" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

March 31, 2009

Wonderful World of Connections

As I was coming home on the ferry on Sunday I was thinking about the vastly different environments I spent a bit of time in while in Vancouver.

There was Dee’s small one-bedroom apartment in the West End with fantastic views that showcase the ability of Vancouver’s geography to provide wonderful ocean and mountain vistas from a single spot. We always laugh so much when we get together. This time it was over my story about almost breaking my kneecap in Country Grocer when I was wearing my cowboy boots and slipped on some lettuce. You had to be there!

In Surrey I spent time with my Dad and my sister in a nice two bedroom apartment in an assisted living senior’s residence where his world exists.

Then, I was in the two-bedroom apartment in Kerrisdale where Beth and Neil live. It's wonderfully decorated because of Beth’s professional interior design experience and the perfect place to visit with Richard and them. The kind of conversations we have is what I miss most about living here and not yet having made the kind of friendships I have back in Vancouver.

I moved on to the luxury of a beautiful old home on Angus Drive in Shaughnessy where Colleen was house-sitting. It was really tastefully decorated, not over the top, and very comfortable with two big cats, (Bonnie and Clyde) to pet although I did have to wrestle Clyde off my bed (perhaps it was HIS bed actually) when he wanted under the covers on Saturday night. I was so generously treated to a meal at Banana Leaf in Kits and it was delicious! Why can't they cook like that here?

And, then I visited the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital where Lisa and Dave are spending most of their time with their new baby son.

When you step into an intensive care ward for babies, if you’ve been lucky in your life, it’s a very foreign environment. First, you must scrub up to the elbows removing all jewellery. Then, you are allowed into the ward by the receptionist. You walk down a corridor and through a double set of doors and you’re inside. There are cribs and incubators and whirring and while I was there, it was surprisingly quiet. Very few babies were crying. It was nice and balmy inside to keep them warm.

Some babies are attached to monitors and you can read their heart rate and respiration. Baby Wolfe as he's called for the sake of the hospital seemed as fragile as a little humming bird. His heart rate would range broadly from as high as 200 down to 140 and all numbers in between.

His tiny, perfect head was covered with a little blue wool hat and he was sleeping. His lips and nose were perfect. He was like a little doll. His skin didn’t seem to have any of that scaly stuff some babies have. His fingers were as tiny as a couple of grains of rice pieced together and they were flexing; curling up, curling around my little finger.

One of his feet could fit comfortably inside the palm of a woman’s hand and she could close it to keep it warm. Lisa seemed especially enamoured with his tiny little feet. There were other babies. Fraternal twins from Whitehorse and a baby girl who was born on my birthday still there more than a month later.

There are photos of the babies who have left the ward and there are mothers and fathers looking into incubators, while others were bathing their babies, breastfeeding, listening to the nurse’s instructions, showing their new arrivals to family members.

From all accounts it’s not a picnic assisting the arrival of a soul onto planet earth when they enter as a full term birth. But, when a baby is premature, parenthood with all its worries, commitment, indecision, responsibilities, ambiguity, joys and satisfaction seems even more daunting...at least to a childless outsider.

But, if you’ve climbed to the base of Mount Everest as Lisa and Dave have, surely being the Sherpa guides for a new human is a journey they're up to.

It's always so great to see you all and I forget how wonderful you are until I'm reminded every time I visit.

March 27, 2009

Urban Diner

I'm back in my beloved West End.

You know, not until I come back here do I miss it and then when I see it, when I drive along Pacific and look out to the ocean with the freighters in Georgia Straight and all the joggers and rollerbladers and I drive down Denman and know every single shop and what's in it, the ones that are gross and the ones I liked to eat in, I start letting out little pained expressions of yearning because I'm positively nostalgic and wistful.

I don't want to come back but I never didn't like it. I didn't leave because I didn't like it.

The view from Dee's apartment looks down across Robson into Coal Harbour, across to the Rowing Club in Stanley Park and towering above it all, Grouse Mountain. I can see the cut all lit up.

The float planes are arriving from where I've just come from - Salt Spring.

