Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pilgrimage to Green Gables

Anne Country- by Hilde Garcia
L. M. Montgomery as a child
A photo taken near the end of her life.
You never know what peace is until you walk on the shores or in the fields of Prince Edward Island on a summer twilight when the dew is falling and the old old stars are peeping out and the sea keeps its nightly trust with the little land it loves.  You find your soul then- you realize that youth is not a vanished thing but something that dwells forever in the heart. And you look around on the dimming landscape of haunted hill and murmuring ocean, of homestead lights and old fields, tilled by dead and gone generations who loved them- and you say, “I have come home.”

From the L. M. Montgomery Journals, Vol. 61, 4/9/1936

From the moment I set eyes on the southern shores of P. E. I., my life-long desire for this pilgrimage had come to fruition. My heart swelled at the sight of the red cliffs, the rolling green hills, and sloping farmlands peppered throughout the landscape.

This is the Lake of Shining Waters

Anne Country.  That’s what the northern shore is called by the guardians of the island- the fine people who keep the spirit of kindred alive every day, and in a way, keep L. M. Montgomery alive too.  We have been so welcome here.

Our 6 bedroom, 1800’s farm house, Annandale, is located outside of Kensington in Long River.  It's so like Green Gables, I feel I’ve traveled in a time warp. Annadale's former owner, Victoria Howatt, sang at Maud’s wedding and had tea with her in the very kitchen where I made cookies this week.  Here are photos of all the bedrooms. My family and I played musical beds all week to try them all!

My cookies have now traveled to P. E. I. Canada
Silver Bush was Maud’s favorite place according to her journals.  This was the homestead of John and Annie Campbell, L. M. Montgomery’s aunt and uncle.  It’s now the home to the Anne of Green Gables Museum.  She spent her happiest times there and eventually was married in their downstairs parlor.

Silver Bush
My family and I took a carriage ride with “Matthew”- (his real name is Donald)- over the lake of Shining Waters and to the sea.  She wrote four novels about Silver Bush- Pat of Silver Bush, Mistress Pat, The Story Girl, and The Golden Road.
Lover's Lane, behind the home of Silver Bush
Matthew aka Donald getting the horses ready for a carriage ride.

I had the pleasure of meeting Pam Campbell, a descendent of Aunt Annie and Uncle John, who runs the AGG Museum now. Pam's brother and wife own the property.  Pam grew up not a fan of Anne, wanting to be far away from this shrine, only to return as an adult, discovering Anne for the first time, succumbing to her irresistible charm.  Is there anyone Anne doesn’t eventually enchant?
Pam Campbell, my daughter, and Lady.
Maud, as she was called by those who knew her, was born in the town of Clifton, which is now called New London.  At 21 months old, she went to live at the Cavendish home of her maternal grandparents.  

The home in Clifton where she was born
The Cavendish home is no longer standing, but the "real" Green Gables, the home of David Montgomery Jr. and his sister, Margaret, cousins of Maud's grandfather, is and it's where Maud spent most of her days and where her inspiration for Anne derived.  
The "real" Green Gables in Cavendish
John Macneill, a great-grandson of Alexander and Lucy Macneill, and his wife Jennie, live on this farmland, which was passed down to them through generations of Macneills.  They carefully restored the site and tend it.  I met them both, really, and their granddaughter also named Jennie, who works at the bookstore on their property. (Granddaughter Jennie is the 6th generation Macneill).

Jennie Macneill (wife of John Macneil) tending the Montgomery garden.
The Bookstore on the site of the Cavendish Home.  Jennie, the granddaughter, is inside tending the bookstore.  Her grandfather told me the funniest story about the snow being so high this winter, that he took the sled and went down the hill from the second floor!  A kindred spirt to Anne indeed.  He was a child when Maud passed away.

We spent a day in the Avonlea village, which pays homage to a simpler way of life. This village allows you to step back in time.  So my daughter and I did by dressing for the part.  We dyed wool with Ms. Rachel Lynde, played games with the Avonlea school children (excellent performers), sat in the schoolhouse where Maud taught in the town of Belmont. (The actual school house was brought to this village in its entirety as was the church and the manse.)  

I called my daughter, Anne.  My son loved the pig races and my husband loved the school concert at the end of the day.  We ended up coming back on Friday and spent an additional morning playing.  It was so hard to leave.

Growing up, I read to escape my world and L. M.’s world was captivating.  Her descriptions of the people from this island transcended country, culture, and time.  Their plight was intoxicating and I couldn’t get enough of them.  I could find part of me in every story, in every book.  When I arrived here, it was like a tryst I’d kept with my soul, for I promised myself more than three decades ago that I would travel to this idyllic place.
And travel I did and it was the road that made all the difference.
My children running down the lane to our cottage.  It was a third of a mile and it did them in!

And why does she speak to me? An immigrant Cuban girl from Hialeah, Florida of no particular importance, with no great claim to fame?  We couldn’t be farther apart or more different.  What could we possibly share? Well, for one, a love of books, a love of words.  A need to hold on to the past? An inexhaustible spirit, like Anne’s?

