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October 30, 2011

My Version of Salt Spring Under Review

It's interesting to examine the mood of a goodbye. Sometimes it's sad. You really don't want to go. Other times you can't wait to leave. If you're lucky, anticipation drapes itself around the choice. More often than not, it's just time and you know it. If I was to examine the mood of my leaving Salt Spring, which I'm about to do, I would say that finally there is no ambivalence left about my choice to return to the city. It has been 3 years to the month since I moved here.

Yes, it's a beautiful place with amazingly creative people who really care about, well, almost everything and anything. I feel like I've experienced what has mattered to me on this little island and now I'm ready for the next chapter. Looking back,  it would seem I did actually pack quite a few experiences into my time here albeit much more so when I first arrived.
When I first moved here, people used to repeat these weird ideas. They'd say Salt Spring will draw you in and when it's done with you it will spit you out. Well, I'm thinking I'm being spit out. They'd say people come here to heal. I've never felt like that's why I was here. Those of you who know me well will know that I spent a very long time working on healing in Vancouver. Coming here, for me, seemed to be more about grasping for a new experience completely different from the way I'd lived and examining my creativity in a more direct way.
I've written for the Driftwood newspaper and Aqua magazine and loved the privilege of meeting so many talented artists and cultural creatives. Thank you to the editor Gail Sjuberg who gave me writing work when I first arrived. It helped make ends meet the first few months.  I am very grateful that she did that and it has been nice to get to know her as a friend as well. The fact that she could remain editor in this community for as long as she has, given the nature of bold and loudly stated fractious opinion, is a credit to her moral fortitude and often, I expect, her diplomacy and wisdom to know when to keep her mouth shut.

For me, reporting/writing eased the transition and thrust me into the community as a result of conducting the requisite interviews. Most recently, I've been the undercover Tweeter for Bruce Wood of Bruce's Kitchen, the Harbour House Hotel and EcoDivaNomi. That's been fun. I loved being able to wander around the Harbour House Farm garden, looking at all the wonderful veggies and admiring staff's hard work, taking photos and then posting them on Twitter/Facebook.  It's an amazing garden and I really loved that experience. It was also fun to go behind the scenes in the restaurant kitchen; a place that is totally foreign to me but the chefs there make it look so easy. God, how I love Twitter. NEVER in a million years did I ever think I'd say such a thing.

Working in the CARE Employment Centre within two months of arriving here was, I truly feel, the real reason I came here even though I had no idea I would do that before my arrival. When I left my last Communications' role in Vancouver it was because of a nagging feeling that I wanted to work one-to-one with people in a way that felt like it mattered. In an almost unbelievable way, working at the employment job felt like the absolute representation of the intent I had been mulling over in my mind.  I worked there four days per week, four hours a day for 2 years and three months. And, all thanks to  a head's up by Karen McDiarmid in Vancouver (all employment roads lead to Karen) who spotted the ad when I had no idea the job was even posted.
It was another Karin (Marita Jones) who actually gave me the confidence to take the risk and come here. I wrote a story on her journey as a metal artist for Aqua magazine prior to my living here and about a month later she called me to ask if I'd like to come back and look after her cat, Tin Tin. We traded houses for a week and when I arrived back on island, she mentioned that acquaintances were looking for someone to sublet a cottage. I still find it unbelievable that I ended up living in the only studio I had ever visited on the Salt Spring Studio Tour years earlier. A woman named Lorna Cammaert used to live there and she makes baskets and used it as her studio. My first year at Moongate Cottage on Broadwell was a very happy time. (Flashback to hot tubbing looking up at the stars under the Fir and Arbutus trees).
I learned so much about myself as a result of the interactions I had with the people who walked through the employment centre doors and from watching my co-worker, Suzanne, communicate with clients. The work was interesting and annoying, frustrating and sometimes depressing. Often, it was a lot of fun thanks to clients who had great hearts or humour and personalities and  individuality that is calling out to be part of a screenplay.

I have tried to put it out of my mind but I can't forget the 6 months or so I spent as the overnight caregiver, four nights per week, for Margaret. Let me just say, there is absolutely no such thing as "free rent." However, I have some nice memories of breakfasts with Margaret and reading from my Rumi 365 Days a Year book. I think we both enjoyed those moments.
Rudy Hexter is another person who stands out for me. I loved visiting his Yurt-like structure to discuss spiritual things. In the spring the fire would be burning and the green tea would be bubbling.  I have nothing but admiration for his way of being and his discipline; a trait I'm sorely lacking it would seem. I still think he could be very rich if offered one to one retreats to city folks.
Of course, I owe Pauline McDonald a huge thank you for being a surrogate mother to me during my first year or so here. We had a lot of great conversations and laughs during that time and I will never forget the warmth of her little house, her storytelling abilities related to her construction dramas, her wonderful cooking and her one of a kind way of being. What a character.
Let's not forget beginner band. I was a lousy flute player. Mostly because I almost never practiced. But, one of my favourite memories when I was new to the island was the weekly Monday night practices in the restaurant that instructors Derrick and Wendy Milton owned. I loved sitting in El Zocalo with Wendy and Derrick remaining so diligent and professional in their approach to hopeless beginners and the catastrophe unfolding before them. Very impressive. Margaritas and a more social group would have made it even better.
I've thoroughly enjoyed selling my photos at the market as a vendor and getting to know some of the other vendors and having the privilege of talking to all those tourists and receiving their feedback has been a real ego stroke. Never in a million years when I came here as a tourist in the past did I ever think I'd be standing on the other side of one of those tables.
And, of course there's Tom and Linda James. We first met at the first market in 2009. I don't actually remember the day but Linda assures me that's when we first met. Since then, I have eaten way too much of their food and had the pleasure of a lot of conversation, laughs  and even a few disagreements around their generous table. I will always think warmly of them and Linda's sister, Sandra, as the two people who were most supportive during my time here and allowed me to stay sane when I felt like I was losing it. Thank you.
Finally, I expect I will have to figure out what to do about my online and blogging persona. The creative, exploring, wondering, yearning and sometimes tormented spirit of Salt Spring was in me long before I ever set foot on this island and I expect it will continue to be with me until I die, for better or worse.
I'm not going to lie. After my first idyllic year, I have not found it easy to live here. It has often been way too isolating and lonely. I have made a lot of connections - superficial ones it would seem - but not enough really intimate friendships in the way I have back in Vancouver. But, then again, it's not easy living on this island for a lot of people. I know that for a fact. Economically it has been quite a large trade-off. When the honeymoon ended, it became a trade-off that required serious soul searching about my priorities. I needed to figure out whether continuing to live here would support my priorities or detract from them. Let's just say, I finally figured it out.

Life is so very short and there are a lot of experiences to pack in and a lot more people to meet.

That's why I know that going is the only wise option and I'm more than ready for the next chapter.

I am, however, still very very glad that I took the risk to come in the first place.

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