Snapshots of Water and Memory

November 2019

The lake, the trees, the island, the sky. Every morning on the shores of Lake Superior, Marion Agnew snaps a picture of the scene outside her window. Whether sun or rain, snow or fog, every day is recorded, every season documented, reflecting the gradual shifts in an ever-changing landscape. In these methodical snapshots, a timeline emerges of a wild terrain, beautiful and free, rugged and enduring.

She has done the same with memory.

Reverberations: A Daughter’s Meditations on Alzheimer’s is a collection of essays written by Agnew and published by Winnipeg’s Signature Editions. They are essentially her reflections on verbal snapshots of her mother’s struggle with the disease during the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, focusing mainly on her own observations as she sought to help her parents from a distance.
“I lived 800 miles away in Colorado,” says US-born Agnew over coffee at Bean Fiend. “But I tried to participate as best I could. There was no internet at the time, and very little research available in libraries. I read books and volunteered at a respite care program in Colorado. My parents were in a very small town, so there was little help for them except pamphlets and brochures, and our family struggled to know how best to care for her and each other.”

Originally from Port Arthur, Jeanne LeCaine Agnew was an intelligent and creative women. A Queens and Harvard/Radcliffe-educated mathematician, a nuclear weapons researcher in Montreal during World War II, and an award-winning professor at Oklahoma State University, she was also an amateur writer who loved returning to the family camp on Lake Superior. Her daughter, Marion, was working as a technical writer and freelance editor during Jeanne’s early struggles, so essays were a natural extension of her observations – snapshots of a perplexing and frustrating time.

“That’s why I started writing – what I saw, what I understood, trying to put words to the confusion,” says Agnew. “The essays in Reverberations had their genesis in the notes I made 22 years ago. Since her death, time and distance have given me perspective, and I’ve tried to share some of the complicated feelings and thoughts in writing. I thought long and hard about whether they still made a relevant story today, so when Signature Editions, (a Winnipeg-based publisher who does unapologetically literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry) said yes, I was amazed.”

Agnew is now a prolific writer of essays, short stories and creative non-fiction. Her works have been published in literary magazines, journals, collections and anthologies across North America. One of her recent essays was nominated for a National Magazine Award, and she is a sought-after writer/editor for technical and educational material. She is married to writer Roy Blomstrom and is living on the shores of Lake Superior, beside her family’s old camp. With a talent for writing, a keen eye for observation and a love of the water, Marion is the first to acknowledge her connections to her mother and the symmetry of their lives.

“In my professional life, I’ve helped experts communicate with non-experts,” she says. “And writing is a natural way to bridge gaps. To connect minds separated by time as well as space. To share knowledge and passion or to broaden horizons. To add colors to a reader’s palette. Or perhaps those are “colours,” depending on which side of a border
you are.”

While Reverberations is Marion’s way of communicating the complex experience of understanding a parent’s memory loss, Jeanne left a gift of her own in the form of a memoir.

“Mom felt a deep connection to Lake Superior’s north shore,” Agnew says. “Even with five kids, she came up every summer. Eventually, she compiled stories and early photographs from her family’s life in the 1920s and 1930s as a project for her retirement.”

“My earliest actual memory,” Jeanne says in Cradle of the Deep, “Has to do with water and the boat…”

Marion, along with her sister, Sue, worked to self-publish their mother’s memoir last year in a collection fittingly titled, Cradle of the Deep: Memoir of a Lake Superior Cottage, named after the family’s boat that took them up and down the shores.

“Mom had been telling family stories for decades, and she wanted to write them down so her grandkids would have them,” says Agnew. “Now her grandchildren have children, so we wanted them to have the stories too. What surprised us – and of course, pleased us – was how interested other people have been in the book.”

It’s a lovely companion to Reverberations, a collection of memories that dove-tails beautifully with Marion’s recounting of their loss.

“Reverberations isn’t only about dementia,” says Agnew. “It’s also about the many ways our parents play a role in our lives, even when they’re no longer with us. And I also write about this
lovely place where I am now so grateful to live.”

Reverberations: A Daughter’s Meditations on Alzheimer’s is now available at Chapters Indigo, on Amazon, and wherever fine books are sold.

Cradle of the Deep: Memoir of a Lake Superior Cottage is available through Shuniah House Books.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.