At a time when the blogosphere is awash with year-end reviews and setting goals and intentions for 2013, it seems timely to share The Alpine Path, an autobiography by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
LM Montgomery was a Canadian author, reknown as the creator of the spirited and imaginative Anne of Green Gables enjoyed by redheads and others all over the world. Her memoir, first published in 1917, concentrates on her childhood and early years as a writer. The “alpine path” of the title refers to her long climb to success as a writer and comes from a verse that had been her inspiration during the long years:
The Alpine path, so hard, so steep
That leads to heights sublime
How I may reach that far off goal
Of true and honoured fame,
And write upon its shining scroll
A woman’s humble name
LM Montgomery began writing in childhood and never wavered in her resolve: I cannot remember the time when I was not writing or when I did not mean to be an author. To write has always been my central purpose around which every effort and hope and ambition of my life has grouped itself.
The slim volume is somewhat unsatisfying in that there is no mention of the numerous love interests that are catalogued elsewhere. With the book ending with her honeymoon in England and Scotland, we do not get any insight into her several periods of depression while trying to cope with the duties of mid-life motherhood and church life and with her Presbyterian minister husband’s attacks of religious melancholia and deteriorating health. Nor do we hear anything about the protracted and acrimonious lawsuits with her publisher in which LM Montgomery eventually prevailed.
What the memoir does make clear is that for all of LM Montgomery’s abundant talent, her ascent of the “alpine path” came after many years of toil and endeavour. She urges us all to follow our “airy voices”, follow them through bitter suffering and discouragement and darkness, through doubt and disbelief, through valleys of humiliation and over delectable hills where sweet things would lure us from our quest”. She also reinforces the value of setting sound creative habits in the quest to fulfill our dreams.
During one of those winters of school teaching I boarded in a very cold farmhouse. In the evenings, after a day of strenuous school work, I would be too tired to write so I religiously arose an hour earlier in the mornings for that purpose. For five months I got up at six o’clock and dressed by lamplight. The fires would not be on, of course, and the house would be very cold. But I would put on a heavy coat, sit on my feet to keep them from freezing and with fingers so cramped that I could scarcely hold the pen, I would write my “stunt” for the day…when people say to me, as they occasionally do, “Oh, how I envy your gift, how I wish I could write as you do”, I am inclined to wonder, with some inward amusement, how much they would have envied me on those dark, cold, winter mornings of my apprenticeship. ( pp 61-62 emphasis added)