My Autobiography Check In — The PEI years

For the past few weeks, I have slowly been making my way through “The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery The PEI years, 1889-1900” published by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterson. I find this autobiography surprisingly interesting, and not nearly as dry as I had initially expected. I am currently reading year 1894, and am just over halfway through the book, with a goal of 22 pages per day. Some passages specifically resonated with me as a young Canadian, which is the perspective her journals are written from, since they started when she was just 15. 

1. a) “We are in a rough country— all woods; but oh, it does my heart good to see the spruces again” (93). 

    b) “A glorious day— fresh breezes, blue skies, blue waters” (95). 

    c) The maples and birches that met overhead were pale yellow and green and the field beyond was encircled by little, fairy like yellow birches” (103).

Montgomery was an extremely sentimental person, and she spent a great deal of time contemplating the natural romance of the outdoors. During her first trip on the CPR, she wrote extremely intricate details about the scenery, and how it affected her mood. Within twenty pages, the reader is transported across the country, along with it’s beautiful landscapes. Throughout the course of just ten pages, Montgomery writes about all three scenes found above. As a young Canadian who has travelled through quite a bit of this country, it is interesting to read about how much it has changed. She never once talked about the big skyscrapers of Toronto, or mentioned the congested traffic along the number one. The change which our world has experienced in terms of technology, is truly brought into perspective through Montgomery’s writing. I have also experienced similar sensations when overwhelmed by nature. I have basked in the sunlight, and pretended that I was entirely alone in the world, and Montgomery did the same, only she needn’t pretend. 

2. “Non scholae sed vitae discimus” which is Latin for “we learn not for school, but for life” (109).

This is the Latin motto which her school’s banner proudly displays. She mentions that her friends don’t like the motto, as it implies that they enjoy learning. Montgomery however, confides that she truly believes it and it’s implications. She, as do I, enjoys learning. She also however, finds that school can sometimes make learning a task, and that one could learn the same amount by simply venturing into the world on their own. This is the most relatable piece of content that Mongomery ever uttered as far as I’m concerned. I believe that the people who are meant to do great things, could and should learn those things on their own. If one is truly destined to do something amazing, I feel that they could do that with passion and devotion. Montgomery expresses similar sentiments, that perhaps school is designed for those not destined for greatness, but so that they can catch up to those ahead. This argument has strong political ties as well. Montgomery mentioned that none of her classmates agreed with her, or if they did they simply were saying so to get out of going to classes. This is interesting, as it leads me to believe that historically, Canada has been consistently left leaning in terms of politics. Our current prime minister represents the liberals, and Montgomery’s classmates express a left leaning bias, where school is necessary so that everyone can succeed. She would be an outlying thinker, with the belief that people should suffer on their own. 

3. “Dear old world you are very lovely and I love you. I am glad to be alive in you” (125).

Montgomery only ever thanks the world so openly like this when she fears that a good thing is to soon end. She says this on the last day of a summer vacation with her friends, with the uncomfortable looming energy of home responsibilities. I always feel this slightly subdued emotion of gratitude, in similar scenarios. I tend to take my time and saviour freedom like this during the last few days of a school break for example. I find it interesting however, that she thanks the world for her existence, as she is struggling internally while writing this. The possibility of moving away for college looms above her head, and her grandfather had just passed away. This represents the resilience that Canadians tend to demonstrate in times of recovery. We bounced back from many darker parts of history, in the same way which she does from her mental states. 

4. “Whenever I watch the spruces, especially in the dim twilight, they have a strange influence over me. All the happy memories of old days come back to me, all the vague, sweet hopes and illusions of childhood seem real to me once more” (128). 

While I don’t know that I could properly identify a spruce tree at first glance, I do know that I have similar destinations which represent childhood to me. Whenever I go to the creek behind my house, I am reminded of all the time I spent there exploring, and all of the memories I subconsciously created. I am reminded of a simpler time, when my most pressing concern was deciding what colour flower to garnish my hair with. This also applies to the way we look at history. Some people have the ability to see a primary source, and immediately empathize with the people from Canada’s history. Others don’t recall the “sweet hopes and illusions of [Canada’s] childhood, because they aren’t educated enough to understand the differing perspectives. 

5. “Oh, the world is so lovely now. It is the very prime of glorious springtide. […] Oh, it’s a dear beautiful world” (159). 

Again here Montgomery expresses a very blatant sense of gratitude for the world she was given. It is important to note that nearly a year later, she still believes that her struggles are worth it. She has this revelation right in the midst of spring, or in the changing of an involuntary clock. Despite her expressed favouritism for winter, Montgomery believes that she must accept the hurdles she’s been given and move on. Canadians are encouraged to do the same when faced with racism, sexism, or any other form of discrimination, as it will make them stronger. I related to this sentence, because I read it on a Friday night, and was extremely excited for the freedom of the weekend. It was also a beautiful day. 

From what I have read of this autobiography so far, Lucy Maud Montgomery is proof that every person has the ability to do great things, but also that not everyone has to do great things in order to be great. She was an extremely successful and inspiring person, because she wanted to be such. Some of her friends, who she writes about, are irrelevant to the course of history in the scheme of things. However, had Jack Laird or Pensie never existed, I highly doubt that Montgomery could’ve obtained such a status. While they didn’t become recognized, or do any “great things” they were still amazing people and should be recognized as such.

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