I'm a writer, Youtuber, photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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Since I was a young girl, Anne Shirley has always been my favorite literary heroine. I always felt strongly connected to Anne’s way of looking at the world, her resilience and strength and her ability to stay curious and notice the simple joys despite the hardships she faced. I grew up reading the books, and as a young teenager rewatched the BBC series over and over again, falling more in love with Anne (and Megan Follows’ portrayal of Anne) as time went on. 

Today, Anne has now connected with a younger audience in the latest Anne with an E series on Netflix, and it’s wonderful to see so many people connect with the imaginary heart of Anne. Now, more than ever, we need Anne’s spirit in our hearts, and so for today’s blog post, I thought I’d share what we can learn from this delightful heroine about life and the simple joys. 

Always Make Time to Daydream

Anne, more than anything else, is a daydreamer. She sees the world with wonder, curiosity and eternal optimism. She imagines what could be, instead of what is. Each sorrowful tale and woe can be taken to great imaginary heights, can be flipped to a new perspective. And while imagining awful things and overdramatizing life’s circumstances can make it hard for us to accept the current present moment, there is also great poetic beauty in the way Anne uses her imagination to view the world.

Life is a great stage play, and Anne is always shining bright as the main character in it. She takes her life’s time seriously and uses everyday to its maximum potential by imagining wonderful things. Anne’s imagination gifted us with enchanting names for simple places in her world: Mr. Barry’s pond becoming “the Lake of Shining Waters”, the Avenue becoming “the White Way of Delight” and so many others such as the Haunted Woods and the fanciful names along the path to school like Lover’s Lane, Willowmere, Violet Vale, and the Birch Path.

Using our imaginations is the easiest way to make life more fun! But so often we forget…

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There ‘d be no scope for imagination then, would there?” – Anne Shirley

Self Acceptance Takes Time

Anne goes through serious trauma and devastation in her life, but perhaps the single greatest trial in Anne’s life (according to Anne) is her bright, red hair. She describes her vibrant locks as her “lifelong sorrow” to the point that she resents God for giving her red hair and refuses to pray because of it. And this is just one of many attributes and characteristics that she dispises in herself. But over the course of the books, slowly, she begins to accept and love herself as she is. And this is something that we all can relate to.

Loving yourself enough to accept all of your flaws and disliked aspects is a true sign of empowerment. And it takes time to mature and grow into true self-acceptance. Self-love and self-acceptance don’t happen overnight; it takes experience and various struggles to grow resilient enough to eventually begin to love and accept the person you are.

It requires trust and self-awareness, curiosity and inquiry.

But Anne shows us that time is always on our side, that your unique and original self is worth celebrating, and that learning to love yourself is one of the hardest but most important life lessons of all. 

There is Joy in the Small Things

Noticing the simple joys is the thing so many of us can relate to with Anne Shirley. She captured an energy, an essence that so many of us eternal optimists can relate to. And it’s why we fell in love her and her story.

There is this sentence in Anne of Green Gables that encapsulates the way Anne Shirley admires the simple joys, and I just adore it so much I must share it with you! While Anne sits with Marilla in the dining room, she “tipped the vase of apple blossoms near enough to bestow a soft kiss on a pink-cupped bud, and then studied it diligently for some moments longer.” 

Anne always noticed the beauty around her. Her life was difficult, traumatic even. Growing up an orphan without a family to love her, she was constantly moved around from family to family, never feeling like she had a home to call her own. But she noticed the simple beauties in the ordinary. She admired the natural world, the way the natural light hit flowers, the small treasures that were all around her. 

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”

So often people fail to notice these things, even in the most tragic and dire of circumstances. but not Anne. She taught us, that where there’s a will, there’s a way. And she taught us that joy and happiness is a choice. That we can make the decision to notice the beauty in our everyday lives, and if we’re diligent and if we commit our minds enough to do so, there is, and will always be, light to be seen in the darkness.  

Kindred Spirits Are Not Hard to Find

I always thought it hard to meet kindred spirits: people who see simple joys, the eternal optimists, the old souls and daydreamers…..but like Anne has taught us throughout her many encounters, true kindred spirits are everywhere. But it’s when we are curious, not judgemental, that we can find true friends in just about anybody. One can never have too many friends, and Anne’s relationships are an inspiration to many.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

I myself have a dear kindred spirit. She and I have referred to ourselves as Anne and Diana since we were teenagers, and one of the things that hold our deep connection, despite our maturation and changes through the years, even time and distance seemingly forever blocking our path together, is that our energetic spirits feel forever linked together. Months can pass without a phone call. Years physically separating us from being in the same country as one another. But every time we reconnect, it’s like no time has passed at all. It is true: “True friends are always together in spirit.”

