Photo Feature: Lucy Maud's place

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The hidden jewel of PEI's tourism crown

During 2003, I vacationed with my family in Prince Edward Island. We stayed in a lovely cottage unit on route 13, within walking range but a comfortable distance from the garish tourist traps of Cavendish.

One morning, I took a walk by myself, leaving the boys to play with their mom at the pool. I was still a few minutes from the noise of the main drag when I noticed a nondescript path that cut across a field and into a grove of trees. There was no sign or gate so I surrendered to curiosity and detoured into something truly magical.

I have always been a sucker for a well-worn path, and this one was a beauty. It must have been more than a century old. It stirred my imagination in ways unexpected, and I paused several times to marvel at how the trees leaned in from each side, like children craning their necks at a parade.

Finally, a modest wooden sign informed me that this was the same path Lucy Maud Montgomery walked every day, more than a century earlier, on her way to school.

The path ended on a meadow ringed by tall poplars, birch and spruce, with a wide hayfield sloping off to my right and down into the valley. To my left was a stone foundation all that remained of Lucy Maud's childhood home surrounded by a stand of mature trees, their leaves whispering in the breeze high overhead. Here were the meadows and paths explored by the famous author; the trees she climbed; the fields she ran in. You could stand underneath' her bedroom window and smell the blossoms, just as she had so long ago. It was the setting that had inspired so much of her stories.

It was, I am sure, one of the most serene places on earth. And it was completely untainted by commercialization, unlike everything else in the town, which was ironic given that this was where Lucy Maud gave birth to the Anne of Green Gables' concept, somewhere around 1905 (the book was published in 1908).

At the other end of the field was a small house, which doubled as a bookstore and museum. After browsing the artifacts, including the typewriter upon which Lucy Maud wrote some of her manuscripts (the early ones where in her own handwriting), I purchased Anne of Green Gables, the book that started it all. I read half of it that first afternoon, becoming so captivated that I returned to the bookstore and bought all remaining books in the series. (The stories are better written than you might expect, and all the strong characters are female whereas the males are just window dressing. Lucy Maud was definitely a feminist and perhaps a little ahead of her time.)

I eased into a conversation with the shopkeeper, a pleasant elderly lady who was a descendant of Lucy Maud's extended family. When I told her I was a writer, she said, Oh, then you will have to walk on the path of rejection.' This, I learned, was another time worn path that led from the homestead out to the main road, where the post office was located. In her early days, Lucy Maud walked this path many times, clutching letters from publishers that, alas, contained letters of rejection hence the name of the path. It felt so much like I was walking in Lucy Maud's world that, at times, I worried I might be invading her privacy.

I took all of these photos on that old homestead, hoping to catch even a hint of the inspiration that surrounded me. If you are a writer and ever find yourself in Cavendish, be sure to visit this spot. But do as I did take the back entrance, off Route 13. You will be enchanted.

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