Companion Essays

COASTAL LIVES

by Silver Donald Cameron and Marjorie Simmins

The paddles bite the water, the fat yellow kayaks slide forward in the April sunlight. It feels good to be on the water again, watching Marjorie patrolling the flat beach at Boundary Bay, BC with Leo, the whippet. The kayaks float in three inches of water, but our 13-year-old niece Jocelyne has run aground, and she giggles, paddling backward to free herself.

I grew up here on the West Coast; my parents lie in a cedar-rimmed cemetery two miles away. But the Maritimes have been my home for 30 years and, truthfully, I would never have come back but for Marjorie, to whom the West Coast is as essential as air to a bird.You couldn’t leave the Maritimes, she said, early in our courtship. You wrap your village around you like a cloak. And I couldn’t leave the West Coast. Then don’t, I said. Just add the East Coast.

Just add the East Coast, he said. I hardly knew where it was. Born in Ottawa, raised in Vancouver, my idea of “east” stretched only to Montreal. Yet the home this man described lay 1000 miles beyond Quebec, on a 42.5-square-kilometre island. Isle Madame, population 4300, at the southeast corner of Cape Breton Island. [ Continue Reading ]

 

THE DAYS OF THREE FOREVER

by Marjorie Simmins and Silver Donald Cameron

SDC:

Seven in the morning, and I cradle 38 pounds of whippet in my left arm as I carefully climb from the boat to the dock. I have lifted Leo on and off the boat more than 1200 times since he and Marjorie and I sailed from Cape Breton in July, 2004. We have sailed 4500 miles together.

He has had a terrible night, his breath trembling, his heartbeat chaotic, his frail body unable to lie in comfort. I carry him a few steps, and he gives a little twist. Put me down, he is saying, I want to walk. I carefully set him on his feet, and he trots jauntily up the wharf – ears up, head high, a dog on a mission. [ Continue Reading ]

 

REMEMBERING KAREN

by Marjorie Simmins and Zoe Landale

This astonishing pair of memoirs arrived unheralded at Saturday Night from an old friend and contributor, author Andreas Schroeder of Mission, B.C., who was still a bit stunned at the coincidence that had brought them his way. As judge for a “creative nonfiction” competition staged by Event, a West Coast literacy magazine, he had picked as one of three finalists a powerful description of what it was like to have had a drug-addicted sister, entitled “Remembering Karen.” [ Continue Reading (PDF) ]