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December 25, 2011

So Much More than an Ornament

Merry Christmas to everyone who is lucky enough to be with people they really care about and even more to those who find Christmas a huge challenge with more sadness than gladness attached to it.

We all know that the Christmas season and Christmas Day can be a really difficult time for so many people. As I heard on the CBC yesterday, there probably isn't anyone on the planet who doesn't - if only for a second - experience a moment of existential despair at some point during the holiday season.  It can be very emotional. Expectations. Music. Relatives. Memories. Estrangements. Overindulgence. Conflicting Traditions within families. Blended families. It's ripe with the potential for emotional meltdowns.

It's a time when we can't help but think of so many of the people who are no longer a part of our lives but who remain in our hearts. Or, the memories from childhood Christmases which in my case are full of magical memories; times where the dining room table required every extension inserted to accommodate aunts and uncles, cousins and friends who joined us.  My childhood Christmas memories are probably the happiest memories of my childhood which may explain why Christmas as an adult has been so much - well - less.

When I was with Peggy at The German Market this year and saw the fireplace ornament (above), it immediately transported me back to my childhood and early Christmas mornings with Gordon, my twin brother, when we'd awake long before it was "time to get up."

As children, we shared a bedroom and slept in a bunk bed. He had the top bunk. I slept on the bottom.

We'd awake in the darkness from barely sleeping because of the crescendo of anticipation and excitement. It would probably be around 6:30 am when we could wait no longer. We'd steel out of our bedroom past our parents' room. We knew how to navigate the stairs in our large house to be quiet, although I have no doubt now that they were listening to our every whispered communiques. We knew that if we could make it to the first landing we were almost home free.

Hitting the edge of the living room we'd see the mass of presents and be amazed. Sometimes the pile would slide halfway into the living room. After an awed moment of silent wonder, we'd tiptoe through the living room and head straight for the attached dining room. We were lucky enough to have a real fireplace in the dining room with a black metal grate. Along the mantle hung five stockings. We'd bypass the three that belonged to our older sisters and we'd gingerly take down our own. There would always be a mandarin orange and a candy cane inside. Those were givens. And, then a bunch of other trinkets that we'd dump out to examine.

We'd confer. We'd eat our oranges and suck the minty candy canes and delight in the moment. It was a special time of togetherness between him and I even though we never acknowledged that through words.

So, when I saw this little ornament at the German Market  with just two stockings, hanging down from a fireplace, I immediately thought of him and that time more than 40 some odd years ago that we'd spend together when the house was still silent and my mother and father and older sisters had yet to descend for breakfast and the busiest day of the year would arrive.

Now, what you need to know is that as fraternal twins, we are as different as is possible for two siblings to be.  And, as a result, as adults we have spent more Christmases and most of our adult lives, apart.

I'm actually writing this blog post on Christmas Eve at 4:00 pm as I'm about to get dressed to go to his house for dinner.

I have wrapped up this seemingly ordinary ornament that was made in Germany with a note inside that tells him the same sort of thing that I'm telling you here.  I hope when he reads the note he understands how much this tiny wooden ornament  leads me back to a time when we were connected in a way we would never be again.

It would make our father, who passed away on December 2, very happy to see us together.

I hope my brother's memories of those quiet times on Christmas morning are significant enough for him as well  so that this very small ornament and my very small gesture mean something to him. I'd want him to look at this ornament each year forward and think of me and our togetherness so many years ago.

Love to you if you're reading this, wherever you are and whoever you're with, especially, I should add, if you happen to find yourself alone.

December 18, 2011

Covet Peace, Not Perfection

Another year is winding down and you and I are still above the grass. Hallelujah! Lucky us.

We can feel like a princess and very cared for when a friend treats us to having our toenails painted a beautiful gold. We can think of the new friends we met this year, the friends we said good bye to, those that crossed our paths fleetingly but remain in our hearts, the dreams we accomplished  and the new ones emerging.

We've added more memories to the memory bank that will sustain us when our wandering is reduced to exploring from an armchair and recall how all the beauty, geographical and human inspired, that we witnessed  has helped fuel our imaginations or expanded our perceptions.  Perhaps there have been re-connections. Change rules. Don't swim upstream.

