(My Life) Bridge by Bridge had its genesis in the old leather—bound photo albums stacked on a shelf in my den. My plan was to digitize the old black and whites carefully mounted on the album'
(My Life) Bridge by Bridge had its genesis in the old leather—bound photo albums stacked on a shelf in my den. My plan was to digitize the old black and whites carefully mounted on the album's heavy black pages. When my hands fingered the silver photo tabs and I read the white pencil captions my mother had religiously added below each photograph, I stumbled headlong into the rabbit hole of my past: 1956, Saskatchewan, holidays, marriage and children filled my mind. Paramount to every journey was some type of bridge: swinging bridges, log bridges, cantilever bridges, suspension bridges. Bridges of all sizes.
My phobia began harmlessly enough on the dirt roads of rural Saskatchewan. Every Sunday after church we hit the back roads in search of bottles. Pin money for me and my brother who shared the back seat with conditions. My father would gun old "Ponty" toward the crest of the rise and then catapult down the other side all the while screeching that there's no road, what were we going to do? Fear buckled my chest and my heart began to race. My stomach lurched. My vision caved to black.
Holidays took us farther afield as the 1950s dissolved in the 1960s. Each year, the bridges grew longer, higher and more menacing. Every year, my family had to deal with a sniveling, psychotic back seat bundle of nerves.
In 1969, I married my first husband. Young and naïve, we headed south on our honeymoon. San Francisco via Astoria where my new spouse experienced my irrational dribblings first—hand. By 1974, our matrimonial bridge was suffering from cracks and potholes, but we soldiered on. A daughter and then another joined the clan. By 1986, however, the spans had been irreparably damaged.
That spring, my oldest daughter, my father and I travelled to Scotland. It was my dad's first visit since he arrived in Canada in 1915 at the age of six. On the final day of our trip, the Firth of Forth bridge north of Edinburgh looming before me, I realized I had reached a bridge epiphany. Crossing that structure of concrete and steel gave me the courage to face the divorce bridge, the 32 km bridge from Mainland British Columbia to Vancouver Island.
View Biographical note
Jill Martin is the author of Return to Sable (2015). Sable Island in Black and White, a pictorial book of life on Sable Island at the turn of the 20th century (Nimbus 2016), was the winner of the 2017 Atlantic Book Democracy award for non—fiction. For many years, an educator on Nova Scotia's South Shore, she served as the last principal of Lunenburg Academy. Murder in the Fourth: A Case of Mindslaughter, her first co—authored fiction book, was released in 2018. From Thistles to Cowpies, (Crossfield 2021), picking up where Return to Sable left off, traces the journey of early twentieth century homesteaders to Saskatchewan. Lovingly referred to as her Covid project, Jill's latest book The Fourth Sibling (2022), tells the story of Jill's cousin's escape from an abusive partner. Raw, but redemptive, the work gives voice to those whose voice is often strangled by the person who should be their greatest advocate. When she is not writing, Jill serves on two boards: The Friends of Sable Island and Lunenburg Academy Foundation.