been to PEI, do share your must-see recommendations!

(P.S.: After reading about Anne’s blue-penciled irises, I had to find some of my own. These are from last summer, in the garden next to my office building.)

Read Full Post »

shoes book harvard yard

More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen, Laurie Colwin
I loved Colwin’s Home Cooking, and rereading an essay of hers (the titular one in Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant) prompted me to pick up her second collection of food essays. She muses on cooking for kids, catering on the cheap, and the difficulties of finding good bread, with a few recipes sprinkled throughout. Light and fun.

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery
“Only the true fans can quote Anne lines from Windy Poplars,” Serenity told me once. This fourth book in the series is definitely underrated. I love it – from Anne’s short-lived feud with the Pringles to her musings on pens and silences, to the way she charms “the widows,” Katherine Brooke, Rebecca Dew and the rest of Summerside. Perfect for blustery autumn days (how I envy Anne her tower room!).

Something Borrowed, Emily Giffin
I’m usually a snob about chick lit, but my sister loves Emily Giffin and convinced me to give her a try. Giffin’s debut is both fluffy and compelling, though it made me feel a bit icky because it is about several people who cheat on each other ALL the time. I did like the narrator, Rachel (the consummate good girl), and appreciated Giffin’s musings on the complexities of female friendship. Good weekend reading.

Something Blue, Emily Giffin
After her best friend Rachel (see above) steals her fiance, Darcy Rhone finds herself alone, pregnant (by a different man – again with the cheating!) and at her wits’ end. She moves to London to stay with an old friend, and gradually realizes she needs to make some changes in her life. I didn’t believe Darcy could change, but she does so admirably (though a bit quickly). Fluffy and fun.

Somewhere in France, Jennifer Robson
Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to make a difference in the world, but she’s constrained by her place in British society. But when World War I breaks out, she learns to drive, defies her parents, and joins the ranks of WAAC drivers, eventually getting posted to France where her sweetheart, a Scottish surgeon, is working at a field hospital. A compelling war tale (with some gory medical details) and a moving love story, though the ending was quite abrupt. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Dec. 31).

Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers
Lord Peter Wimsey goes undercover at a London advertising agency to investigate the death of a copywriter. He uncovers a nest of blackmail, drug-smuggling, jealousy and other fun leisure pursuits. An entertaining mystery, with lots of witty advertising wordplay. (Though I couldn’t believe nobody guessed Lord Peter’s true identity.) So much fun.

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.

What are you reading?

Read Full Post »

“I wish you’d stay home, Anne. I don’t see what you want to go away and leave us for.”
“I don’t exactly want to, Davy, but I feel I ought to go.”
“If you don’t want to go you needn’t. You’re grown up. When I‘m grown up I’m not going to do one single thing I don’t want to do, Anne.”
“All your life, Davy, you’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to do.”

Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery


Anne Shirley learned this lesson earlier than I did. As an orphan who was dependent on other families for her welfare, she spent her childhood caring for babies rather than playing with her friends (she didn’t have any) or going to school. Once she came to Green Gables she had more freedom and many new friends, but she still had to do the chores (such as sewing “unimaginative” patchwork squares) that she didn’t want to do. By the time she’s preparing to head off to Redmond, in Anne of the Island, she understands what it is to tackle an unpleasant chore, or to have mixed feelings about a course of action and stick to her decision anyway.

I’ve been remembering these words recently as I (reluctantly) wait on increasingly chilly subway platforms, squeeze onto crowded commuter trains, squint at my monthly budget, or deal with nagging life admin items such as doctor’s appointments. Every day, I find myself doing things I don’t want to do – which would shock eight-year-old Davy Keith. But I do them anyway – sometimes because I have to, sometimes because I know that my life (or someone else’s) will be better if I take care of this or that task. Most of the time, I try not to gripe about it, though I do my fair share of grumbling about bad weather, long lines or high prices.