Here are 10 ways of being I'm mulling over as the year winds down. 

1. Genuine human connection, not ancestry, is the key factor in shaping the quality of  relationships.
2. "As you wish" is a phrase that leads to empowerment for the person uttering it and the person it was intended  to empower.
3. When both your parents are gone, it's simultaneously scary and freeing.
4. We are all in control of our own reactions to any given situation.
5. Intent that is not coming from a place of sincerity is obvious. Be aware of your intent.
6. What's just one thing that will bring me joy today? Get in the habit of asking that each morning.
7. If I was him/her how would I feel under the same circumstances? A good thing to try and gain insight into.
8. Listen  to the words people use to get a quick idea into what they are feeling - about themselves mostly.
9. Figure out what your personal gift is and recognize situations where it can most come alive.
10. Stop aiming for perfection or even agreement. Covet peace.

December 11, 2011

The Prayers God Always Says Yes To

When you go Christmas shopping on Salt Spring, before you even leave the house you pretty much know what's out there to purchase and where to get it. Wonderful chocolates.  Beautiful soaps. Organic cheese. Wine. Vegan desserts. Fair traded and locally roasted coffees. CD's by local musicians. Gift certificates from restaurants such as the Harbour House. What a great gift that would make for someone. Did you say Seafood Linguine? Thank you Santa!

I really like the idea of focusing on edible gifts or giving experiences so that you're not adding to the garbage heap that has become Planet Earth.  On Salt Spring you go to craft fairs or visit Winter craft, the galleries or the independent little stores that dot Ganges and Fulford Villages. You buy some home made jelly. You talk to friends. Santa arrives via floatplane and then transfers to a boat. You shoot the breeze with people you know. You get a latte and chew hard on Fleur de Sel chocolate. Christmas music blankets the village. It's so easy peasy. It's almost enjoyable.

Now, fast forward to the city. I'd forgotten what it's like to be in the mileau of downtown Vancouver and shopping. It's especially bad if A) you have no list and B) you are intentionally choosing not to buy stuff or exchange gifts and C) you are overwhelmed by too many lights, sounds and people. I fit all of those categories. Not a list maker, don't want to give or receive any more crap and completely overwhelmed by excess stimuli.    I become a full-fledged Zombie and fear for my life. But, having been away from it, like an addict, I just wanted a whiff. I fell off the wagon for an afternoon.

Here are a few irrelevant things I noticed in doing so:
  • The staff who work at Chapters downtown Vancouver don't actually know where any books are even though the computer says that the book you are seeking is in the Canadiana Bargain Bin. Apparently that Bin is in some mythical land like the World of Og. 
  • It breaks my heart to see incredibly talented Canadian writers: Guy Vanderhague. Patrick Lane to name just two with their books practically free. Their blood, sweat, tears and souls reduced to $5. A year or two of creative, fictional intensity transferred to the page and now available to any stingy Tom, Dick or Harry for $5.  Isn't that just heartbreaking? You'd have to be a lunatic masochist to want to write a book is what you start to think. And, then your very next thought? "Count me in!"
  • I was in search of a particular author. His name is Brian Payton. He's going to be my mentor at the SFU Writer's Studio. He's written several non fiction and one fiction book. In searching for one of his books in Chapters, I felt like I was on the expedition he wrote about.  
  • First unoriginal thought: Christmas and coffee (Starbucks) are capitalist plots that should be avoided at all cost. When I move through the mall in a semi-conscious state, I begin to feel like a zombie or a Visa seeking missile and all around me are similar automatons as if the only ancient video game that I've ever played - PacMan -   has come to life in the humans all around me. The  programming has gone seriously wrong people. You can only really clearly notice this to an extreme after being away from the consumption junction for a few years. It's ridiculous. Stop it right now!
  • Having just said that, I did see in the Vancouver Art Gallery gift shop some lovely wooden ornaments made by Vancouver First Nation carvers. Price? $13.00 They have inspiring sayings on the cards. The  proceeds go in part to supporting women who  are recovering from addiction and who probably have better memories than mine at this point or I'd remember the exact name of the charity.
  • There are a lot of beautiful gay men selling perfume at Christmas. What must it feel like to be a gay man selling perfume? It's a reality I just can't fathom. Something about it makes me sad. Their wages for one.
  • There is  a book out there with Clint Eastwood on the cover although it looks as if he's had a little more plastic surgery than he should have or the Photoshop touch up person was totally pissed.  The book is called Wisdom. It's full of leaders, thinkers and the wisdom they have to share based on their experiences. I flipped through that book and I thought, I want this book. I'd read this book. I did not buy said book.  Instead I bought a book entitled, The Prayers God Always Says Yes To. You mean somebody's already figured it out? They wrote the shit down. You just have to read it, stupid. Who knew?

