To have the full Sarnia experience, I told my visiting friend, you have to go to Point Edward.
Head to the Waterfront Park under the Blue Water Bridge by driving west on Michigan Avenue, turn right into an entrance helpfully labelled ‘No Exit,’ and park facing the river. Then get out and look around.
I tried it myself recently. I strolled south (past the distinctive red trash receptacles that are not, I repeat, not mailboxes) to The Souls Memorial, a tribute to generations of First Nations people who gathered here for trade and ceremony. The area is a sacred site, an ancient burial ground.
Its sanctity was meticulously respected in full cooperation between Aamjiwnaang and the federal government during construction of the Blue Water Bridge’s second span.
Recently, someone taped an orange T-shirt – an All Children’s Lives Matter Kettle and Stony Point First Nation shirt – to the Memorial. It made my heart hurt.
I followed the concrete walkway north a bit, stepping over the goose and gull leavings to visit the fish hatchery pond and buy, still for a quarter, a handful of pellets to feed the salmon and trout.
Looking east past the soccer pitch to the splash pad, I envisioned a visit with the kids another day.
As I sauntering back to the car I’m struck by the vivid blueness of the water and the whitecaps under the bridge. I savour the breeze and admire the orderliness of the benches.
People are strolling along, some intent, some chatting, some walking dogs. Anglers cast from the riverbank. Smiling couples snap selfies.
Speeding up behind me, cyclists ring their soft warning bells. “To your right,” they say.
Back at the car, I chat with the driver parked next door. We discuss the river’s incredible shade of blue, the small fishing boats drifting in the lake’s mouth, how you can tell whether a freighter is full or empty, and, look, a Canadian Coast Guard cutter, maybe chasing some bad guys.
A 650-foot freighter rumbles by beneath the bridge, and we remember an extraordinary foggy morning when we couldn’t see one sailing “right smack in front of us.”
We also discuss how, technically, they’re called ships, not boats; how sailors say ‘upbound’ when they mean freighters headed away from the Atlantic Ocean, not north. And we laugh about the enormous ‘small’ orders of the world’s best French fries.
The quintessential Sarnia experience can be puzzling. Ships are boats and upbound is downriver. Even nine of the 18 holes of the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club are in Point Edward.
I get back in the car and drive east past the pergola, from Progressively Independent Point Edward to the Imperial City, back to another ordinary day, refreshed once again by the river’s blue water.
Bob Boulton is a Sarnia writer of stories, articles and light verse.