Our group of women writers and readers have bid adieu to Kristin and hello to L.M. Montgomery’s Emily. This year, we will read and write about Montgomery’s Emily trilogy: Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and, Emily’s Quest.
I’ve not read these books (and I’ve only read the first Anne of Green Gables, and not as a child, but as a mother of girls who asked me to read it to them), so I don’t know much about the books except what I think I remember the Project Reduxers saying about them: there is a bit of magic and mysticism to them, they’re kind of strange, and they are Montgomery’s attempt at resisting what it was the world expected of her as a woman writer. Whether I remember correctly or not, this was enough for me to read the books, and so on the first week of January, I began reading about the house on the hollow, the Wind Woman, the Adam and Eve spruce trees (named because of the apple tree between them), and Emily’s “flashes” – moments when she’d catch a “glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond – only a glimpse – and heard a note of unearthly music….” The moments, “came rarely, went swiftly, leaving her breathless with the inexpressible delight of it. She could never recall it – never summon it – never pretend it; but the wonder of it stayed with her for days.”
Except for the “inexpressible delight” part, these sure sound a lot like hot flashes.
Emily is too young – a child – and these are not what they are, though I did take a bit of comfort thinking the flashes I’m experiencing might remind me that I am “very, very near to a world of beauty” as they do Emily.
Here’s when they arrive: “…with a high, wild note of wind in the night, with a shadow wave over a ripe field, with a greybird lighting on her window-sill in a storm, with the singing of ‘Holy, holy, holy,’ in church, with a glimpse of the kitchen fire when she had come home on a dark autumn night, with the spirit-like blue of ice palms on a twilit pane, with a felicitous new word when she was writing down a ‘description’ of something.”
This is not magic or hormones – this is attention. Emily has the gift of attention. Emily might not be able to summon the flashes, but she remains alert. She remains faithful – because when they come, Emily is reminded that life is “a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty.”
My flashes feel like shame. That is, they make me think I’m embarrassed of something, or should be embarrassed because this is what happens when I am ashamed or embarrassed. Heat blossoms my cheeks and travels up and down my neck to my scalp, the lobes of my ears, my neck, and then sits in my chest.
“I am ashamed,” my mind tells me. Then, “No, I’m 47.”
I still believe in persistent beauty. I still believe that life is wonderful and mysterious and on a grey Sunday when I’m getting the last of the groceries and driving home and I stop at a light and I notice the Canadian geese that were yellow and fluffy this spring and are now the size and color of their mom and dad and they are waddling tall and proud across the street so that when the light turns green, nobody moves, the flash comes then, and I think of Emily.
I decide there is nothing to be ashamed of, and like Emily, I choose to pay attention.
Callie Feyen (Project Redux founder) holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University, and is a writer for Coffee+Crumbs, TS Poetry Press, and The Banner. She is the author of two books: The Teacher Diaries, and Twirl, and is working on her third –a book about JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Callie lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband Jesse, and their two daughters, Hadley and Harper. Follow her on Instagram at @calliefeyen or online at calliefeyen.com.