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December 23, 2010

Is Santa a Volunteer Firefighter?

Like Santa’s elves I got up really early one morning last week – 4:45 am – because I had thoughts of what I needed to get done and I couldn't sleep.  Now, that's truly ridiculous because I don’t host a big family dinner and I don’t have cute little sugar plum kiddies to please beyond their wildest dreams. All I really have to do is enjoy myself and other people's company.

At no other time of year than Christmas am I more thankful for the fact that I do not have traditional female responsibilities. The average wife/mom/maid probably puts in a 200 hour week as a result of Christmas instead of her regular 90-100 hours.  Welcome to “The Holiday Season” ladies!

Salt Spring, like everywhere, begins to whip itself into a frenzy around December 17th.

The firemen decorate the No. 1 fire hall in the middle of Ganges. It's a really old place with a bell tower similar to the one in that Steve Martin movie, Roxanne, that was filmed in Nelson, B.C.   I’ve overheard in passing, "What else do those firemen have to do  except buy shiny new equipment?  You better just hope Santa doesn't set your chimney on fire with that comment. Following that (flawed?) line of thinking, I guess they have loads of time to decorate as well. And, so they do.

They hang Santa’s bottom half out of their bell tower (above) which makes it look as if he’s about to dive into it, backwards. They decorate with wooden cutouts of sheep instead of reindeer (afterall this is Salt Spring). They blast Christmas songs too loudly in the 12 days leading up to the big day so no matter where you are in their vicinity it's impossible to forget the time of year.
Parking, just like in “The Big Smoke," becomes impossible to find. Everyone floods into Ganges village to do their shopping. The line-up at the post office (because there are only 2 post offices on the island) grew to 45 minutes the other day. Someone tweeted it on Twitter. Someone else at the back of the line was offering a home made roast beef dinner to trade places with the person at the front.

The local grocery stores are packed. Once you've lived here a while, doing shopping is a marathon event given the number of people you end up seeing to say Hi to or chat with. In Ganges, add on at least 20 minutes to every shopping visit as a result of social chit chat.  Yesterday I ran into Harry Burton, Apple King, and he said something that I thought was really true. "Well, at least on  Salt Spring," he said, "you can go to the thrift store, buy someone a present and they'll still really like it." And, that's true. In fact, I'd probably like it more! We love our thrift stores because they have cool stuff at absolutely the right price.

The other place with massive line-ups, of course, is the food bank. Yes, Salt Spring, like everywhere, has a food bank. There are some heart-wrenching realities and the closer the big day gets it’s as if every day is a full moon. (And, this year, that's almost a fact!)

I’m trying to maintain my own questionable sanity by going to deep water Aquafit at the pool twice a week. The fact that I can float without a belt in the deep end is a little worrying. This is, afterall, pre-shortbread, pre-eggnog, pre-Nanaimo bar, pre-Baileys in coffee, pre-turkey, pre-gorge fest.  Plant the sprouts for the New Year's crash diet.

There are a million concerts, sing-a-longs, and what else? Craft sales. Turns out you CAN have too much of a good thing. I’m beginning to think about crafts in the same way I think about IKEA merchandise. Just as I have never been able to figure out how it's possible to need an infinite supply of bathmats in a single lifetime from IKEA, I'm not sure why some people have a black hole of an inbox for jewellery, candles, and art work but thankfully, for Gulf Islands craftspeople (including me) they just seem to.

So, that's it.  I'm off to Vancouver. That ferry better be workin! 

Stay in the moment. Stay safe. Stay alive.  Find the beauty wherever you can. Chill!

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