I read these books when I was little, probably around nine or ten, and they have always stuck with me. Written by Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud), 1874-1942, they are similar to Anne of Green Gables (by the same author) which people may be more acquainted with, but they are a little darker, with the character Emily being more introspective and certainly wilder. Not that she was a wild-child, but rather she had an affinity with the wildness of nature. Her appreciation, or obviously the author’s (I’ve read that Emily was autobiographical for the writer) appreciation for the beauty of the natural world around her stoked my imagination intensely when I was small, it took me away.
I grew up in a small town surrounded by forests and mountains, so it was easy for me to look around and see this beauty too. And I did. I have many memories of being even younger than that, and just sitting alone in a field or on moss-covered boulders on the hillsides and basking in hot summer afternoons, listening to bugs and birds, making up stories in my head or singing to myself. There is no place more peaceful to me in my memories.
One particular thing about the story, is Emily’s ‘flash’. I’m including here an excerpt from the story to better explain it.
Excerpt from Emily of New Moon – by L.M. Montgomery
And the barrens were such a splendid place in which to play hide and seek with the Wind Woman. She was so very real there; if you could just spring quickly enough around a little cluster of spruces — only you never could — you would see her as well as feel her and hear her. There she was — that was the sweep of her grey cloak — no, she was laughing up in the very top of the taller trees — and the chase was on again — till, all at once, it seemed as if the Wind Woman were gone — and the evening was bathed in a wonderful silence — and there was a sudden rift in the curdled clouds westward, and a lovely, pale, pinky-green lake of sky with a new moon in it.
Emily stood and looked at it with clasped hands and her little black head upturned. She must go home and write down a description of it in the yellow account book, where the last thing written had been, “Mike’s Biography.” It would hurt her with its beauty until she wrote it down. Then she would read it to Father. She must not forget how the tips of the trees on the hill came out like fine black lace across the edge of the pinky-green sky.
And then, for one glorious, supreme moment, came “the flash”.
Emily called it that, although she felt that the name didn’t exactly describe it. It couldn’t be described — not even to Father, who always seemed a little puzzled by it. Emily never spoke of it to anyone else.
It had always seemed to Emily, ever since she could remember, that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside — but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond — only a glimpse — and heard a note of unearthly music.
This moment came rarely — went swiftly, leaving her breathless with the inexpressible delight of it. She could never recall it — never summon it — never pretend it; but the wonder of it stayed with her for days. It never came twice with the same thing. To-night the dark boughs against that far-off sky had given it. It had come with a high, wild note of wind in the night, with a shadow wave over a ripe field, with a greybird lighting on her window-sill in a storm, with the singing of “Holy, holy, holy” in church, with a glimpse of the kitchen fire when she had come home on a dark autumn night, with the spirit-like blue of ice palms on a twilit pane, with a felicitous new word when she writing down a ‘description’ of something. And always when the flash came to her Emily felt that life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty.
She scuttled back to the house in the hollow, through the gathering twilight, all agog to get home and write down her “description” before the memory picture of what she had seen grew a little blurred. She knew just how she would begin it — the sentence seemed to shape itself in her mind: “The hill called to me and something in me called back to it.”
‘…life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty’.
This ‘flash’ wasn’t fictional apparently – it was something the author herself experienced on many occasion, and had written into the Emily character. When I was little I experienced this I believe, once only, but it was so powerful that it has always stuck with me as a pivotal experience that sent me on the mystical path.
I was in the back seat of the car, my parents in front, my sister beside me. We were driving home from somewhere – probably a grown-up party where us kids got stuck in the backyard or something. It wasn’t dark, but later afternoon with the sun slowly dimming. We were on a highway surrounded by fields and forests as usual. At this moment it was fields, with rolling hills in the distance. The car was speeding through the countryside and I sat in my spot, watching it go by, a little sleepy but not falling asleep. Then something descended on me. I remember the car being filled with a purple-ish light and all of the conversation melting into a one sound or no-sound fuzziness. I remember looking at the country-side and thinking I could see this thin veil draped down over everything, like a curtain – and ‘knowing’ that that veil could be lifted aside. Everything was glowing with the purple light, and soft around the edges. I remember trying to lift the veil up with my mind, straining to see past it and only seeing through at the corners. I remember thinking this must be what Emily was talking about.
At the same time this feeling came upon me that I have never felt since (so far). It was a feeling of such peace and tranquility, of complete absence or better, the release from, worry and concern, of the ultimate in well-being – that everything at that precise moment was perfect and in its place and all was right with the world and me and all of creation. It was a peace, that was SO peaceful, it was intense – almost I guess, looking back now, what you would call ecstatic.
I just sat there bathing in it, all the while trying to lift the veil outside my window. Then it dissipated slowly and I fell asleep.
Writing about it now, I can get tiny wisps of the feeling…and I have had similar experiences to a lesser degree throughout my childhood, mainly when being read to by someone else with a particular gentleness to their voice, or by a child smaller than myself. Maybe a couple of times later while doing guided mediation. But these experiences pale in comparison to that one time in the car.
It made me believe, and although at times in life I have forgotten, I have always inevitably come back to this: at that moment, even in my childish mind, I knew that there was so much more to this existence than what we see and hear in our mundane day-to-day. I knew in that moment that we are a part of something much more mysterious and magical, something bigger, grander, and much more beautiful.