Cities make you pay attention. When I"m on Salt Spring I sometimes feel like I'm meditating even when I'm awake. It's as if the activity of the city simulates the snapping of fingers. Your attention gets jolted from this to that, her to him, a noise, lights, action, camera. Your mind is constantly in action, forced to pay attention, to make decisions, to watch out, all those shop windows calling out in their corporate neediness.

Lately, I've been worried that I might get really dozed out living there. I might get stupid. I know that sounds, well, stupid, but the brain needs feeding. And lately, there, my brain has been hungry.

March 23, 2009

John Family Explosion Minus 1

Do you know how you can tell when you really like people?

When they come in and take over your little cottage and create chaos (in comparison to your regular sedate existence) and it doesn't matter because you're just happy to have them around, that's how.

Enter Chris. Mr. big and tall. Six foot five inch or whatever giant sized with a Teddy-bear heart having a bad hair day. (On his best days, at the right angle, he does look like George Clooney. Really he does!)

Then, there's Miss Catherine. She's 15 going on 25. Beautiful. Mature. Just cool. And Smart. Yes. Smart and beautiful is the best!

There's the Codester, a.k.a Cody, the Golden Retriever who LOVES truly LOVES unconditionally and loves sticks and loves running (especially in water) and more than anything else loves being where everyone else is all the time.

Then, of course, there's the glue that keeps it all together. The beautiful, happy, funny, easygoing, generous mom Peggy. She was born in a tiny place called Unity Saskatchewan. Look it up. A name that was just calling out to be included in a Margaret Laurence novel for sure. When you come from Unity, how could you not be the one that keeps it all together?

The Minus 1 in the blogpost above is referring to number 1 daugher Courtney away at the University of Alberta. Her absence is allowing Cathryn (or is it Catherine?) to lap up the luxury of living like an only child for a while. And lovin' it.

They came and we ate. We walked in Duck Creek. When the four of us got into the hot tub it sounded like a big stream of water lapping over the edges as if we were in a bathtub perched precariously and getting ready to topple over Niagara Falls.

They brought the most delectable chocolate cake from The Dutch Bakery in Victoria. Better than 95% of sex.

They didn't scream at me when in their much newer car than mine with the new tires, I directed Chris up and up and up through potholes and tire-sucking mud and the sawdust from evergreen blowdowns until we reached the top of Mount Maxwell. I hope the view was worth it to them.

Then, it was onward to Ruckle to show them one of my favorite places on the planet feeling all the while a little remorseful that they couldn't have seen it first, as I had, in August under golden light, fairy dust in the air, creating a love at first sight experience.

To RockSalt Cafe and a delicious Gumboot burger made of lentils and rice for me and Peg. Cathryn had Eggs Benny she couldn't stop raving about. Back into Ganges to explore the town, shopping, and home again for more food, more hot tub, pizza. I couldn't talk them into the Rumi night at the Salt Spring Center. Whirling Dervishes? What?

The Canucks are more their style. Peg even brought her jersey to prove it. Do you take that everywhere?

And when it came time for bed, I got on my PJs and my hiking boots and my coat, grabbed the flashlight and headed to my car to drive the 10 minutes to Karin's place to feed Tin Tin the cat and drop into her bed since she was off in Vancouver sleeping on someone else's couch. Musical houses. Happy visiting!

March 22, 2009

Spirit Colours

Crocheting Spring into Creation

And, on the seventh day some crafty Salt Springer must have decided that they'd waited long enough. So, on the weekend that Spring is supposed to spring they decided they were going to sprung it even if they had to crochet it into existence.

This was in the planter box alongside Thrifty's Grocery store in the center of Ganges. It's whimsical and cute and just a tad weird and I wonder who made it?

Instead of a random act of kindness, it's a random act of creativity! I like that concept.

March 16, 2009

Radio Friends

So this is where I spend a huge part of my time and where I'm sitting right now as I write this blog post.

It's Sunday. The snow, has now covered the ground again and continues to fall. I suppose it's just wrong to keep harping on it because every time I think it's over and that Spring is here for sure, it's just not.

One of my favorite things to do when the snow keeps me inside is to light the fire, put some soup on, and turn to CBC Radio One.

It feels a bit like having company, a good conversation, attending an impromptu concert, meeting budding Canadian writers, learning about the history of Reggae or just about anything you can think of that you may not think of yourself so they're there to expand your experience. Radio is intimacy.