November 27, 2011

Vigil as a Sacred Act

I was lucky enough to find a family doctor on Salt Spring.  I got in on the ground floor of the opening of a new medical clinic called The King's Lane Medical Clinic (which is a great place with a web site that I find completely offensive in its choice of colour and design.)

The office is actually a two-storey dormer style house where 5 G.P.s and several other visiting specialists who come to island on a regular/monthly basis offer their services.

An extremely gentle, small black dog greets you as you arrive. I think there's even a gurgling fountain in one corner at the back. The magazines are really high quality, one that I especially liked related to art in New Mexico. It was very pleasant and my G.P. was approachable, efficient, and a pretty good communicator who seemed really competent. What do I know?

Now, I know it's not fair to compare a sleepy little Gulf Island like Salt Spring Island to Surrey, the fastest growing municipality in B.C., but to put things in perspective, I have never in 50 years been to a doctor's office that looked like the one I saw 2 weeks ago when I was following up on something for my poor 93-year-old father.

First of all, it's a crime that any 93-year-old should be going to a walk in medical clinic but his doctor retired and he should have changed doctors immediately and didn't. If the waiting room at that horrible medical clinic wasn't a big wake up call, I had no idea how much worse it could get until I stepped into Emergency at Surrey Memorial Hospital. It's like a third world country there except they have the supplies and the expertise. Apparently in 2013 (way too far away), they'll have a new emergency as well which will immediately be too small again one assumes but in a more accommodating way.

My dad sat upright in a chair for 8 hours and then got transferred to a bed in the Rapid Assessment Unit which was jam packed with people and the gurneys were a foot apart. At one point I was standing between his bed and the bed that held a tiny little East Indian woman who was sitting up and wouldn't lie down. She didn't speak English. She was blind. She had dementia and her family wasn't there. It was the definition of hell.

He stayed on that gurney for 4 days before being transferred to an ad hoc Emergency overflow on the third floor staffed by Emerg nurses who had never worked up there, didn't have all the supplies, and weren't familiar with the unit. Some were able to hide their frustration and remain professional, a few weren't.

Finally, on the fifth day he was transferred to a two-person room where he has remained for 10 days now and  he is now being given palliative care.

I've watched my mother take her last breath. I've seen my father who was exceptionally healthy until he was about 92 and took a serious fall on one of his Forrest Gump walks, decline very quickly in the past month, and I was the overnight caregiver on Salt Spring for 7 months for an 84-year-old who had a stroke. So, here are a few insights, nothing momentous, just my own.