Anne is one of my heroines not only because of her starry-eyed optimism, but because of her honesty about the small trials and victories of everyday life. She wasn’t complaining when she made the statement above; she was gently chiding Davy, perhaps, but she was also admitting matter-of-factly that life – even a good life – isn’t all ease and pleasure.

Sometimes, on a gray day or one filled with not-so-appealing tasks, it helps to remember Anne’s clear-eyed words, and tuck them into my pocket as I take a deep breath and tackle my next dull or irritating task. Even Anne had to do all sorts of things she didn’t want to do. And she managed to maintain a cheery and hopeful spirit – which means I can cultivate one, too.

(The cover image is from Wilfair. That’s the edition I own, though it always bothered me that Anne is wearing pink – she never wears pink, because of her red hair!)

Read Full Post »

widener library harvard convocation

When we left Queen’s we knew everybody and had a place of our own. […] Now we feel as if the ground had slipped from under our feet. I’m thankful that neither Mrs. Lynde nor Mrs. Elisha Wright know, or ever will know, my state of mind at present. They would exult in saying ‘I told you so,’ and be convinced it was the beginning of the end. Whereas it is just the end of the beginning.

Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery

I always think of Anne’s words at this time of year, when flapping black robes and colorful hoods appear on the streets of Boston and Cambridge, when nervous almost-graduates have to answer the question “What are you doing next?” for the seventy-sixth time. Families flood into town to watch their sons, daughters and siblings walk across those stages. For weeks, you can’t set foot outside without tripping over a few knots of family-members-cum-tourists, disoriented but excited, trying to squeeze in all the sightseeing and still get everyone where they’re supposed to be on time.

I’m no longer a student, but I have never left the world of higher education. I’ve worked at three universities, and I spent a year in Oxford earning a graduate degree. Last week was my first Harvard commencement, and though I mostly watched it from afar, it thrilled me to be part of a centuries-old tradition, distinctive yet common to universities around the world.

The festivities began for us on Wednesday afternoon, with the Ed School’s Convocation ceremony under a big white tent in Radcliffe Yard. I manned the Class Gift table with two colleagues, and we watched our office’s intern, Evan, present the class gift check to our dean and then deliver her speech, perfectly poised. (She’s a class act and a fellow West Texan – which makes me doubly proud.)

evan speech convocation

The Thursday morning exercises in Tercentenary Theatre (adjacent to Harvard Yard) are always packed, and tickets are hard to come by, so I watched the live stream online with my colleagues (in our air-conditioned offices – it was 92 degrees!). But I did walk through the day before:

tercentenary theatre harvard commencement

I’ve never seen so many folding chairs or college banners in one place. And even when it was (mostly) empty, you could feel the buzz in the air.

On the day, the pomp and circumstance were such fun to watch – as were the quirky details, from President Faust’s crimson shoes to the deans all hugging Oprah (the afternoon’s featured speaker) during their brief times onstage. And the student speeches – one in Latin, two in English – were simply wonderful. My favorite quote came from Jon Murad, a New York police officer who earned a graduate degree at the Kennedy School of Government:

Here’s the secret: Everyone changes the world. Everything ripples. What matters is how we do it.

That is the excitement of commencement, at Harvard or anywhere else: the idea that these graduates will leave campus and begin working to change the world. It is an end, especially for the undergraduates – but it is also a beginning. They are leaving a place where they have become comfortable and known, but they are on the cusp of another grand adventure.

We’re settling into summer mode around here: tying up loose ends from the school year, dodging tourists with oversized cameras, shifting our attention to projects we’d been saving for quieter days. The tents have been folded, the chairs stacked and carted away. But the air still shimmers with the excitement – and uncertainty – of all those beginnings.

Read Full Post »

Windy Poplars,
Spook’s Lane,
May 30th.