I feel like I know the announcer/hosts: Stuart McLean (The Vinyl Cafe), Michael Enright's Sunday Edition, Eleanor Wachtel's Writers & Company. But I don't, and I prefer it that way.

It's better not to know them. It's better to think that they are the smart, interesting, intelligent, funny, fascinating people that come to chat through the radio.

I have learned firsthand that journalists are sometimes more about observing than doing and that's why they love to live vicariously through others. That may or may not be true of them. I'd just rather not know. I'd rather they be, to me, those most interesting visitors with always a special story to make me laugh, to think, to listen when it's just me, here, alone, in front of the fire during the longest winter I've experienced, my first, on Salt Spring (where for the record, it does snow).

March 15, 2009

The Duhks (quack, quack)

Went last night back to Fulford Hall to see a band I'd never heard of (but then again who have I heard of?:-)) called The Duhks based out of Winnipeg.

The name is pronounced ducks in case you're wondering what relevance my photo of a duck swimming in Lost Lagoon has.

Their most recent CD - Fast Paced World - was nominated for a 2009 Juno Award.

A guy at The Boston Globe described there music as world-beat to blues, urban-pop to old-timey, with wild-eyed invention, haunting traditionalism and spine-rattling groove. [Those poor music critics. They have to be so inventive with a limited number of adjectives.] He rated their CD as second in Top CD Picks for 2008 just above Pete Seeger's "At 89" album.

What really stood out was the fantastic voice of lead singer Sarah Dugas and the fiddle playing of Tania Elizabeth who apparently lived on Salt Spring for a year and met banjo player and band lead Leonard Podolak at I presume a dance similar to one like last night.

You can check out some of their songs from a CBC Concert that was held in Winnipeg. I believe they're off to Portland, Philadelphia and New York next.

March 11, 2009

Ganges Harbour

When I took this photo I liked the juxtaposition of the old wooden boat and the Salt Spring Air float plane. Two very different modes of transportation each coloured red, white and blue and those colours reflecting back strongly from the water.

This is Ganges Harbour when the winter sun is strong like today. You'd never know there was still ice and snow on the ground when you look at this photo.

Wouldn't it be great to know how to drive a float plane?

March 09, 2009

Just One Glass Too Many

Drink up and listen up. Maybe you've heard that drinking just one glass of wine a day significantly increases the incidence of cancers in women, especially breast cancer.

In fact, they discovered that one alcoholic drink per day (including wine) caused 15 extra cases of cancer per 1,000 women up to the age of 75. Does that suck or what?

Now, normally I can hear these things and just ignore them or think, well, the size of the sample wasn't really large enough but in this case the sample was 1 million women. It's kind of hard to dispute that the sample size wasn't large enough.

When I heard that I thought to myself what am I going to do with that information? Am I going to do what seems to make sense and give up drinking wine or am I going to ignore it and continue to have fairly regular glasses of wine even though I already have an increased risk given that I has a sister who died of breast cancer when she was only 43 years old?

I joked to a friend about perhaps having a double mastectomy as a preventative measure because Hey, I think I could live without my boobs, (which I actually find kind of annoying given that they've increased in size over the years) but I'm not sure I can live without my regular glass of wine.

I thought, I'm screwed. I've already had so many glasses of wine (and beer) to this point in my life that will giving it up now really have a positive impact or is it too late anyway?

I felt a little pissed off. Why is it always about women? I mean, I began to wonder if drinking beer increased the risk of prostate cancer or whether they just hadn't done a study of a million men because there's no way that any of the beer companies would let them publish those same kind of results.

I wondered if there was something else that could have attributed to the increased risk in this study for these 1 million women. Maybe they all eat more than 1 bucket of Kentucky Fried chicken a year or they all had been divorced once and it was actually the stress of that that had led to their increased risk. How do these investigators control all the potential variables that could in fact contribute to the outcomes?

I mean why don't I just run away and join the convent now? Do you want me to give up chocolate too? What the hell would I have to live for? Why do they have to do these studies to tell us these things? Afterall, we're all going to die! If I give up wine but I'm in a plane crash, I'd really regret that I didn't have that last glass of Shiraz afterall. I would. Honestly. I wouldn't go, oh well, I'm about to dive into the ocean from 48,000 ft but at least I'm not going to die of breast cancer from drinking too much wine.