  • You've got one life. It's yours and nobody else's, even if you're married. So, do whatever your inner voice is telling you to do even if your friends or your partner or your dog think you're crazy and don't agree with you. Stop talking about it. Do something different or put your energy into fixing where you're at. Look in the mirror. It's about you, not anyone else, especially if you're not happy. Stop blaming your wife, your kids, your boss, your parents or anyone but the person staring back.
  • Real wealth exists in your breath, your physical and mental health, your wisdom, your integrity and your consciousness. All that material stuff somebody will have to clear out once you're dead, is just that: replaceable.  Friends. Family. They matter.
  • You will need an advocate when you get old if your family is nowhere to be found or, like me,  you have no children, especially daughters. A lot of people are going to need health advocates when they become incapacitated, temporarily or permanently. It's a whole new area of growth waiting to be mined but requiring individuals with the highest of integrity so as not to take advantage.
  • There is no such thing as "lots of time." But, at the same time, "Don't panic," she laughs as she is panicking.
  • If you have yet to experience a "vigil" at the bedside of a dying person, you have not experienced getting a glimpse into human fragility as a quick route to softening your heart. Unless you die instantly, you will age and become vulnerable and fragile and dependent in some way. It's a given. If you're one of those people saying, Oh god, I hope I never end up like that, you need to get a grip. Having been at the bedside of both parents who were exceedingly healthy individuals, it WILL probably happen to you too if your death isn't sudden. Seeing someone fade away and become dependent changes your approach to your present and your future. I highly recommend it as a reality check. 
  • I'm a slow learner. It has taken me way too long in this lifetime to figure out what really matters - to me - and in general. 
  • Death is a very sacred time.  I would honestly feel like I had missed out on a significant part of LIFE had I not spent any time beside my parents' bedsides and been there for them when they most needed me.

November 20, 2011

Salt Spring's Newest B&B: Thistle Dew Guest Cottage

IT'S A GIVEN. When you live in a beautiful place, people like to come and visit. And, that's a good thing. It's especially good if you happen to own a palatial mansion to put them up in. Or, come to think of it, that could actually be a bad thing because then the hoards would descend and keep on descending throughout the entire Spring, Summer and Fall. I recall meeting one islander who specifically created a guest cottage so tiny and minimalist, not to mention separate from the main house, that only two people at a time could be accommodated. Sorry, love, we're full!
When, however, you live in a small space with no extra bed, then you need to have some really reliable recommendations about where all those visitors might consider staying, unless that is, they don't mind roughing it. Got a tent?
I mentioned a lovely step back in time a couple of blog posts ago called The Cottage Resort. There's also the Wisteria Guest House. which is super comfortable with unparalleled breakfasts and lovely hosts. And,here's another: Thistle Dew Guest Cottage owned by Pauline MacDonald. If cottages could write, this one would be in the running for the Stephen Leacock Humour Award full of contentious stories to tell about what it took for it to get built. But, it's done, finally, and it's brand spanking new. Maybe when Pauline named it, she was actually thinking of the work ethic of too many pseudo carpenters on the island as in "Ack, Blimey, Sweet Jesus, This'll do!"  The name is a double entendre that I really like. Thistle Dew or This'll do?
The week I was packing up to leave the island, Pauline was generous enough to let me spend 4 nights acting as if I owned the place. It was such a wonderful thing for her to do. Pure relief descended as the chaos in my own tiny space ramped up. So, let me just say, having stayed there, I do have some "cred" when it comes to describing the experience, although, it wasn't the full on guest treatment scenario since, can you believe it, she neglected to serve me a home-baked organic breakfast, deliver a glass of Port on a tray at the end of the day, or draw my bubble bath. (I'm kidding, of course!) Just so you know, she won't draw your bubble bath either. 
As the web site says, the location is really perfect. If you like to golf, you can race the deer across the street to the fairway. It's about a 4 minute drive to a liquor store (an important criteria) and the grocery store is right in the same location although drive a bit farther and visit the liquor store on island with the best BC Wine selection and staff/owners who actually know what they're talking about at The Local.  A beach is about a 5 minute drive down Baker Road, totally walkable. The iconic and charming Fritz theater named after a now deceased cat, (just ignore the no personality owner who isn't even friendly when you buy a ticket)  is about a 10 minute walk. Heck, if someone, God forbid, should die there's even a cemetary out back.

