I came looking for Anne Shirley, but I couldn’t find her at Green Gables. Oh, they had paid careful attention to detail in that house: Bonny, the geranium, was in the kitchen window; the amethyst broach was in Marilla’s room; Anne’s much-coveted puffed sleeve dress hung in her room; and the broken slate, cracked emphatically over Gilbert’s head, was displayed nearby. It was all very accurate to the fiction of the story, but somehow, none of it looked quite as I had imagined it as a girl, and in successive readings since. Anne, as my own fellowship with the novel had painted her, was nowhere to be found.
So, I went outside and I wandered, following Lover’s Lane, that woodsy path of solitude that had been much-loved by Anne’s creator. The boughs, verdant and leafy, closed above me, and looking down the tunnel they shaped, I spied a shadowy form. Logic insisted it was just another tourist, but I held onto some strange hope that at last, I had spied Anne. I followed the path deeper into the trees, through lush ferns and wildflowers and over a tinkling brook, breathing deeply of the fresh stillness and landscapes that spoke of Anne. From there, I continued to the Haunted Wood, a prickly sensation crawling across my flesh as I relived Anne’s fright there in the novel. I was positive I could almost glimpse her among the shadows, around some bend in the road.
With one last, backwards glance at Green Gables, I left the National Park and made my way to Cavendish Beach. A breeze tousled my hair as I followed the marked trail along the dunes. Birds sang beside MacNeill’s pond, and butterflies flitted among the wildflowers and wild roses. I could envision Anne picking a great bouquet of them, perhaps to adorn her hat or just to beautify the starkness of her east gable room. As I made my way to the shoreline, I paused to feel the sun on my face, the salty wind about me. There, before me, stretched the ruddy sands of Prince Edward Island and the intense blue of the sea beyond. The dunes rolled out before me, begowned in marram grass. I breathed deeply of the natural landscape around me, of Anne’s true home, exactly as I had always imagined it. As I slowly made my way to the beach, two shadows joined me: one, a red-headed heroine, the other, a long-ago version of myself. We walked there, in that iconic setting, in a literary communion that stretched across the years.