During a time when women were meant to stay home, Maud defied those constraints by becoming a published author, repeatedly, while being a wife and a mother.  Her works have been in print for more than 100 years, and are still cherished by young and old.  What she wrote is as relevant today as it was then.  Her published journals and letters give us a glimpse of who this woman really was and those only make you cherish her works more deeply.

Especially if you consider that she typed her entire body of work, after writing it longhand in many cases, on this typewriter. No copy and paste feature at all!

Being here is powerful and magical. The island’s charm is a warm glow that stays with you while you are on the island. And even once you leave.
On the Annandale porch. Right after this was taken, we packed in a rush to leave in order to beat Hurricane Arthur. We left that night at 11pm, drove all night, and hit the storm in Maine, outside of Bangor, where we pulled over to wait it out.  It's a good thing we did.  Nova Scotia was hit that morning, all flights were canceled, and more than 100,000 homes were without power.

Saturday, 5pm, 18 hours of driving later and through the storm, we arrive at JFK and return our Canadian rental car. Don't let the photo fool you, we are so tired, we were absolutely punch drunk. We all promptly crashed when Grandpa took us home!
The following words I read in a foreword of a book I bought.  They ring so true in my heart and when I read them this week, every road and country lane on P. E. I. was sunlit bright, like the beams of light that lanterns from lighthouses shine on sailors so they can find their way home.

"Everything L. M. Montgomery taught me was more valuable than any of the history lessons I learned later, and for me she is the writer who understands more than anyone what it is to come out of a country that was basically rural and become a player on the world stage because of circumstances.  I understand the continuing appeal of her work because I have never forgotten it.  I have never considered it to be a ‘childish thing.’  I have never put away L. M. M.  I love her to this day.”

-by the Right Honourable Adrieanne Clarkson, PC, CC, CMM, CD-
the 26th Governor General of Canada
Foreward in Imagining Anne-
The Island Scrapbooks of L. M. Montgomery.

I have never put her away.

I love her to this day.

I found my way home.
This is real estate for sale.  So tempting!

Her Works
Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
Kilmeny of the Orchard
The Story Girl
The Golden Road
Anne of the Island
Anne's House of Dreams
Rainbow Valley
Rilla of Ingleside
Emily of New Moon
Emily Climbs
The Blue Castle
Emily's Quest
Magic for Marigold
A Tangled Web
Pat of Silver Bush
Mistress Pat
Anne of Windy Poplars
Jane of Lantern Hill
Anne of Ingleside

The Watchman and Other Poems
The Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery

Chronicles of Avonlea
Further Chronicles of Avonlea
The Road to Yesterday
The Doctor's Sweetheart
Akin to Anne: Tales of Other Orphans
Along the Shore: Tales by the Sea
Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side
After Many Days: Tales of Time Passed
Against the Odds: Tales of Achievement
At the Altar: Matrimonial Tales
Across the Miles: Tales of Correspondence
Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery Volume I: 1889-1910
The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery Volume II: 1910-1921
The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery Volume III:1921-1929
The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery Volume IV:1929-1935
The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery Volume V:1935-1942

The Green Gables Letters: from L.M. Montgomery Ephraim Weber, 1905-1909
My Dear Mr. M: Letters to G.B. MacMillan from L.M. Montgomery
After Green Gables: L.M. Montgomerys Letters to Ephraim Weber, 1916-1941

Courageous Women

The Island Hymn

The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career

To learn more about her and this beautiful island, visit these links:

Site of the Cavendish Home:             
Site of Green Gables Heritage Home:

Site of the Campbell Homestead:       
Site of L. M.'s Birthplace:                            No website. The number is 902-886-2099

Site of the L. M. Montgomery Institute:


  1. How awesome you got to fulfill your dream. Sounds like an awesome trip.

    1. Thanks Natalie. I learned so much. Before she published Anne, she made $592.10 in one year as a writer, which at the turn of the century was quite impressive for a woman. In 1908, after Anne's publication, she made $1732 in the first 6 months. Her book went through 6 printings. And she never stopped publishing since until she died. Just amazing to consider especially with all the "womanly" duties she still had to perform. Thanks for your visit to the post. Hilde

  2. It's my dream too and I feel so much closer to PEI after seeing these pics of you all there.
    I love all of the sequels better than Anne. Jane of Lantern Hill is my favorite non-Anne Book. Rilla of Ingleside is one of my go to books of all time. Alao Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne of the Island. Thanks for the post.

    1. I have a photo of "Lantern Hill" It was right around the corner from our farm house. Wasn't everything? Sue, it was amazing!

  3. Thank you for this lovely blog. You have brought back wonderful memories of my trip to Nova Scotia and PEI in 2010. I visited the Green Gables Cavendish house with reverence. We didn't get to Cape Breton Island and there is so much for I'd love to see, so I must go back!
    Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Me too. I couldn't believe how much there was to do and not Anne-related as well. I would need the whole summer! Thank you for sharing.

  4. I've read 13 of her novels and have ALL of the ones I've read. Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat have stayed with me, much longer than the Anne books though I did love those too. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. She wrote those books at the place she considered "gayest in the land." Her home was so lonely that she couldn't wait to go to her cousins home. It's not far by today's standards, but it was a good ways away for those days, so when she visited, she would stay for a spell. I met Pam Campbell who told me stories of her relatives playing with Maud. Simply incredible to be part of that conversation. I am so glad you liked the post.