Attention to detail is what sets Thistle Dew, and let's face it, every other quality establishment, apart.Thick duvet covers. Soft, smooth sheets. Velvety sumptuous robes and socks to match. Wood furniture with a history. Stained glass windows with leaded glass snug above the doorways between rooms. Dainty, romantic bejeweled handmade curtains. A heated floor in the bathroom and a chandelier above.  A washer/dryer. Ornamental birds perches decoratively on a window sill or a ledge. And, these interesting stairs up to the loft which are awaiting installation of a handmade  iron banister.
Pauline's soothing colour palette brings an instant sigh of relief as soon as you set foot in the little getaway which can accommodate up to six people. Yes, it can do romance. Can you? But, it's also really perfect for a girls' getaway  in the winter where even  a full-on downpour  won't prevent the ability to order in a massage, attend a yoga class, take in a concert at Art Spring or while away the day doing studio tours.If only there was a Limo on island to do the touring with the bubbles in your champagne glass being your main concern.
Above the french doors is a Georgia O'Keeffe styled skull.  
If you've been out all day, maybe you've stopped in at Bruces Kitchen to pick up a casual dinner or spent the afternoon compiling ingredients for your evening meal from the island's three wineries. Add cheese, bread, farm fresh veggies and perhaps some island lamb to take back to the small kitchen if you're keen to showcase your gourmet creativity. That last sentence is directed at a man or whichever partner doesn't normally cook. It's a getaway. She ain't going to want to cook you dinner, silly! Like she hasn't done THAT before. So be discriminating. If you've never cooked in your life, do the smart thing, if you're interested in getting what you want later in the evening, and take her (depending on budget) to Hastings House or Harbour House.
A cute and functional kitchen
I just love this chair and the mirror tucked into a corner of the downstairs bedroom
So, there. When you've packed more into a single day than you normally would in three, it's time to collapse into this bed (photo by Pauline) and have yourself a few sweet, sweet Thistle Dew Dreams. There is this queen bed in private room, a window seat that sleeps one and a pullout trundle under the window seat that sleeps one, two foam chairs that make into two single beds in the loft - and one rollaway bed in the closet that would fit - tightly - in the living room.

PS: On the off season (Oct. 15 - March 15), the nightly rate is up for some negotiation but typically runs around $115.  And, I got it all for nothin! Lucky me. 

November 13, 2011

Salt Spring is Following Me

Bill Henderson entertaining at the Salt Spring Fall Fair 2011

Yesterday was a bit of a strange day of synchronicity related to Salt Spring Island even though I've moved back to the Lower Mainland about a week ago.

It was ugly out there. Rain beating down. Typical November. I went out to get a few groceries and stopped in at a local Thrift store to see what treasures might exist within it. As I was standing there, I heard a familiar voice behind me and turned around to see a Salt Springer. What is the chance of that? I had met her while working at the CARE Employment Centre and she was a gardener who had been having difficulty with her hands and needed to transition into a different type of work. Apparently she has now trained as a Veterinary Assistant. She often comes to New West to bring her daughter to see her ex husband. I thought that was really strange to run into someone from SSI in a tiny Thrift store in New West a mere week after I'd left. I'm sure I was just staring at her strangely as she talked to me.

Then, last night, I went with Gwen to listen to the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra putting on a performance with the Laudate Singers to honour the 10th anniversary of Orchestra's existence. The orchestra is led by Moshe Denburg, a man I met more than 10 years ago when I was writing a story for the now defunct Shared Vision magazine about the first ever Sacred Music Festival in Vancouver. At that time, I met with him in his townhouse off of Fraser Street and the Intercultural Orchestra was just a dream that was about to come to fruition and hold its first performance.

There is something so fascinating about watching musicians from different cultures playing instruments from those cultures such as India, China and the Middle East  (Dizi, Erhu, Oud, Pipa, Santur, Sitar, Tabla, Tar, Udu, Xiao, Zheng) combined with those, such as violins, the harp, penny whistle, bass clarinet.

Each composition was introduced by the composer and after one of the composers introduced his piece, Drowned Out, Gwen pointed out that he, Edward Henderson, is the brother of Bill Henderson, Chilliwack fame, and of course, Salt Spring resident and active Salt Spring Folk Music Society organizer not to mention occasional Salt Spring Fall Fair volunteer.

Edward Henderson explained how the composition was inspired after he had watched a documentary called Drowned Out, about how the Sardar Sarovar Dam System , just one of 3,600 dams in India, has dislocated about 40 million primarily tribal peoples, most of whom now live in slums at the edge of cities. He also recommended reading an article by Arundhati Roy titled, The Greater Common Good.

The piece was absolutely beautiful and that description is pretty lame I admit. It was the first time it was performed to an audience and it was enthralling, taking us on a journey as the music traveled as fluidly as the images it evoked through the notes.

