Sitting on the deserted beach watching the waves caused a certain melancholy to wind it’s way through me. The landscape, basically unchanged, from 1894 till now. It matters not who was Queen then (Victoria) or who became King today (Charles) upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth. The shores of the beach looked the same in 1830 when Richard Montgomery built Ingelside and will even if his descendant Paul sells it. The beach that Lucy Maud Montgomery played at as a child and returned to as an adult, living in exile in Ontario, remains the same.
The tide comes and goes. The horizon and tomorrow both seem distant. There is only the sands of time.
I felt totally immersed, as if I had slipped inside the family tree of another’s family. It was truly fascinating.
We went to “Silver Bush⁴”. It was home to the Campbell’s, double cousins to Lucy Maud Montgomery. The house features in a few books while the joy of cousin time (as an only child living with grandparents Maud was often lonely) came alive in The Story Book Girl and the Chronicles of Avonlea. I found out, from her great neice, how to say Frede. She laughed and said everyone called her Freddie and no one knows why Maud, in her journals, spelt it Frede except that she often misspelt things there. That’s not the kind of detail one would read in a book. The house, part private residence and part museum, has such a treasure trove of artifacts. Many of these actual physical items were transported into stories that she wrote. The bookcase children that Anne saw in her early life are the same ones Maud “saw” in real life in that very bookcase. There is the crazy quilt that she stitched. I knew she had done one but to see it lovingly displaced and to look at her workmanship. To find out why it survived in such amazing condition. She and Ewen Macdonald were married in the parlor in front of the fireplace in 1911. The house seems unchanged in so many ways and here it wasn’t all about Anne with an E but rather about the woman who penned her; right down to her writing desk.
Looking out the incredibly huge upstairs window at the Lake of Shining Waters, which on the map shows as Campbell’s Pond, but she refers to it many times in her journals. “They” say write what you know and that is certainly what she did. It is an enchanting area there is no doubt of that.
Then we crossed the road and went to Ingelside. The family home of Senator Donald Montgomery was a favourite spot of Maud’s as she cherished her relationship that she had with this grandfather. Interestingly enough I don’t feel like I have heard much of the Montgomery grandmother. If I had a week in this house to just read I am sure I could find the answer. There are so many books in an interesting book case, brought over in 1770 by James Townsend, Maud’s great grandfather.
But perhaps tomorrow I will just ask Paul Montgomery when he cooks our breakfast. He turned the family home into a bed and breakfast 6 years ago. They’ve done a fabulous job of these renovations and kept the character of the house front and center. Paul shared stories about this as well as family stories.
The landscape has changed of course. The big old barn outback is long gone. The trees have grown and the fields are bigger than the old photos show. The walk to the beach, under a glaring sun, remains unchanged.
The peace and quiet allow time to reflect whether it be about family, history or our place in this world. About the impacts of imagination, duty, service and how those values play out in life.
Given more time I will like to think I could be slightly more articulate about this. It flowed at the beach inside my head better than it is at this moment but reality is I am hitting publish. Perhaps someday I will come back and re write the ending just ad Maud re wrote her journals.