Monday, February 16, 2009

Why I may want to visit PEI

Wayne Curtis in the Atlantic:
Prince Edward Island presents a difficult proposition for the guidebook writer. Fact-gathering trips usually involve racing from one spot to the next, scribbling notes on the fly. Yet on several forays here in the 1990s, I learned that the island resists this, instead inducing a slow-motion, vaguely narcotic mood. On the remote North Cape, I’d spend hours lying in the grass, watching the great spinning blades at the experimental wind farm, which had the feel of an art installation by Brancusi had he taken up mesmerism. Or I would find myself doubling back to the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company after coming to the realization over breakfast that I did have room in the car for a few more jars of lemon-ginger marmalade. Chain motels are starting to make inroads here, but the island is still largely the domain of old-fashioned cottage courts, many of them set in its startlingly red potato fields and with views of the ocean in the distance, and these virtually insist on a less frenetic style of vacationing—I’d walk out on my tiny porch in the morning and say hello to my neighbors on their tiny porch, and two cups of coffee later it was noon. Even the slogan of the local newspaper—“Covers Prince Edward Island like the dew”—was something from down the rabbit hole.

Then there was the area around Cavendish, on the island’s north shore. This was the heart of what I’d come to think of as the Anne Industrial Complex—a hodgepodge of restored farms and museums and gift shops and amusement parks devoted to Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne Shirley, the author and heroine, respectively, of the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables. Places where fact and fiction share a single habitat have always fascinated me because of the complicated cultural ecosystems they create—think of Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri, or Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon. The place influenced the author, and the author influenced the place, so you end up exploring a sort of M. C. Escher print.

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