At this point, for me, the study has pretty much done what it set out to do anyway because now, every time I pour myself a nice glass of wine, instead of anticipation, I'll be feeling an annoying bit of trepidation; a bit like playing a game of chicken with the Malbec.


On Saturday afternoon, I'd just returned from town and the snow began to come down. I looked out the window and yelled NOOOOOOOOOO!

By yesterday, Sunday, it was beautiful and sunny. I lit the fire and thought, that's it, snow's over for this year. Use the cut wood.

This morning I got up, rolled up the blinds and it was a winter wonderland. Again. In resignation there is only silence. No yelling in anger or disbelief. Just quiet bewilderment. I got dressed. I knew I wasn't going to drive. I decided to walk to town. I was kind of curious how long it would take. When I set out I figured I'd just hitch hike part way there but when I started walking, my body just craved the exercise. I kept walking. It took one hour and 35 minutes to get from my house to the middle of Ganges. That's about the same length of time it would take to walk completely around Stanley Park, a little less actually. It felt great.
But, enough already with the white stuff. Even my little old Buzzard (top left in photo) couldn't keep his woodpile dry.

March 08, 2009


- stock photo, royalty-free

This weekend was the 10th Anniversary of the Salt Spring Social Justice Film Festival. I'm sure an absolute ton of work goes into this every year and it's quite amazing that it's accessible by donation trusting that people will pay what they can afford.

I pretty much only managed to take in two films. The first was about a matriarchal society in China called The Mosuo where women do not marry. They practice something calling walking marriage. If they take a lover for the evening, he must be gone by the morning. Sounds like California said the person I was with.

The second was about an area in New Orleans considered the birthplace of jazz and the civil rights movement. The district is called Faubourg Treme and the documentary was supported by famous trumpet player Wynton Marsalis.
It's an excellent documentary named Faubourg Treme: The untold Story of Black New Orleans.

I've never been to New Orleans. Unfortunately I didn't make it there pre-Katrina. And, I don't expect I'll be going anytime soon if at all because the sad part of the film is how what could have been and should have been saved as a World Heritage Site in terms of culture because of the significance of black history there, was destroyed by Katrina. About 1,800 people died. About 800,000 were displaced. And, then, perhaps even more significantly, because of the disbursement of people following Katrina across the U.S. (many not given a choice as to where they were sent), it's unlikely the area is unlikely to ever return to the vibrancy it was once famous for. That's tragic and like so many news stories, the headlines long over but seeing something like this documentary reminds you about it, makes you realize and wonder about the torturous existence of people who may never regain the life they had.

When I was watching the documentary, it became really clear that as a result of inaction, New Orleans was completely unprepared for a hurricane the magnitude of Katrina not because they had no warning of such an event but the response by FEMA (or lack of response or at the very least inadequate response) comes across in the film as yet another example of racism; systematic destruction through lack of action of an area known to be of such significance to black history and culture.

Cutest face of the day

March 06, 2009

Just another Day on Salt Spring

It was kind of an interesting day after a long, rather uneventful week.

My co-worker wasn`t around so I spent it working alone and had to work the full five days. I really missed her company. Now, that wouldn`t have been so bad if it hadn`t been totally dead in the office but it was. Not many people were coming in looking for work.

Then, today, Friday, a couple of things happened. Someone came in whom I`d met before. He`s been in a few times. I could tell he was feeling kind of desperate or depressed. When I get depressed all you have to do is listen to my voice and you`ll hear it. So, I can recognize that in other people when it manifests the same way. So, I didn`t say anything until he actually brought it up. And,I was able to talk to him openly about it because we were alone in the office. And, then we worked on his resume together and when he left he said he was feeling better, more hopeful, and that just made me feel so good that I could help him in that way.

Then, I go for lunch and I end up sharing my table with this guy whom I`d seen previously when I went to Yoga last Sunday. He joined me while I finished my lunch. Turns out he`s a divorce lawyer from Malibu who retired last year and who`s looking at property on Salt Spring and on Vancouver Island. Do you know how surreal it is to sit across from someone who is speaking about property and when they mention the price and refer to 2 they actually mean 2 million It`s just so bizarre.

