These days, there’s a lot of waiting in the house, peeking out bedroom windows to see what is happening out there in the world. It’s hard to know what the rest of this year, 2020, and the next will look like, but as a friend recently reminded me, history has seen pandemics, economic crashes, depressions before, and yet here we are.
We grieved the losses that disease, war, and poverty had stolen. We hunkered down and did the work to continue, to keep going, to survive. We inconvenienced ourselves for others, for vulnerable neighbors, for our future selves. And when I say we, I, of course, mean you and them, the ones that lived through smallpox, cholera, TB, 9/11, Spanish Influenza, Covid-19, and more, so much more. I’m just a product of their grit, their will to survive, and their hope for the next generation. There is hope. There is so much hope. But I didn’t want to chat, exactly, about that today, I mean, I always love a good chat about hope, but today I wanted to remind you of the seventh book in the lovely Anne of Green Gables series, Rainbow Valley.
I first read Rainbow Valley way back when pigtails were a daily occurrence, chocolate milk mustaches made me giggle, and I could hardly make out my handwriting. Not much really has changed, I guess, since then and now.
Rainbow Valley, as I mentioned, is the seventh book in the Anne of Green Gables series. It takes a turn as we rarely even hear from my favorite heroine, Anne, in this story. She pops in here and there to give her opinion about town gossip and comfort her children as they make the same mistakes as she did way back when. It’s her children and their new friends that take the spotlight, reminding me a bit of the first book in this series full of charming mistakes, confusing conundrums, friendships worth fighting for, and spunk.
Her six, sweet children, introduced to us in the previous book, now a bit older, befriend and welcome Pastor John Meredith and his children to Four Winds, a troublesome, lonely, arguably neglected set of 4 siblings. Jerry, Faith, Una, and Carl Meredith are at the heart of the town’s gossip, nearly weekly. You see, the poor little things, they haven’t had a mother to raise them properly to be good little children, and their father, deeply grieved at the loss of his wife, and always thinking deeply about the world and heaven, kind of unknowingly allows his children scramble about without much supervision (he’d make a great Hipster dad). So these poor little things must find out on their own what it means to be good, among other things.
The Meredith children lead the plot with humor and surprises, but it’s the little pockets of truth and subplots that I love so much about this story. Walter Blythe, a sensitive, poetic soul, is not like other boys at school. He reads books. He talks like a preacher. He doesn’t participate in school fights. But it is in Rainbow Valley, a sacred, safe space to dream, imagine, and play, that Walter Blythe blooms without ridicule. It is noted that Montgomery dedicated the book "to the memory of Goldwin Lapp, Robert Brookes and Morley Shier who made the supreme sacrifice that the happy valleys of their home land might be kept sacred from the ravage of the invader."
And speaking of ravage and invader, World War One (The Great War) was on the horizon during the setting of Rainbow Valley, not yet set in motion, but would soon ablazen the whole world. In fact, World War One is the central theme of Rilla of Ingleside, the next book in the series.
When I read those words, “the happy valleys of their home land might be kept sacred from the ravage of the invader” I think about childhood and how maybe adulthood is the invader that seeks to control, manipulate, and ravage. My own childhood, that sense of innocence, is worth protecting. Your childhood is worth protecting. And reading through this book, Rainbow Valley, the adults are often the enemy with preconceived notions of what a ‘good’ child ought to be like, how a boy ought to behave. Adults perform for society, so much so that their words and actions can no longer be trusted by the reader. Walter, you’ll find out, does in fact fight. And he is appalled at the rage he felt, so thus decides that he’d rather not fight anymore and returns to his Rainbow Valley, to his poetry and prayers.
As I look out my window, watching my neighbor water his flowers and play with his dog, I’m grateful for this little bedroom filled with books and warm blankets. It’s like my own little Rainbow Valley.
Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!