August 17, 2009

The Alpine Path

{The red cliffs of Prince Edward Island}

It's that August time of the year and I am wanting to be one place: Prince Edward Island. That is my heaven on Earth. My brass ring of places. When I was younger, my family - the three of us - would travel there in the month of August to stay for about a week. We'd rise before sunup, load our bags into the car, strap the bikes to the rack, and hit the road with our freshly brewed coffee (hot chocolate for me). I would open my car window, breathe in the sweet dampness of the early summer morning the warm colors of daylight brimming behind the black lace of the pine trees.

The first leg of the journey is a two-hour drive to Eastport, Maine and Campobello Island (where former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's historic summer home is located). We took a car ferry from Campobello to Deer Isle, New Brunswick, and then drove to another ferry on the island that would allow us to reach the mainland. Six hours later, after driving straight up the middle of New Brunswick, we reach the Confederation Bridge, a stunning connecting structure between PEI and New Brunswick. Driving across the bridge, we always played the Anne of Green Gables soundtrack, beautiful music composed by Hagwood Hardy that captures the rhythm of the Island. Crossing the bridge always held so much promise for a peaceful, enlightening experience. The Island and L.M. Montgomery's descriptions of it have always synced with a deep part of myself. It's my home, though I have never spent more than a week there.

{A view of the Confederation Bridge}

During our PEI visits, we always stayed at the Willow Cottage Inn, a darling bed and breakfast tucked amidst the pines adjacent to the tourist hullabaloo of the Green Gables house in Cavendish (the town upon which Montgomery based "Avonlea"). The inn was run for many years by a dear couple, Ann and Edward, who became our Island family that we would stay with every summer. They made the most delicious breakfasts - french toast, various egg dishes, homefries. I can still taste the natural perfection of their homemade bread. The rooms are quaint and comfortable with Victorian charm and the proximity to Green Gables made the inn all the more enjoyable. The inn is currently under new management and our family missed their warmth and kindness that we found in Ann and Edward, who had retired away from the Island to warmer climates.

{The site of the Green Gables house}

Our weeks in PEI were spent visiting the Green Gables house as well as all the other historic homes and sites connected to the novels of Lucy Maud Montgomery (yes, we did buy season passes to Green Gables so that we could go more than once - but I just LOVE that house!). To find the most unique and meaningful site, you must cross the street from the tourist-infested Green Gables and follow a woodland path adjacent to a field of wheat. At the path's end, you will find the original site of Montgomery's grandparents' home where she lived while writing Anne of Green Gables. Run by her distant cousins, the site gives one an instant sense of tranquility with it's tree-covered scape and various plaques with a quote from one her novels. Her success, writing style, and story content inspires my creative self. Her achievements are embodied through her poem, "The Alpine Path," below:

"Then whisper, blossom, in thy sleep
How I may upward climb
The Alpine path, so hard, so steep,
That leads to heights sublime;
How I may reach that far-off goal
Of true and honoured fame,
And write upon its shining scroll
A woman's humble name."

I actually considered naming this blog, The Alpine Path, because these sentiments align with my own creative aspirations. I identify greatly with Montgomery's characters, especially Anne Shirley and Emily Starr, for their imagination and idealism. They became my bosom friends during times in my youth when I had none. Montgomery's work honors the Island in all of its natural glory. Read just an excerpt from her work and you will be transported there. I wish that I could be there now. I remember a perfect moment, standing near the edge of a North Shore cliff at sunset, gazing at the great blue ocean and the adjacent red cliffs, brilliant in the setting sun. A sweet-scented summer breeze blows by me. I go to this moment in times of trial and times of joy. Here, I am forever on the Alpine Path.

{A portrait of Lucy Maud Montgomery}
Image found here and here and here.

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