Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Like Pearls Slipping off a String: Anne of Avonlea


by L. M. Montgomery

My ten-year-old daughter recently finished the Anne series. I started along with her, but don't have as much time to devote to reading as she does. Of course I read all these books when I was a little girl, but they have a new sweetness to me as an adult.
Saturday proved an ideal day for a picnic...a day of breeze and blue, warm, sunny, with a little rollicking wind blowing across meadow and orchard. Over the sunlit upland and field was a delicate, flower-starred green.
Why, oh why, is nature study not like that? We can't even manage a nature walk imbued with that kind of softness and peace. I think there must be a difference between a group of elvish teenage girls and my raucous thirteen-, ten-, eight-, and six-year-olds.

Anne is seventeen and working full-time as a one-room schoolhouse teacher, supporting her aunt and distant relation six-year-old twins, but her thoughts are far different from what we expect of modern teenagers. Perhaps they shouldn't be.
In the delicate, white-browed face beside her, with its candid eyes and mobile features, there was still far more of the child than of the woman. Anne's heart so far harbored only dreams of friendship and ambition, and Mrs. Allan did not wish to brush the bloom from her sweet unconsciousness.
Anne of Avonlea, when Anne is teaching school, prompted questions in my mind about the kind of life we're living each day in our homeschool.
"After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string." 
Anne's days are ones of hard work compared to our modern ones. She didn't have dishwashers or washing machines or vacuum cleaners, but how lovely they seemed to be. They are imaginary, of course, but I can't help feeling I could improve our days by focusing more on peace and relationships rather than activities and screens.
Perhaps she had not succeeded in "inspiring" any wonderful ambitions in her pupils, but she had taught them, more by her own sweet personality than by all her careful precepts, that it was good and necessary in the years that were before them to live their lives finely and graciously, holding fast to truth and courtesy and falsehood and meanness and vulgarity.
Kansas Dad reminds me all the time that we are creating this kind of environment for our children, a much different one from that found in most homes, but it's difficult not to see the room for improvement. Anne of Avonlea provided some much appreciated encouragement and inspiration.

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