I spent the weekend in Canada on Prince Edward Island, the source of inspiration and setting of L.M Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables book series which is exactly what I thought of and what every person said, "Anne of Green Gables!" when I told them I was going to PE Island. I haven't read an Anne book in a long time but my mind instantly conjured images of a lively red-headed girl in a white smock, a boy named Gilbert, and Anne's "bosom" friend, Diana of the raven hair. I thought maybe I was belatedly clutching onto the symbol of a place whose time had passed and that the island itself would be nonchalant about that claim to fame but no, not so. Lucy Maud Montgomery brought her island's land and character to readers all over the world and the island's 140,000 residents are proud of Anne Shirley.
I walked to one of the main streets in town from the hotel my first night there, turned onto Queen Street and saw the theater's banners for the Anne of Green Gables musical currently in its summer run. On the corner of Richmond Street the Anne of Green Gables store sold Anne-inspired clothes, food, bricabrac and books. I read that Anne books are required reading in Japanese schools and that Japanese tourists pour onto the Island to visit the Avonlea farm in Cavendish, some with their hair dyed red and in braids, Anne style, and I confirmed this today with a French-Canadian friend who used to live in Tokyo. I couldn't help feeling twinges of excitement as the van driving me and the band got further out of Charlottetown and closer to Cavendish and our destination, the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, right in Avonlea. "This is where it happened!" I thought.
Or didn't happen, since the books are fiction based loosely on LM Montgomery's life and people she knew in the late nineteenth century. But it didn't matter because I was young when I read those books and when I read as a kid, I lost myself in stories. It was real to me. It didn't matter if my mom was calling me for dinner a few feet away, the roof was being shredded by a tornado, the first floor on fire, with gutter rats nibbling at my heels. I READ HARD. And Anne Shirley was kind of a bad ass; she was always getting into trouble for being a spitfire with the kind of curiosity and imagination and action that bothers people who prefer the stolid status quo. I totally wanted to be her or be friends with her.