Evan Griffin and Haley McConnell

Circle of Life at the Writers Festival

 

Evan Griffin and Haley McConnell

Life on the Sunshine Coast has come full circle with the start of the Sunshine Coast Writers Festival week in Sechelt.

I moved here in the summer of 1987, for a summer job at a community newspaper, fully intending to return to university in the fall to continue in the the third year of my Creative Writing and Art History degree.

I fell in love with the Sunshine Coast, and with small town living. I grew up in Richmond at 5 & Steveston, when there was nothing there but a gas station kitty corner a convenience store, and blueberry, daffodil and horse fields… the railway line in the distance, the YVR flight path above, and the freeway just beyond the fields. It was suburban small town for my childhood, and I loved it.

But by the time I was in my 20s, I felt a soul-crushing sadness and dissatisfaction with city living and went back to school. Langara was a college back then, a feeder into UBC and SFU, small and intimate, with great arts programs and that homey feel. I took the summer job dreading the vastness of UBC and huge classes and even bigger student loans. I lived on Maple and 5th in Kits, and felt an overwhelming compulsion to consume – purchasing furniture, kitchenware, hobby supplies, restaurant meals. I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy in such a beautiful city, as Vancouver was in the 1980s.

I’d been to the Sunshine Coast as a child at Camp Olave, but forgot how stunning the land and seascapes are, and as this was well before the ‘bypass’ I headed off the ferry that first day into Gibsons Landing. The view of Keats Island took my breath away and that is when I began the healing from city living. I was 25.

Fast forward 31 years and I’m 55 years old, dropping off my youngest daughter at her job-for-a-week, and it is another take my breath away moment.

My beautiful daughter, turning 18 soon, is heading off to university in September, taking Creative Writing at UVIC, and this week she is working at The Festival of the Written Arts. Her boss is Jane Davidson, a parabolic receiver and transmitter of everything literary and heartfelt about life on the Sunshine Coast.

Her co-worker is Evan Griffin, grandson of my best friend Rosemary Hoare who passed just over two years ago, and nephew of my dear friend Tony Hoare, who will be marrying the love of his life later this month. Rosemary and Eric were active in the first days of the FWA, picking up authors at the ferry terminal, bringing in laundry tubs of flowers from their garden, volunteering during the festival.

The festival has been an anchor in my cultural life on the Sunshine Coast for the past three decades.

My heart is full to bursting. In this great galaxy of space and time a few of us are given the greatest gift of a community like the Sunshine Coast we can call home, and beautiful friends who change the arc of our lives in profound ways that enable us to become our best selves.

I carry the memory of my friends gone in everything I do in my life here. So when I sit down this weekend to enjoy the readings and literary steeping among the gardens of Rockwood, I will see my daughter and Evan, my dear kismet spirit Jane, I’ll see many of my ‘annual friends’, my book club adventurers, and Rosemary, John, Daniel, Robin, Janet and all the others drawn to the words and wisdom of these authors will be with me.

This is the Coast, for me.

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