I am on the third, and last, of the Emily books, and have felt a sad apprehension over having to let Emily go since I bent the cover of Emily’s Quest and creased the spine just so. Why is a paperback that fits in your hand so delightful? Is it because of its lightness and its ability to hold so much at the same time?
LM Montgomery must’ve known those of us who’d read Emily and in turn would say, “I want to be her,” or, “I AM her,” would experience some anxiety letting go of her. “But what will we do now, LM?” I bet she worried her fans would write. “Who will our writing hero be now? Who will show us how to do it?”
LM was too gracious to tell us – “You must be your own writing heroes, now. You must show yourselves how to go about the writing life.” That wasn’t her style. (Readers, do you appreciate how I write as if I know LM Montgomery?)
Instead, she tests us. She wants to see if we’re paying attention – like a mother who runs behind you when you’re learning to ride a bike and then lets go and you feel the air shift and you are afraid but you keep going because you want to keep going. Because you realize you can keep going.
Here’s what happens: Ilse, Perry, and Teddy all leave for college while Emily stays home. Mr. Carpenter dies. Emily writes and writes and writes, and receives rejection upon rejection. The crew comes back for a visit, and Teddy, who Emily is unequivocally in love with, makes it elusively clear he’s not interested in her anymore. (“The ghosts of things that never happened are worse than the ghosts of things that did,” LM tells us in a gentle slap to the face.) Then, Emily steps on her cousin’s sewing basket at the top of the stairs in her house and I guess that doesn’t sound too bad but there are scissors in the basket, and Emily steps on the scissors. They go through her foot, Emily falls down the stairs, and she almost dies but doesn’t.
As if that weren’t enough, Dean, who I am sorry, is a creeper and I don’t know what Emily sees in him, well he comes along and tells hers that her manuscript is horrible, “and also will you marry me?” (That is not a direct quote, but it may as well be because that’s really close to what happened.) And Emily says yes!
Before all this happens though, LM writes, “But the materials of story weaving are the same in all ages and all spaces. Births, deaths, marriages, scandals, these are the only really interesting things in the world.”
“LM,” I wanted to say, “what has gotten into you? Did you get into a fight with your editor? Publisher? Agent? I know it wasn’t Instagram and whether or not you should dance around like a donkey pointing at words (you were so lucky, LM).” How could she suggest that these are the only things to write about? It is all of what else LM has written about – the small moments – that show me all there is to write about.
This then, is what I think the test is. “Are you paying attention?” I think she is asking from the pages of the beginning of the book.
The other day I was on a walk and a robin popped out of the hedge and onto the path I was on. She hopped in front of me, but despite the fact that I was close enough to see all the splendid shades of brown that made up her coat, for several seconds she never flew away. Instead, she would pivot to look at me, as if to make sure she was heading in the right direction. Sort of like what a toddler does when she first learns to walk and you’re out in the world together and she lets go of your hand and she hobbles ahead and she will turn your way just like the robin and she’ll want to know the same thing: Is this right? “Are we heading in the right direction?” But also, “Are you looking? Are you paying attention?”
The weather has finally changed in Michigan. It was grey for eternity and then God said, “Look again,” and the world was sprinkled with pinks and blues and yellows and greens and how come what was annoying yesterday isn’t a problem today? Bot no matter answering that question. The thing to do is get out into the world. Let go of that sweater. Pull off those wool socks. Take a walk in a world that’s renewed itself and shouts, “Look at me! Look what I did! You don’t need to know where you’re going. Just keep looking!”
LM Montgomery might very well have been in a bad mood when she wrote that line, but it was no mistake. This is no throw away line. The proof is in the title of this last book, and the apostrophe that lays claim on Emily: This is Emily’s quest. The test then, is the question LM offers: Can you see your own life as a quest? Are you paying enough attention to see your life in such a way?
Like any first chapter, this one is a launching. LM launches Emily, but she is launching us, too. Find your own, she tells us.
Look at your lives as quests that only you can take.
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.
One thought on “The Only Really Interesting Things In The World”
“Take a walk in a world that’s renewed itself and shouts, “Look at me! Look what I did! You don’t need to know where you’re going. Just keep looking!”” and “The test then, is the question LM offers: Can you see your own life as a quest? Are you paying enough attention to see your life in such a way?”
I’m going to carry this with me, Callie. It’s just what I needed to hear.
(Also, Book Three is such a gray book for me, a low, blue book. I never really enjoyed rereading it as a teen, but I’d always make myself push through after gleefully rereading the first two, because the ending was so worth it. And gosh, yes. I feel bad about thinking of Dean as a creeper, but . . . exactly.)