Last time I mentioned Emily of New Moon and a connection I noticed between Emily, L.M. Montgomery, and me. It only seemed natural that my next post should fill that out. (Thanks, Damaris!)
From the first pages I knew I would love the book. New Moon both reminds me of Green Gables and is a treasure in its own right. I found myself thinking, “If Marilla had been even colder and even cruel, if Matthew had been a spinster sister instead of a shy bachelor, and if Anne had known her father before he died and had been certain of her writerly abilities from the start, the two would almost be the same story.” That’s a simplified breakdown, of course, and it doesn’t detract from the quality of either story or group of characters.
There are the lush and idyllic descriptions of life on P.E.I. in the early 1900’s (I believe it’s about that time). There are the judgmental and mischievous classmates, every bit as conniving as any adult clique. There’s the heroine, armed with her rich inner life, an eye for beauty, and a tongue for defense (and often trouble). There are adventures, growing pains, rifts and mends, and a bit of mystery.
It’s been several years since I read Anne of Green Gables. I stopped reading the series somewhere around the time that the romance became boring to me. Perhaps I had to grow up a bit to further appreciate good writing in general, but reading Emily of New Moon has been a breath of fresh air, and a source of inspiration as well.
Back to the first few pages. One thing that made me certain I had found a kindred spirit was “the flash”.
It had always seemed to Emily, ever since she could remember, that she was very, very near to a world
of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside,
but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting
world beyond-only a glimpse-and heard a note of unearthly music.
Throughout the story, numerous views and events are visited by “the flash”; it is always in connection with something beautiful or momentous, and always comes unexpectedly.
At this point I nearly jumped out of my seat and yelled at the book, “Yes! I know what you’re talking about!” “The Flash” reminded me of experiences as a child and young teenager. I would have called it something much less romantic and slightly disturbing, like “the seep” or “the breath”. For me, it was a slow spread of aching joy that would squeeze my heart as I looked out on mountains, or on a pinky-yellow sky at sunset, or as I read a story that seemed so real I was sure I could just go on living in it. As an adult, I am learning to recognize this again.
The idea of another world of immense beauty just beyond our reach is something many a writer, and countless others besides, can appreciate. Those of us who are aware of it (or maybe them) are the ones that see Fairies, and not the kind in green miniskirts. The knowledge that there are places outside of our everyday life fill us with joy and hope, longing and delight. When we glimpse another world, we try to capture a bit of it, not because we’re convinced we can relay anything of it perfectly, but because we simply must pass on beauty and light through art. Anyone who is creative in any form is convinced that communicating these elusive dimensions will broaden our own vision, and, we hope, the vision of any who come into contact with us.
In that sense, writing is to me like opening a window. We need that breath of fresh air, that unfiltered light, that different perspective that is waiting for those who will stop to see that a window is more than a hole in a wall or a part of a visible structure. Whether visible or invisible, something different is let in through that open window and interacts with the everyday.
So whether by song or dance, writing or building, whether through the creaking of rusty hinges or the shattering of resisting glass, let us open windows.