It’s spring!

tulips boston public garden

“Perhaps you, up to your eyes in a welter of exams in Kingsport, don’t know it. But I am aware of it from the crown of my head to the tips of my toes. Summerside is aware of it. Even the most unlovely streets are transfigured by arms of bloom reaching over old board fences and a ribbon of dandelions in the grass that borders the sidewalks.

blossoms charles street boston

“Everything is calling ‘spring’ to me . . . the little laughing brooks, the blue hazes on the Storm King, the maples in the grove when I go to read your letters, the white cherry trees along Spook’s Lane, the sleek and saucy robins hopping defiance to Dusty Miller in the back yard, the creeper hanging greenly down over the half-door to which little Elizabeth comes for milk, the fir trees preening in new tassel tips around the old graveyard . . . even the old graveyard itself, where all sorts of flowers planted at the heads of the graves are budding into leaf and bloom, as if to say, ‘Even here life is triumphant over death.'”

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery

pink tree boston public garden

From Anne and me to you, happy spring.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been rereading Anne of Windy Poplars, because it’s the perfect fall comfort read. Anne moves to a new town, finds a charming tower room in a house with two adorable old ladies and their quirky housekeeper, and proceeds to win the hearts and minds of everyone in Summerside, as she seems to do everywhere she goes. And she chronicles her three years apart from her beloved Gilbert in dozens of letters, which remind me strongly of my emails to J when we were apart for our yearlong engagement.

This time around, I noticed a detail I’d never noticed before, in her first letter to Gilbert:

From the left window in the tower I can see the roofs of the town…this place where I am to live for at least a year. People are living in those houses who will be my friends, though I don’t know them yet.

I had always blithely assumed, in my previous reads, that Anne had planned to spend those three years in Summerside before Gilbert finished medical school and they got married. But reading that phrase (italics above are mine), I realized: she didn’t know, at the outset, how long she’d be there. The fear of resigning at Christmas (when the Pringles plagued her life out), or at the end of a year, was very real. And her musings on a new life with an unknown end date struck a deep chord with me –  since I, too, am living in a new life with an unknown end date. We’ll be here a couple of years yet, but I am not sure what lies around the “bend in the road,” either in Boston or after we leave it.

This is one reason I love rereading – noticing these details for the first time, and feeling an entirely new kinship with a character who has long been a good friend. (And, of course, it was deeply reassuring to read about Anne’s three years in Summerside and watch her build a rich, full life there.)

Read Full Post »

I admit I was a little reluctant for fall to come this year.

You see, we had such a long winter last year, and a cold wet spring – so I’ve been savoring every bit of sunshine, every warm day and golden sunset of summer and Indian summer. But fall is undoubtedly here in the Northeast – and I do love it, so I’m now entering into it with gusto.

The season's first apple, and my jaunty red accessories.

Besides, I’ve got quite a few falls to make up for. In my West Texas hometown, “fall” often lasts for about a week between the blistering heat of summer and the whip of winter winds across the plains. I’ve sweated through many a football game in a wool band uniform, wishing it were cooler – and then shivered my way through many a Christmas parade, my flute icy against my lips. So I’m soaking up every moment of crisp autumn air (and trying not to think about the coming winter – surely it can’t be as bad as last year?).

Here’s how I’m falling into fall:

1. Eating apples (and planning to go pick them very soon)
2. Savoring the very last batches of summer produce
3. Making and freezing pesto, while I still can
4. Planning local trips – up to N.H. to see the foliage; a return to New York to see Allison; a day trip out to the Boston Harbor Islands and another to Portland, Maine
5. Making pumpkin scones and pumpkin bread
6. Savoring the last of my summer teas and planning to stock up on fall/wintry ones
7. Eating lunch outside as often as possible (storing up sunshine)
8. Buying new leggings (a steal!)
9. Rediscovering my scarf collection
10. Lining up a little seasonal reading: Anne of Windy Poplars and some new fall releases by beloved authors
11. Urging far-away friends to come savor the New England fall with us
12. Enjoying seasonal flavors: pumpkin, cinnamon, apple cider, caramel, chai

How are you falling into fall this year?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,166 other followers