Friday, November 19, 2010


One of the things that Kim and I did on our cross country drive home was to divert to Toronto and explore Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Ontario. At the age of 35, L.M. Montgomery married and left Prince Edward Island with her husband, Ewan MacDonald, who was a Presbyterian minister. They served at two pastorates, Leaskdale and Norval, and moved to the city when her husband retired. These places are where she wrote most of her books.

An Artist's rendering of Maud in Leaskdale
This past summer Kim and I took a vacation on PEI with my sister, her husband and their two daughters. Other than relaxing on the beach and enjoying conversation over delicious meals at the Shaw Hotel, we visited most of the LM Montgomery tourist sites. My brother-in-law coined a new word; “Anne-ing” and we did an extensive amount of this. I became reacquainted with all things “Anne” (of Green Gables) and its popular author. Since we planned to drive back to Colorado this fall, it seemed easy and appropriate to stop by Toronto and continue the tour. I had heard that the manse in Leaskdale where she and her husband first lived after they were married is now a tourist site/museum and I was eager to see it.

It was November by the time we rumbled through the greater Toronto area. We spent three nights in Oshawa on the east side of the city. I failed to realize until we were there that the museums and tourist sites were closed for the season. I don’t know what I was thinking. I assumed that because I wanted to see them and because of their proximity to a big city that they would still be open, although perhaps with limited hours. I had perused one website that said that the manse at Leaskdale would be open until Thanksgiving but I forgot that the Canadian Thanksgiving is earlier than ours—October 11 this year. But I swallowed my disappointment and thought that it was still nice to be there and we could drive around and view the countryside and the outside of the buildings where her life took place.

We spent the first of our two days in Uxbridge/Leaskdale, an hour’s drive due north of Oshawa. It was a nice sunny day, brisk, but tolerable for walking about outdoors. Uxbridge is a charming town (and also 'the trail capital of Canada') and we wandered about the outdoors of the Uxbridge-Scott Museum which houses a L.M. Montgomery exhibit but was closed. I bought a copy of Volume V:1935-1942 of The Selected Journals of the author at The Blue Heron Bookstore in town. We ran across both a gluten-free bakery and restaurant, both named Franke’s, and I was in heaven because I could once again enjoy the treats of bread and cake. We drove on to Leaskdale and easily found the Presbyterian Church. We pulled into the parking lot and as we were getting out of our car to take photos, a woman drove up. She looked at us as if expecting us but of course she could not have been. I hardly opened my mouth to say hello when she said, “Would you like me to show you the inside of the church and then take you over to the manse so you can see that too?” I was awestruck by our good fortune as this kind, friendly woman gave us an thorough tour of the church and manse. We learned that she is the president of The Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario. Both church and manse have been bought by the Society to make an exhibit of Montgomery’s life in Leaskdale. Their goal is to make the Leaskdale site one of scholarship and a deeper understanding of Montgomery’s influence on Canadian literature and the world and not so much a ‘Wonderland’ like that which is on Prince Edward Island.

In addition to learning more about LMM, we enjoyed the beauty of the rural rolling countryside. The farms scattered all over the area have the prettiest farmhouses and barns. Pastureland and fields of crops are broken up by stands of trees, pockets of forests, creeks, rivers and ponds and I was enchanted by it all.

On the second day we drove to the west of Toronto to Norval where the MacDonalds lived after they left Leaskdale. It was another pretty town, a bit more built up than Leaskdale but easy to recognize from LMM’s time. There has not been the same effort to showcase the church and manse as in Leaskdale. The Presbyterian Church continues to function as a church and it rents out the house that was once a manse. Kim opened the door of the church and called hello and was rewarded when the present minister welcomed us to come inside. He was about 30 and was reserved and shy. But he answered several of our questions and offered some information. He pointed out a photo of Ewan MacDonald on a wall of photos of all the church ministers since 1840. He showed us where Maud would perform her theatrical productions. He led us to the sanctuary which looks very much like it did back in Maud’s day except that the floor is covered by an ugly red carpet. There was an plague of appreciation to Ewan and Maud and the same hymn boards that Maud gifted to the church. Kim hinted at some questions about Ewan and Maud’s spirituality but he didn’t bite. As we left him, he directed us to the LMM garden and we delighted walking through it as well as along the lovely Credit River.

We left Norval to visit the last of the houses where LMM lived. After Ewan MacDonald retired, due to mental illness (a sad story), the family moved to Toronto and Maud bought a house. Although grown, their two sons lived at home while attending university. The house is tudor style on a bluff overlooking the Humber River and not far from the lakefront. Her old neighborhood is charming; an island of pleasant domesticity only a short drive away from the congestion of a vast city, skyscrapers and all.

I started reading her journal, Volume V, when we returned to the hotel that evening. It was almost an eerie coincidence that the first entry described her move from Norval to Toronto and I had seen those places that very day.

I would have liked to do more exploring; the University of Guelph to see its large collection of archival material and personal artifacts as well as Bala, the spot that inspired one of my favorite of her books, The Blue Castle. Maybe next time.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Crashing in Colorado

I recently returned from spending a little over two months on the east coast. Part of that time was with Sarah, Andrew, Henry and Julian. The rest of the time Kim and I resided at our place on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Initially I flew to Boston but I came back with Kim via car. I loved that whole experience. I think I like the nomadic life.

When I was out east I would have times of fatigue that is beyond normal but I could keep my head above water. When I returned to our home in Colorado I sank beneath the surface. Most sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome know this as crashing. Usually the crash, also known as post-exertional malaise, occurs because of more activity than I can handle. But every time I return home to Colorado I experience the same thing. I have a theory about this—in addition to or maybe because of CFS my body has a hard time adjusting to high altitude. It always happens when I fly home. I hoped that because we drove and the trip was more gradual, I would escape the crash, but no.

The crash or post-exertional malaise is painful—an all encompassing fatigue but not necessarily achy, sore or smarting (well, okay, sometimes it is accompanied by a headache and sore throat ). I can’t move and I can’t think. It has been five days and I am feeling better. Otherwise I would not be able to write this post.