I find it sad when men use their wealth as a means to impress as if that`s the only way they are valuable. And, I suppose if you live in Malibu, that`s really what matters most. Then, he invited me to have a drink after work so I decided to celebrate with a lime margarita.

I wasn`t even going to go but then I thought, Gayle, smarten up. You have been bored this week. Just go and have a conversation. When are you ever going to get to talk to a divorce lawyer from Malibu in this lifetime. Never! Well, that`s not true. Today actually! So, I went and it was actually kind of interesting. I enjoyed it. He was putting Salt Spring down which I thought was particularly American of him even though technically he is a Canadian with dual citizenship. He was referring to all the, for lack of a better word, dead beats. It`s all about context I said to him. We are going to meet up again on Sunday (barring a snowstorm).

Tonight I went and saw Sean Penn in Milk at our local cinema, The Fritz. I love The Fritz. Except for the chairs which are old, you never see trailers at The Fritz. You only ever see beautiful photos of the Gulf Islands or of Kayak trips until the main feature is set to run.

Obviously in the 1970s when I was a teenager, I wasn`t thinking about gay rights and to see this movie and to see what Harvey Milk did and how hard he fought for Gay rights and rallied so many others is just a reminder of how far things have come in comparison.

Tomorrow morning, I`m going to see Madama Butterfly at ArtSpring. It gets beamed in or whatever you call it from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I hope I enjoy the experience. I find it absolutely amazing that you can be living on a little island of 10,000 people in Canada and get to see what people in New York are paying big bucks for all thanks to technology.

March 01, 2009

Chocolates for the President

I have a wonderful, crazy, cultured friend who shall remain anonymous but who works for the Americans. That's right. She's a Canadian who works for an American Consulate. She's the Communications Director (I just made that up, I have no idea what her title is but it has something to do with Communications I expect since that's what she normally does).

Now, she was finally able to set foot in her new office about 5 months after the initial news that she'd been hired because it took her that long to make clearance on security. The only person they didn't interview was her Grade 1 teacher and her former Japanese playboyfriend Matsumi. (Which, if you ask me was quite an oversight!)

She's a real bon vivant and has to meet diplomats and others and schmooze and know ridiculously obscure details about all sorts of countries in the world that I didn't even know existed and in general just ensure America's understanding of Alberta is on track. Afterall, there's oil in them there rocks. Would there be any other reason that Americans would give a flying cow patch about Alberta? In short, she has to handle whatever comes her way, professionally, diplomatically (no international incidents please) and efficiently.

For a while, she thought she might totally luck out and get to go to Ottawa when President Obama made his first visit. But, that didn't pan out (money's a bit tight south of the border have you heard?). So, she had to stay back in Calgary and handle the really BIG issues.

One of the most time-consuming issues that she had her finger on the pulse on was what to do with a 40 pound box of chocolates that the CEO of a well-known, BC-based Chocolate company (that shall also remain nameless) was insisting be given as a gift to the President. Give me a break. Why would he want THOSE chocolates when he could have Bernard Callebaut chocolate located right in Calgary.

Anyway, the CEO (as CEO's tend to be) was very persuasive and wouldn't take no for an answer on how to go about bestowing these chocolates on Obama. The only thing is, I(like Duh) you can't just send a 40 pound box of chocolates to the President of the United States. Why do you think he drives around in something called The Beast?

You don't go running up to Barack with chocolates. You have to send the chocolates to his attention at the White House and once the bloodhounds and the Secret Agents are done with the chocolates, all he gets is the empty box, brown wrappers falling out the sides with a note on the top that says, This was a 40 pound box of chocolates from the CEO of a Canadian company that makes chocolates at which point some underling will write a tasteful, appreciative, Thank you. (And, I digress but that brings me to another Blog post about why movie stars and the rich, the people who want for nothing materialistically, are always being thrown free stuff like evening gowns, Nike clothing, trips, hookers, etc.) Does that make any sense?