Fresh Starts Are Always Around the Corner

Anne teaches us that there is always another bend in the road in this thing called life. She has this optimism and resilience that uplifts and inspires so many of the characters around her, but nothing in her life consistently runs in her favor. Life is not perfect, but Anne knows that staying hopeful is the key to staying joyful. And she looks to her new day as a new beginning, a fresh start, a blank canvas to begin painting on.

“Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.”

Anne is also adaptable, forever moving with the winds of life. She accepts, even embraces, change in her life. And as she grows older and changes, she accepts the change as fluid and natural. “That’s the worst of growing up, and I’m beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don’t seem half so wonderful to you when you get them.” Anne 

“Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.” – Anne Shirley

Hold onto Hope and Trust

Anne’s determination, diligence and discipline are also traits we can admire. Whether it’s her healthy competitiveness with Gilbert, her dedication to her studies and her desire to constantly improve and learn, Anne is an inspiration to everyone with dreams – big and small. She isn’t afraid of putting in a lot of hard work.  She isn’t afraid of failing. It can best be summed up in her quote, “Oh, don’t you see? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.” Ahh I just adore her. ADORE her. 🙂

“Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.” – Anne Shirley

Forgive and People Might Surprise You

Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley are serious relationship goals. Growing up as a teenager, I always dreamed of having a relationship like theirs. Competitors turned best friends turned partners  – can you get any better than them? And can you imagine what would’ve happened if Anne never forgave Gilbert for calling her “carrot” on the first day of school?! It’s too much of a travesty to even think about! 

The lesson of forgiveness is a big theme in Anne of Green Gables. Anne is stubborn and doesn’t forgive easily, but as she learns, there are times when it’s necessary to give people a second chance. It’s natural to let go of the binds that tie us and move on from the past. Not only did Anne forgive Gilbert after several long years (It still irritates me that Anne took that long to forgive him! Be reasonable, Anne….) but she even forgave Mrs. Barry, Marilla and Rachel Lynde for unnecessary mean remarks and accusations that she was wrongly accused of. Many have misjudged Anne, but she didn’t let their stubborn qualities affect her own love and affection towards them. Such a beautiful and important lesson we can learn from her. 

 

Love is All You Need

One of the values I can relate to Anne is her deep love and appreciation for relationships. To her, nothing is more important than the people she loves in her life. Bosum friends, kindred spirits, a family to love…relationships are everything to Anne. But it wasn’t always like that. In the second BBC film Anne of Green Gables the Sequal, after living, traveling, writing and working as a teacher far away from Avonlea and the people she loves, she came to this realization. All the people she loved and wanted near her in her life were right here in Green Gables. And this didn’t mean she gave up her writing ambitions. On the contrary, she could do both. She could teach, write AND be happily in love and surrounded by family. One of my favorite lines, the final line of the sequel is when she finally (FINALLY) romantically links up with Gilbert and says,

“I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you.

Alex and I have watched the BBC movies together several times over the years and agree that this ending is so worth the wait! Even Alex weeped! And he doesn’t cry often…if ever. If you haven’t already seen the BBC series, be sure to check up on it! It is leagues above the Anne with an E Netflix series, but that’s just my personal opinion. Megan Follows will always be the true Anne Shirley to me. 🙂

Happiness is Only Real When Shared

One of the lessons I learned early in life is that happiness is only real when shared. Many may have a different opinion on this, but for me personally, I realized that experiencing joy is ten times more joyous when I have someone next to me to take it in with. It’s like going to the Eiffel Tower alone versus going with a friend or partner and looking at them, wide-eyed and excitably, while jumping up and down, shouting, “Isn’t this AMAZING!?”

I’ve done both, and nothing compares to being able to share life’s experiences with another. Anne knows the true joy that comes from sharing life’s greatest and simplest of moments. And friends, true kindred spirits, are some of the most treasured people to share life’s joys with. 

“A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too. Do you think it’s possible?” – Anne Shirley to Marilla

Anne Shirley is my, and countless other kindred spirits’, biggest inspiration. But so many of us hold the same energy and essence as her already within us! When we can tap into these inner qualities that we already possess- imagination, curiosity, wonder, joy, resilience, strength, forgiveness, love, etc – and lean further away from our less than desirable qualities such as taking the lazier route – pessimism, negativity, stubbornness and bitterness – it is far easier to notice the simple joys that are all around us.

And Anne is here to teach us to remind us of the beauty that exists in the simplest and most ordinary of things. 🙂 

“The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.”

I’m sending you a warm hug and endless simple joys.

Love,

Helena!

Follow along and notice the simple joys with me on the Simple Joys Youtube channel!

 

An Ode to My Favorite Literary Heroine – What Anne Shirley Can Teach Us About Life and the Simple Joys

March 1, 2021

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical moments through photography and content creation! A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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