Picture “Anne of Green Gables” – you’ll find yourself with images of long red breads, quaint frocks, and pastoral nature scenes. You’re not wrong. But Anne is also subversive AF. (as in, “as far [as possible]” Ahem.)
Sure, she goes to Sunday School, learns a moral a chapter, and oozes family values. But those who see her books as outdated and irrelevant are missing what Anne’s really all about.
Anne is celebrated and even venerated in these books and it’s not because she conforms. It’s because she has a sparkle whose roots lie in her imagination, her ambition, and her whole-hearted acceptance of the irksome.
Those traits lead her to study, teach, and write in ways that a female might not have in that time, and that’s all very good and necessary. We need girls pushing boundaries. The neat thing about Anne is that that kind of boundary-pushing is not a big deal. It’s done but it’s done quietly, confidently, and naturally.
What is revolutionary about Anne is that she pushes against far more engrained threats: boredom and despair. She has the worst of upbringings but invests coping strategies with her imagination. She has a keen intellect that isn’t stimulated, so she reads and writes fantasy. She encounters irritating people and manages to find “kindred spirits.”
As she says, “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
That kind of thinking is revolutionary. To add sparkle where things were dull, to care enough to breach someone’s caustic facade – these are traits we so desperately need in our society.
Her abundant optimism is seen all through her books, but especially when she gives her bright speeches, like “Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them– that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”
Of course, she is young and she goes too far. Chapter after chapter, we learn how Anne must learn to reign in her superpowers of imagination and spunk. You can’t just get your best friend drunk on “raspberry cordial” every day, of course, and you can’t go falling off of rooftops just to prove a point.
But she applies what she learns in the context of her life and uses it to help others. It’s not about her, it’s about using what she has to make a better world. Maybe that’s just as saccharine a moral as anything you’d find in Sunday School; nevertheless, it’s as important to learn now as it was when Anne was first published.
Anne’s enthusiasm, and its tempering, is on my mind when I do the Warrior III pose. In it you angle yourself forwards and raise one leg back parallel to the floor. Arms can go out front or in back. Being in that straight but silly pose, I think of Anne trying to walk the ridgepole of a roof.
To me it feels ridiculously precarious, as you would be when walking on a roof. I’m sure I look ridiculous at least, and Anne was ridiculous for trying that feat on a dare. But in that pose I am optimistic: that I will be able to hold it for a bit, and that it’s doing my muscles some good.
Anne’s roof attempt resulted in a fall and a sprained ankle, and a lesson in making sure your ambition doesn’t outpace your common sense. Thankfully the stakes and the height are lower for me if I fall, but a lesson still remains: I will endeavor to always push boundaries with my optimism and my energy, while bearing in mind the limits of my context.
In yoga and in life, Anne’s balance and beliefs can inform how we move forward and how we feel about it. In the end, I hope I can say like Anne, “It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”