When I was a young girl, my favorite book was Anne of Green Gables. I loved reading about the adventures and mishaps of Anne, an eleven year old orphan who’s adopted by two elderly siblings. She isn’t wanted at first, but eventually moves in with the Cuthberts and changes life in the small town of Avonlea quite a bit. With her very open and curious personality she falls into a few traps along the way, but somehow she always manages to win people over. No mater how selfish, bitter or traditional people are – Anne finds ‘kindred spirits’ everywhere.
I have always found Anne’s character quite appealing, considering the fact that she moves into a very tight-knit community. Everybody knows everyone in Avonlea, and everyone is somehow related. This comes with the usual conflicts and gossip: once you do something ‘wrong’ (which basically means something different than traditions) everyone knows about it. And everyone is entitled to have an opinion on it.
Anne doesn’t care. She does things differently, ignores rules, or revises old traditions. She confuses people with her extroverted character and ideas, but in the end she brings the community closer together. People suddenly help each other out and care for each other.
Grandma’s place reminds me a lot of Avonlea. A small village in the middle of nowhere where everyone knows everyone. There are conflicts and there’s gossip. There’s one right way to do it, and a lot of confused stares and hushed comments if you do it differently.
There’s close community and a lot of help, too. You can call people anytime if you need homemade food, farming supplies or practical help. People reach out and are willing to care about each other. My Grandma and my mom as well are used to simply picking up the phone and calling for help. They have no problem walking into other people’s yards.
They are at home there.
As much as I enjoy Grandma’s place I realize it’s not my Avonlea.
When I was there a few weeks ago Grandma asked me to pick up some honey from the neighbor. “You can walk through the backyard”, she said.
I really wanted to.
Instead, I stood there and hesitated.
Unable to walk through the yard I realized that I know of people, but I don’t really know them. I am not the kind of person who just walks into people’s yards and lives. I am not the kind of girl who turns others into ‘kindred spirits’.
I am not Anne.
I have had my shares of adventures and mishaps (and I hope I’m not done yet!). I have walked into cultural traps and caused more confusion than understanding. I have felt unwanted and lost in tight-knit communities.
And yet I have discovered that there’s more of an Anne inside of me than I thought.
I do have a way to look at the world that some might call daydreaming, idealistic, or naïve. I call it finding beauty in the mundane. With the right mindset you can see past the worries, pain, and problems life so often throws at us.
I do clash with people’s mindsets and opinions because I sometimes do things ‘differently’. But it’s such a blessing to see how others live and think – why don’t we learn more from each other? And more than that, why don’t we practice caring about and for each other?
Most of all, I did and do find ‘kindred spirits’ everywhere. It normally happens when I least expect it. At a friend’s birthday party, on my way home from work, in a comment below a blog post.
‘Kindred spirits’ who have traveled the world, who have lived in different countries and fell in love with several cultures at the same time.
Who know what it means to feel lost and want to belong so badly.
Who do things ‘differently’ and yet don’t want to give up themselves.
Who might be afraid to walk through the neighbor’s backyard, but would have no problem finding a place to stay on any continent.
Who have discovered that our Avonlea is bigger than one geographical location – it can be found whenever we let each other in on the new, weird, exciting, exhausting experiences life might bring.