Last weekend, I took a trip to St. Martins for its annual book fair. With my luck, i got caught in the kind of traffic jam that would inevitably follow a parade down the town’s Main Street. Traffic crawled along past the flea market at the community hall and the small, temporarily empty school, past the Lions’ Manor, the expanding community library, and the country inn, and eventually past the wharf and across the covered bridge towards the caves and Fundy Trail. Yet the day was so fine and the sights so beautiful, I didn’t really mind. In fact, I decided to take the long way back home to Quispamsis, up Highway 121 to Sussex through rural Saint John and Kings Counties.
The trip reminded me of why New Brunswick is such a great place. The people of St. Martins were friendly and helpful, the backdrop couldn’t have been more attractive if it tried, and the bridges- the small, covered bridges- were charming, rustic.
New Brunswick is a province of bridges. Anywhere you go in the province, you can find an attractive bridge nearby. Think the Harbour Bridge against the Saint John skyline, The Centennial Bridge spanning the wide Miramichi, or the twin majesties of the Hugh John Flemming and Hartland Covered Bridges. But more than mere architectural adornments, these bridges serve an important role – they connect people. They connect Riverview to Moncton, Northside to South, Perth to Andover. At Tide Head and Cape Jourmain, they connect provinces; at St. Stephen and Edmundston, they connect nations. Even cable ferries are a form of moving bridge – from just down the street at Gondola Point to the infamously imperiled boat at Gagetown.
But more than physical bridges, New Brunswick depends on more intangible connections, but ones that are just as vital. Rural and urban (and now suburban), town to city, community to community, government to the people. Perhaps the most famous bridge of this sort is the one spanning the widening gulf between English and French. For New Brunswick to succeed and, indeed, to survive, it must maintain these bridges as best as possible, even building new ones where necessary. It’s those bridges, those connections that will survive longer than any tax cut or generic slogan. We must not let these bridges fall into disrepair or victim to vandals who wish to do it harm. Otherwise, we will pay a hefty cost to repair or rebuild those bridges or, if we do neither, forsake the connections and become a number of disparate, insular, and mortally wounded islands.
As New Brunswick Day Monday turns into Start-of-the-Work-Week Tuesday, I’m going to take to bed a glass of chocolate milk (Baxters, straight from Sussex) and a cupcake made by a very dear friend of mine. I’m going to tuck into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, one of the books I bought in St. Martins. And tomorrow, I’m going to drive to work in one of the Saint John fog. And I’m going to feel pride in being a New Brunswicker as I do so.