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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Prince Edward Island

I asked Kathie at Island Sparrow to talk about her life on PEI. Kathie probably has the most unique perspective of all of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge participants in that she was born and raised on the Island. What most of us readers can only visualize and dream about in our mind's eye, she lives on a daily basis. I asked her if she'd share a bit about her family history, the influence that Montgomery still has on the Island, what people think of the tourist who flock to PEI, and where her favorite place was on the Island. Here are the things she had to share. The autumn and coastal picture you see below were taken by Kathie. The shot in the snow was taken by a friend of hers. The flower pictured below is the province's floral emblem, the Lady Slipper.

Anyway, meet Kathie and visit her blog to learn more about her family and life on the Island. I'm amazed and filled with jealous emotions every time I visit it but visit it I do! (It's like I'm some kind of emotional masochist or something . . .)

Anyway, thank you, Kathie, for sharing. I love reading what you have to say and I'm enjoying getting to know you a wee bit better. Thank you for your time!

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I'm not surprise that you began your interview with the question "How are you related to Lucy Maud Montgomery?" One of the first questions that Islanders, especially old-timers, like to ask when they are introduced is "Who was your father?" Then they proceed to try and make a connection to someone they know. I've heard that it is a unique characteristic of Islanders around the world. I'm related to LMM through my grandmother who was a Campbell. We are distant cousins. Montgomery wrote about her Campbell cousins' homestead in Pat of Silver Bush.

The influence of L M Montgomery is very evident on Prince Edward Island today. It is really quite remarkable that one writer could shape an Island's destiny but that's what has happened. L M Montgomery's love for our green rolling hills, the shining Gulf waters, the red roads, are all lovingly described in her books. And, although there have been changes, our Island countryside remains much the way she depicted it. But even more than our pastoral surroundings, it is that one famous character - Anne Shirley - who won the hearts of so many around the world. Every year, hundreds of thousands come to Prince Edward Island on a pilgrimage to visit Green Gables. They want to walk through the house and see the bedroom where Anne cried herself to sleep that first tragic night when she discovered she wasn't wanted because she was a boy. They want to walk down Lover's Lane or have their picture taken in an old-fashioned buggy similar to the one that Matthew would have driven over to the Bright River train station. Tourism is the Island's major industry and "Anne" is most definitely queen of that industry.

I think that most Islanders are grateful for the tourists who flock to PEI. We are inordinately proud of our Island homeland and are happy to show its beauty to those who come to admire and enjoy. We are noted for being polite and generally welcoming to the flocks of visitors who triple our population in the months of July and August. And that's saying something . Why sometimes those people "from away" can cause a traffic backup on the Charlottetown bridge. We might have to wait all of 5 minutes to get to Tim Horton's for a coffee. *smile*


You were wondering about my favourite spot on the Island. I have many. I can't begin to tell you how beautiful it is here. Although I freely admit I am looking through the eyes of love. I enjoy the Island in every season - even spring, aka the mud season. I love the miles and miles of beaches, the rocky cliffs, the little villages with the fishing boats tucked away in quiet harbours. I love the tidy farmhouses and green fields and the red clay roads. Our provincial capital, Charlottetown, gives us a little taste of "city life". Although it is a small city, with a population of just over 32,000, it has a wonderful library, several live theatres, many restaurants, outdoor summer cafes and concerts. One of our favourite "date nights" is a walk along the boardwalk in Charlottetown's Victoria Park, watching the sailboats in the harbour and stopping for an ice-cream at the little dairy stand.

Most of all I love the Island people. They are "salt of the earth" people, shaped by life on an island with its clearly defined borders, which produce a strong sense of identity and community. We call our home "The Island" and we identify ourselves first and foremost as "Islanders", then Maritimers (which includes the provinces of PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), and finally, Canadians. Islanders are known to be a friendly people, loyal to a fault, kind to strangers, stubborn and resistant to change, and the best story-tellers I know.

It would be easy for me to gush sentimentally about life here on PEI - an accusation that is often levelled with some justification at L M Montgomery. We have folks who have moved here with idealistic dreams of "Island living". They want to escape from it all - the stress - the rat race - the hustle and bustle of modern life. They envision horse drawn sleigh rides in the winter and cozy evenings around the kitchen table. it's true that we have a slower pace of life on the Island. But life here can be just as stressful as most places. Just talk to any farmer or fisherman today and they will tell you about stress - about trying to make a living in tough economic times. Many of our farms are abandoned because it is too difficult to make a living on the family farm. Fishing boats were once handed down from father to son but now with falling fish stocks and international trawlers greedily taking more than their share, there is not enough money in fishing to raise a family. Our sons and daughters, and even fathers and mothers, have been forced to move west to find work in the oil fields or in the supporting industries. It's hard to watch the decline of our communities, especially our rural schools because the student population is lower each year.

But there is also a movement afoot in PEI. It's the knowledge that we posses a lifestyle worth fighting for. Our communities are strong in spirit and rich in culture. There is a determination to adapt to a changing world, while retaining, and even building, on our unique Island heritage. Innovative businesses and technology, organic farming practices, alternative energy research, an every household recycling system, and one of the top ten undergraduate universities in Canada, are all signs that PEI is determined to not just survive but to flourish.

There is another movement afoot in PEI as well. It's a movement of the Spirit of God. Long ago, in the year 1864, the first meetings to discuss the formation of a united British North America were held here, in Charlottetown. And so, we have been called the Cradle of Confederation, the birthplace of Canada. Perhaps it isn't far fetched to believe, as many do, that the Island will be the cradle of another birth - a spiritual birth - a movement of God's Spirit that will spread across this country. A revival that begins in the smallest, and least powerful, of all the provinces. It may seem unlikely, but God often surprises us that way, doesn't He? Revival hopes and dreams circulate like rumours of glory here on the Island. And also in the hearts of many who have come here, drawn by a inexplicable sense of hope and vision. It is the fire that fuels my prayers - I can not stop praying for this move of God. In rare moments of discouragement, I've tried. But this hope is like a spring of water from an invisible source. It keeps bubbling up.

And when it happens? I think even Anne will take a back seat.

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For the record, even I (Carrie) say "AMEN!" to that!

7 comments:

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Great post. DH and I were there in 1999 for our honeymoon, and it was everything I hoped it would be.

My prayer joins yours, Kathie, that God's Spirit will be poured out on the Island, all of Canada, and the world!

Brittanie said...

I love L.M. Montgomery's books. I would love visit this area one day. From her descriptions and your post I can picture in my head how beautiful it must be. :)

Lisa writes... said...

Fascinating!

Sarah M. said...

What an awesome post! Thank you Kathie for sharing a little of your life via Carrie's blog.

Prince Edward Island is definitely one of the most beautiful places in North America. I have such good memories from the two visits I made to the island with my family years ago.

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

What a great post! Thank you for giving us a peek into life on P.E.I. You've brought a unique perspective to this carnival.

Noel De Vries said...

How funny, I just posted about PEI as well.

http://noeldevries.blogspot.com/2009/01/prince-edward-island.html

Thank you so much for your words, Kathie. It brings back such the best memories. (We had ice cream at that dairy stand, too :)

The spiritual observances were so good to read, as well. I would have loved to attend the Christian college in C-town... it is such a neat place.

Happy winter!

~teachmom~ said...

I loved reading this! It was beautifully written and had me aching to visit. I began to have visions of a future vacation there perhaps a reuninitng one with a cousin who shares a delight in L.M.M.'s works. :) Thank you for sharing!

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