So, anyway, in having to go back and forth between the Chief of Protocal at the White House and the president of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, my friend started to get really amused by it all. Giddy. A bit delerious. A little pissed off with the President, of the chocolate company that is. She began to wonder whether there was an Office of Perishable Gifts in the White House and about the kind of things that might actually end up there. Cheese. Smoked Salmon. Chcolate. Pickled Herring from Finland. Caviar. (the list is ....well, just take a look inside your own fridge).

I have no idea if such an office exists I said, laughing, but I could imagine that if they're smart, and staying true to Al Gore's intentions, just behind the Office of Perishable Gifts there's a door that opens onto even a bigger office and that one is full of nothing but compost bins. No shit!

Bitter Sweet Transitions

Now these people must have a few tricks when it comes to staying in touch. Starting from left to right, she's from Costa Rica but has been residing in Vancouver for the past two years doing a Post Doc at Childrens' Hospital. He's her boyfriend from Spain debating whether to move to Costa Rica to be with her. The other two are from Argentina, both baby doctors too, now residents in Vancouver.
Yesterday I was listening to CBC Radio in the afternoon and they were talking to the writers/poets who had won the 2008 CBC Literary Awards. When Eleanor Wachtel finished interviewing the new winners, she then went back to a former winner, Gail Anderson Dargatz wrote The Girl with the Bell Necklace and that was the beginning of her "real" life as a successful writer which really took off when she wrote The Cure for Death by Lightening.

So, the show ended with a segment where a man was interviewing Gail, asking her questions. One of the questions was "What do you look for in a friend?" Now, most of us might think she'd respond loyalty, kindness, adventure, support, humour, intelligence, but in fact her answer was proximity.

Now, she didn't mean, whoever is close by will do. She did mean that in a world where people are very transient, what she looks for is being able to not be transient and maintain friendships with people who live close-by because that's better than friendships that are pieced together on Twitter, on Facebook, in snippets of time when one or the other happens to be in the same place for a few days or a month.

Why am I telling you this? Because, when I moved to Salt Spring, one of the things I really didn't think much about prior to moving was the fact that I might miss my friends. It seems a bit crazy that I wouldn't have thought of that in more detail because I'd built up a really good circle of friends in Vancouver in the years between 1995 and 2008. They are really important to me. I have a really good time with all of them. I genuinely looked forward to spending time with them and we always have fun, or a laugh, or good conversation and made each other feel better when that mattered. I was just in denial I suppose about how changing places geographically and not being there to continue to do things, in person with them, can't help but affect the friendship. It lessens it no matter how much you don't want that to happen.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately and tonight, I had a conversation with Lisa, one of my bestest friends, someone who has brought me a lot of joy (and vice versa) in the past 6 years and somehow no matter how much we (I) know that life is change and if it isn't, then you're not really living, it's not always easy to go with the transitions away from people that make you really happy. Maybe it's especially more significant when you're single because your friends are your "peeps". You don't come home to one person for support and that's both not a great thing and a great thing if you know what I mean.

Anyway, Lisa and I were talking tonight and it's clear that we're all in transition. I started it by moving. And, even though it's only a few hours from Vancouver, it's a long way when you're not able to consistently hang out with someone to create new memories.

Lisa's having a baby. Her life is about to undergo the biggest transition (next to our own births and deaths) there is. Once the baby comes, it will be very hard for us to maintain a friendship because her life will be consumed by the baby out of necessity and she will then join up with other mothers and that commonality will bond her to them. She was feeling wistful talking about how another good friend of hers was talking about going on a kayak trip to the Queen Charlottes this summer and how in different ways she's feeling kind of wistful, anxious about that separation in possibilities. Because, normally Lisa would go kayaking but not with a baby. Although I guess, technically, it's not impossible. The indians did it. Where's the papoose?

So, there you go. That's what I'm thinking tonight. Life is change. And, it's when you have to let go of the really fun parts to do what you have to do, even when you want to do it, that you can't help but reflect back on the great times you had with those people you were so close to and just hope you can find a way to get back to that place with others in new ways over time and manage to somehow keep a connection with the ones you have had to physically leave.

I'm sure this is nothing new for most people, especially the kind that move around the world, but I've never moved countries or even places within the country hardly at all so it's a revelation.