So, being seated beside the partner of the Hendersons' sister, a nice man whom I'd exchanged pleasantries with as one does when seated beside a stranger at a concert,  I asked him a question. "So," I said, "where does all this talent originate from in the Henderson clan?"
"Well," he said, "they think they've traced it to a female in the family tree who was a concert violinist." And, now, I can't recall whether he said great grandmother or great aunt.

The evening's Program said that a reviewer from The Georgia Straight newspaper described The Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra  as sounding like Vancouver looks. I like that description.

It feels right to be back in an environment where cultural diversity enlivens and enriches every day.

November 10, 2011

10 Things I've Noticed Post-Salt Spring

My little munchkin movers, Lisa and Heather. Why it pays to have cute, young friends~

So, it has been almost a week since I've returned to the Lower Mainland, my stuff crammed into an Econoline  van and my Mazda filled to the fish tank brim so that I  resemble a long lost relative of the Drysdales from the Beverley Hillbillies. There goes the neighborhood. Oh right. It's New West. No biggie.

I felt like my style of move this time (this being my 15th move to date) was a cross between two movies. First up, National Lampoon's Vacation. My bed was strapped to the top of the van replacing the dead granny. It also felt a bit like Little Miss Sunshine although I wasn't suicidal there was  no grandpa or porn to be found and  I definitely wasn't rushing to make the entry deadline of a beauty pageant.

Now that I'm back, can I just say that after spending a good part of three years chopping wood for heat, setting mice and rat traps, being on guard in winter for the incessant scratching of rodents trying to get in from the cold, acting like a paranoid schizophrenic who was hallucinating spiders (except they were real) and even once having maggots from a dead and rotting rat flop from the ceiling through a crack in a pot light onto my kitchen counter, moving into a typical apartment, feels like winning the Set for Life lottery.

And yet, in spite of all that, there's still something charming about a little country cottage. It's just that now, the romantic illusion has been placed by knowing better. If I ever set foot in a cottage in the country in the future, you can be sure it's going to have only the top of the line of everything.  Still, I will never forget Marjorie's little hideaway with a history on Walker's Hook.
Let me just digress and say that I had actually forgotten about the maggot incident until some masochistic friend (who shall remain unnamed) reminded me. I'd just returned from the Lavender festival and I was leaning over my kitchen counter and I thought, very stupidly, how did all those lavender pods fall off the top of my hat. You can only imagine how big my eyes were when I realized that not only were they not purple but they were MOVING!  It definitely took a few days to get over that, not to mention the extra strength cleaning that went into wiping away the remains. Yuk!

In my first 7 days of being back, here are 10 things that I've noticed:

  1. Heather, No. 1 Munchkin Mover, in spite of her petite frame, is a rock solid, hefty strong sheroine!
  2. There are Doppelgangers everywhere. Why is my former landlady, Sharon, working at Starbucks? Why is Palu Rainbow wearing the ultra conservative navy and driving a courier van?
  3. When you return to the city of your birth, you're scanning every face thinking (and fearing), "Did I go to high school with you? 
  4. I'd forgotten how many strange people live in New West. It might just be the weirdo capital of the Lower Mainland and this is coming from someone who lived on a Gulf Island.
  5. When you move from a place that didn't have a single traffic light, you really, really have to pay attention when you're driving to the cornucopia of lights from strip malls and fire engines and street lights. It's so BRIGHT!
  6. I miss the Arbutus trees and I miss getting up in the morning, opening my curtains and doing a lingering scan of the back four acres watching as the bunnies chase each other, the deer feast and the birds peck for worms. Luckily, I still have my mind, hence my memories.
  7. I do not miss that stupid Rooster that someone needs to shoot.
  8. How am I supposed to compost my kitchen scraps?
  9. I miss not knowing anyone in the coffee shop and at the same time, I feel an amazingly huge sense of relief and freedom that I don't know ANYONE in the coffee shop. I don't like that the coffee shop is Starbucks.
  10. I have no idea what the hell I'm doing but I trust that my subconscious does as it always has.  Onward!

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.