  5. Hilde, thanks so much for sharing this wonderful experience, so moving, so true-- we could almost be there with you. I loved "Anne of Green Gables". I've always idealized the country life, but I'm probably more of a city/suburbs girl. I'm envious of your experience, but very grateful you have shared it with us and with your family.

    1. I am definitely a suburbs/city girl. The beetles sneaking their way into our farm house did not make me happy, but you'd be surprised at how quickly you could become a farm girl. I literally thought about buying property. I had idealized the books, but I was so glad it was still the same. It's like I walked into a book. Thanks Penelope!

  6. Oh, how I envy you! She is one of my favorite authors, always, and her characters are funny, poignant, and REAL to me.

    1. Me too. She breathes such life into them. She had so much bottled up and she poured it out into these people from this time period that are still identifiable and universal to all of us today. That's a feat! And I just can't believe I finally got to go. I was on the verge of tears for most of the time I was there. In fact, I was beyond words when I walked into Maud's birthplace... I was just so happy I was there. I am so glad I was able to share it with all of you. I know how many of us kindred spirits there are out there. Thank you for reading my post.

  7. Thank you for this amazing journey and photos. Felt like I was right there with you. Lovely :)

    1. You are welcome. My kids want to post all about their experiences at the village of Avonlea. I loved how they play acted with the performers, embracing the story, becoming part of the script. It shows us the power of literature, doesn't it? To literally transport us anywhere we want to be. Thank you for reading my post.

  8. We went to PEI on our honeymoon in 1996, and this brings back so many beautiful memories, right down to the carriage ride with Matthew. Thank you!

    1. I should have thought of that as a honeymoon destination, but I had just moved to CA, so my husband planned a tour up the coast, all on the sly and at the last minute I might add, but so much of that reminded me of this week. The hills, the coast, the countryside. Central CA has many of those same qualities as well as lovely people... And the carriage ride was really, really neat. I just wish I had been able to slow it all down and really be able to savor it. It all felt too fast and I simply wanted time to stop. But what a honeymoon you had. How awesome!

  9. Replies
    1. Oh yes, he was in the car with me- aka my husband- who is as big a fan as I am. We met Gilbert in Avonlea and he was dreamy, of course, but mine was the best!! Thank you for reading my post.

  10. Came aquainted with Anne in the eighties when I was a student. Still read all of the Anne and Emilly and road to.... books every year in a row..I just adore them.
    Hope so very much I can come to PEIsland in my old age....nearly 50 now. I'll be as the ladies of Patty's Place and roam the Island before it cannot be done anymore ;)
    Loved your blogpost!!!!

    1. I turn 47 next week so you can of course go and visit in your old age!!! If I can, you can. I know it seems far, but it's closer than you think and the farm house I stayed in was wonderful and many properties like that are around for a great price. And as the ladies of Patty's Place, the lsland will be roamed indeed. I felt like I needed another 2 weeks to finish all of my roaming! I loved the Emily books too- and those are the most autobiographical of her life. Thank you for visiting my post! When you do visit, let me know and I will give you more tips to know.

  11. Went there for my honeymoon. Love it!

    1. Wow, that makes two people who have replied that went there as a honeymoon destination. Amazing! A unique place indeed.

  12. Thank you for writing this. I had a similar experience of coming 'home' to PEI, although I very nearly didn't get there, as my US visa terms made it quite complicated to cross the border. Imagine this Aussie fan's delight when she finally arrived and discovered that Maud was a Macneill, as am I!!!

    1. That is brilliant! WOW. And you know, all her descendants told me that half the island is related to her. There are Macneills all over the island as Campbell's and Montgomery. I am so glad you made it in. Visa's are tricky, aren't they? We almost didn't make it out because of the storm, but going in was easy. When you travel with cute kids, people don't ask too many questions, lol! Thank you for reading my post.

  13. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful adventure. My best friend and I have recently started a blog dedicated to Anne of Green Gables and our upcoming pilgrimage to PEI from our homes in Australia. I hope our visit is as wonderful as your sounds.

    1. It will be. I can't tell you enough about it. It's like no other place I have visited and it's enchanting in every way. We stayed in Long River and knew everyone before we left on Friday. We met folks that were down to earth and fabulous to talk to. The geography is breath taking and there is nothing like those red roads. And the music and food was excellent. We were so upset not to have more time so we could try more places. I gained like five pounds. I can't wait one day to visit Australia. It's on my bucket list, so I know your pilgrimage will be unforgettable. Good Luck and let me know how it goes. From Hilde

  14. how wonderful you were able to fulfil a lifelong dream.. I grew up with Anne, introduced to those wonderful books when I was 11, by my grandmother.. I still have them now, some are a little battered but still much loved .. L.M.Montgomery inspired me to write and submit short stories and poetry when I was young.... I still read these cherished books now.....thank you for sharing I live on the other side of the world but those books take you right there to Avonlea and PEI...........


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