L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory: Day 4

Guest post by Vappu Kannas

My name is Vappu Kannas and I’ll be giving you my impressions on Day 4—sadly the final day—of the wonderful L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory conference. I came to PEI all the way from Helsinki, Finland, where I’m doing my Ph.D. on Montgomery’s journals.

As seems to be a habit among the guest bloggers, I too was a bit late for the first session of Day 4. Like Melanie, I’m not a morning person and sometimes wish conference sessions happened late at night (perhaps in a pub). However, I was able to catch the last few minutes of Kate Sutherland’s talk on Montgomery’s legal battles. I’ve heard Kate’s earlier papers and I’m always so fascinated about her insights on this aspect of Montgomery’s life. Then, Adeline Carrie Koscher from Massachusetts talked about the New Woman in our cultural memory and aptly demonstrated that Anne of Green Gables is a New Woman character. The panel was completed with Emily Woster’s great talk on her Ph.D. project on Montgomery’s ”reading autobiograhy”. I can’t wait to get my hands on Emily’s dissertation! (By the way, Emily’s sister’s name is Anne.)

The second and last panel of the day was a special one. Dana Gerberi and Sandy Wagner talked about the very concrete aspect of Montgomery’s cultural memory: her handiwork, or, more specifically, hooked mats and quilts. Dana connected the hooking of rugs with the hooking of stories, and showed us that many of Montgomery’s fictional characters (as well as herself) are characterized through their quilts, needlework, and so on. We also heard a nice piece of local folklore which states that Ewan and Maud stood on a hooked rug made by Maud’s grandmother, when they were married in Park Corner in 1911. Sandy showed us some elaborate patterned quilts with names such as ”Flying Goose” and ”Rising Sun”; somebody in the audience even mentioned a ”Tuxedo pattern”. I wonder what that looks like.

That’s the end of my ”serious” notes, but this is where the fun field trip part begins! The now-famous Bus Tour of Montgomery Places took off around midday. With our brown paper bags (containing lunch), we ventured out of Charlottetown to visit or re-visit all the important Montgomery-related places: Park Corner/Silver Bush (Anne of Green Gables Museum), Montgomery’s Birth Place in New London, Green Gables, and the Macneill Homestead in Cavendish. It was great to be back to those enchanting places that I saw for the first time in 2010 with my new LMM friends and my parents. In addition to visiting the museums, I enjoyed some nice chatting time with Mary Beth Cavert in the bus, and getting to know William (Bill) Thompson from Edmonton, who was visiting the LMM places on PEI for the first time.

Another special moment was a joint endeavour to clean Frede Campbell’s grave in the Geddie Memorial Cemetary, where we stopped briefly. Frede was a very important friend of Montgomery’s and she describes Frede’s death, which devastated her, in a long entry in her journals. Initiated by the always vigilant Vanessa Brown, it was a touching moment to see these friends of Montgomery, and thus of Frede, scratching off the lichen from the gravestone with their bare hands. We all went back to the bus with a little bit of cultural memory under our nails.

The day ended at the Macneill Homestead in Cavendish where Montgomery used to live from 1876 to 1911. Unfortunately the actual house is not there anymore, but a walk around the grounds and what used to be the old apple orchard brings Montgomery’s times vividly back. There’s something very soothing and peaceful in the atmosphere at the Homestead. We took the same little short cut path that Montgomery used to take to go to church, and heard some wonderful Island poets (Deirdre Kessler, Judy Gaudet, David Helwig, and Hugh MacDonald) recite their own poems among Montgomery’s and Milton Acorn’s poems in the Cavendish United Church, where we could also see Montgomery’s old organ, so instrumental in her meeting her future husband Reverend Ewan Macdonald…

Through the misty (and a bit ghostly) evening we headed back to Charlottetown, after a short visit to Montgomery’s grave. Luckily, this wonderful conference does not have to end in the rather sad sight of Montgomery’s final resting place, but in the new beginnings of people flying off to their various destinations. We all leave PEI with our own unique but shared memories of the last four days. With ideas for fan fiction and Emily and Anne spin-offs (Anne meets Tarzan, Emily turns into a vampire, Walter meets Dean Priest etc.), I can’t wait for the next conference in 2014 to continue all the conversations began here.