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“Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

That quote greets me every morning. I stump downstairs to the kitchen, dump some food in the cat’s bowls and fumble around for the light switch to turn on the dimmed lights beneath the cupboards. Next to that light switch is a square marbled white board upon which I’ve copied this quote from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Some days I stand and look at it a moment. Other days I hardly register it’s there before turning the kettle on for coffee.


In college, our dorm room doors always had laminated name plates, usually following a theme. The year I was a Resident Assistant, my co-RA and I decided to ask each resident for a quote from their favorite childhood book to go beneath their name. The above quote was mine.

I’ve always loved Anne of Green Gables, and I’ve always loved Anne. Her imagination, her vivacity, her sense of wonder, her pluckiness, her overly dramatic exclamations when she finds herself “in the depths of despair.” Anne sees the world as a place of great possibility and delight. Apple trees in blossom are brides adorned for their wedding day. A pond is a great shining sea. An old rowboat is the vessel upon which the Lady of Shalott takes her final voyage. Anne’s world shimmers with magic, with mystery, with possibility, with sacredness. Anne walks through the world cloaked in sacramental awareness.

There are days in which I find myself caught up in the wonder of the world. I call these my “Anne Days.” The contentment of being in good company; the shimmer of mist upon the ground in the early morning; sunlight dancing over classroom desks; a stream bouncing over the rocky playground of the Canadian Shield in northern Ontario. I can feel my heart expand, feel an overwhelming sense of the presence of something sacred, something magical, something beyond myself.

October is the “Anne-iest” of months for me. In part because of another Anne quote: “Oh, Marilla. I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” But mostly October – and Fall in general – is the season in which the world feels most alive. The leaves aflame with color, fires crackling, birds hopping amongst the bushes, flowers insistently holding onto their place even as the nights grow cold.

“It would be terrible,” Anne continues, “if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?”

And yet.

Part of me wants very much to skip straight to November. Heck, we could skip straight to 2022. These days it’s incredibly difficult to feel Anne-ish. The world doesn’t seem all that magical or sacred or alive or delightful. It feels…benauwd. That great Dutch word that encompasses all sorts of unpleasant adjectives – stuffy, stale, worrisome, perilous – all indicating a sense of things closing in around you.

The world – my world – feels small right now. Walled in by the ugly realities of this moment. Like the constant wondering of how to do church so we’re offering what is both safe and meaningful. Or the soul-searching required to pastor people through this political season, insisting on the sovereignty of God, insisting on unity, insisting on dialogue, insisting on courage, even as I am so weary of the president’s antics I can barely stand to scan the day’s headlines. Or the list of questions I have to run through in my head before proceeding to do anything fun with friends: is this safe? Is this wise? Am I acknowledging other people’s comfort levels? Am I putting anyone at risk? Will I feel comfortable asking others to change their behavior if I feel it’s too risky? Is all this overkill? Am I being irrational? Should I just stay home and watch TV ‘cause that’s easier?

This is what my head is full of, leaving little space for wonder and delight and magic.

I want to be able to say, “Even so, here’s how I’m experiencing Anne-days these days.” But maybe this is simply not the season for Anne-days. Or, at least, maybe it’s a season of more “depths of despair” Anne-days than “Lake of Shining Waters” Anne-days.

Or maybe I need to change my definition of Anne-days.

I’m so used to my white board quote that I had forgotten where it comes from in the book. It seems like an exclamation Anne would make in a moment of sheer delight and exuberance. But it’s not. The quote comes from the very last chapter. Marilla and Anne are grieving after Matthew’s sudden death. Anne has given up her dream of attending college so she can stay and look after Green Gables with Marilla. Anne’s future, which she once described as stretching out before her like a straight road, now has a bend in it. “I don’t know what lies beyond the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does,” she tells Marilla.

It is as Anne returns from a visit to Matthew’s grave one evening – all the emotions of grief, love, uncertainty, and wonder held together in her heart – that she murmurs, “Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

So the quote remains, and will remain, on my little kitchen whiteboard, to greet me every morning, and remind me that an Anne-day might yet be ahead of me, beyond the bend in the road.

Laura de Jong

Laura de Jong serves as pastor of Second Christian Reformed Church in Grand Haven, Michigan.

23 Comments

  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    Describes where many of us are right now.

  • James C Dekker says:

    Yup … Thanks, Laura…. I think. Blessings jcd

  • Ken says:

    Thanks, Laura. I needed this today. Here is praying for more Anne days this October.

  • Carol Sybenga says:

    Just what I needed to read this morning. Thank you Laura.

  • Nolan Palsma says:

    Well written using literature.

  • Scott Hoezee says:

    Lyric. Thank you.

  • George Vink says:

    Laura,
    A delightful read and as I read it went back to grades 5/6 when Mrs. Dambois would read a section to the class…..
    You have a wonderful, lyric as Scott puts it, way of putting things. What a gift! Trust some sermons reflect it also.
    Shalom in your work and dealing with daily distractions like “our” president.

  • Nancy Meyer says:

    I love quotes (and October), and this one is a keeper. Thanks for the context. It makes this quote even richer.

  • Henry Baron says:

    Thank you, Laura. And may your Anne-days include even those when the heart is full of graves and grief and love with the soul still whispering its truth – “old world, I’m glad to be alive in you.”

  • Pam Adams says:

    Laura, Your writing today fits how I feel about things. I just came back from a windy, October walk and delighted in seeing the waving leaves and the slightly cooler temperatures. I am a lover of Anne of Green Gables too. I love her high ways and language. I also despair with our current political situation. Hopefully that will change.

  • Donna says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you!

  • Mary Huissen says:

    Thank you Laura – such beautiful writing.

    The context of the Anne quote is the essence of your post and why it speaks profoundly to this moment.

    I also really appreciate your use of “benauwd!” It’s a word I heard OFTEN growing up and understand it’s meaning well, but had never seen in print before. I needed to pronounce it in order to make the connection.

    It’s such a great example of the richness of language – a word that captures the essence of something not easily translated.

    Thank you for all of this.

    • Daniel J Meeter says:

      In my head I always spelled it “binout.” Like “saktyezon” and “aginvaystikfrayten”. Like Michael’s spelling in Elizabeth Hay’s marvelous (Canadian) novel, Alone in the Classroom.

  • Ken Baker says:

    I’m inspired! Thanks, Laura!

  • Jessica says:

    Thank you for this lovely reflection. It spoke to my heart today. From one Anne fan to another.

  • Bob dJ says:

    Well written — loved it. Can a guy say he loves Anne of Green Gables? I do.

  • Bruce Buursma says:

    Prachtig! Dank u wel, Laura!

  • Thomas Zeyl says:

    Yup! That about says it all! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • PHOEBE says:

    Beautifully written. I have also used the word benauwd to describe my feelings over the last several months. And vervelend (we pronounced it “fuh feh lent”) meaning “boring and continuing for a long time”. This is an extremely tiring and mentally/emotionally unhealthy time. I went into the weekend praying that God would “lead me beside quiet waters” and “restore my soul” (Psalm 23). Your article did that – with the exception of the partisan political comment. It’s very difficult these days to even look up a recipe for pumpkin pie without finding a political comment slid in behind “Bake at 375 degrees”. I believe the media, and I mean all channels and most sources, including Christian ones, have used partisan political antics to feed hate and disunity and anger. I am weary. I think we are all weary of hearing it all. This verse comes to mind this morning “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

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