Summertime

Over the past few months, I have been feeling increasingly nostalgic for Salt Spring. Specifically, summers on Salt Spring. Summer is always such a beautiful time of year, and some of my favourite memories took place in the summer. While I was in university, and even in high school, summers where always so busy, but in a good way. I’d be working like crazy, often more than one job to save money for the next year at university. I spent my days running off my feet, then the evenings would be spent with my friends, swimming at the lake, hanging out by the bonfire, walking around aimlessly, or going to the movies. Or I’d spend my evenings with my family, barbecuing on the deck, enjoying the warmth, and just being together.

When I was younger, summers would be spent camping. When I was in elementary and middle school, I think we often when camping 3 times in a single summer. We would often go with other families who had kids the same ages as us and we’d pack my dad’s pickup truck full of tents, coolers full of food, foam mattresses and dad’s “essential” hammock and hit the road. There are tons of beautiful camping spots on Vancouver Island, and over the years, we saw many of them. Hornby island, Pacheena bay, Malcolm island, Qualicum falls, Tofino. All these places have a few key things in common: great campgrounds, close to the water with a good swimming beach, and are great fun for family camping trips. In between these camping trip we would often visit our extended family in Ontario, or we’d just spend our days at home. Eating ice cream and freezies, playing in the yard, taking swimming lessons. My mom is a teacher, so she always had the summers off with us. Looking back, we were incredibly lucky that that was the case.

Summer was always a time of freedom. The rain is gone, the sun stays up later, school’s out, everything is warm, green and fresh. My brother and I would often set up a tent in our backyard in May and sleep out there. To this day, when I smell the fresh spring air and hear the frogs croaking in my parent’s back yard, I think to myself “time to set up the tent!”

A few weeks ago, my brother came home from university and I took an extended weekend to come home and be with my family. The first day I was there, it was gloriously sunny and hot and made me think of all those Salt Spring summers. This will be my second summer spent mostly in Vancouver, instead of on the island. Vancouver is beautiful in the summer and I am lucky to live very close to some lovely Vancouver beaches, but summer is not what it used to be. Summer used to be a change, a break, a move. Now it’s more of the same, but with sun. I still love the summertime, and I always will, but I miss the days when summer meant freedom.

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6 Salt Spring Snippets

Being the small community that it is, there are a few things that work a little differently on the island compared to other places. Today I would like to share a few stories and anomalies that I think are uniquely Salt Spring.

1. The Dinner Party

Several years ago, when I was probably in middle school, our next door neighbours invited my family and a few other neighbourhood families over for a potluck dinner party. On the day of the party we arrived with the other families to find that the house was locked and she wasn’t home from work yet. She is a doctor, so it is common for her to work longer than expected. We didn’t think anything of it. My parents had a spare key to her house, so we just unlocked the door and went in. We all started cooking and setting up and preparing things. When the host arrived home a little while later, she came home to a hot dinner and a party in full swing. And didn’t think anything of it.

2. Salt Spring Rules of the Road

Because there is relatively little traffic on Salt Spring, the rules of the road seem to work a little differently on the island. Pedestrians often jay-walk all over the place. But the weird part is drivers often stop to let people jay-walk. I guess nobody’s in a big rush! Drivers will also often stop in the middle of the road to chat with someone, either in a passing car, or a pedestrian on the side of the road.  Hitchhiking is also very popular on the island. If people need to get somewhere, but don’t have a car, they just start walking and stick out their thumb to every passing car. Eventually someone always stops and gives them a ride.

3. The Market

Anybody who has ever visited Salt Spring has probably been to the market. This is a wonderful artisan market on Saturdays in the summertime. It has food, artists, jewelry, pottery, soap works, flowers, produce, textiles, food trucks and all sorts of island-made goods. It’s a great attraction and very popular. It is so popular in fact, that the only time islanders go to the market is if they are selling something, or if they have out of town visitors. Most locals that I know avoid the whole of Ganges on Saturdays in the summer because it is so busy.

4. Salt Spring Gossip

Being such a small, tight-knit community, news on Salt Spring travels very fast. Even before the popularity of social media, when something big happens, it spreads around the island surprisingly quickly. Doesn’t really matter what the news is. When I was in high school, if there was some drama or gossip that happened during the school day, your parents (or your friend’s parents) probably already knew about it by the time you got home. Still not sure how that worked.

5. High School Grad Streak

There are many grad tradition at the Salt Spring high school (GISS). The grade 12s play pranks throughout the year, the Monday after grad weekend is “Grad Skip Day”, they don’t wear caps and gowns to the ceremony, they wear fancy dresses and tuxedos. But perhaps the weirdest tradition is the Grad Streak. On the last day of classes before exams, the grads will meet in the art room in the afternoon, strip down to varying degrees of nakedness, cover themselves in paint and run through the halls of the school, screaming. The weirdest part is, the teachers and the administration just kind of let it happen. They know it’s going to happen, but they turn a blind eye and pretend they don’t know what’s going on and let the kids run wild. The students are always responsible and clean up the paint after the fact, so I guess they figure it’s better to just let it go.

6. The Trusting Nature

Salt Spring is a fairly safe town and there’s not a lot of crime there, so people are very trusting. Earlier this winter, I was on the island visiting my family and I decided to look at a couple potential wedding venues. One of them is a very popular community hall on Salt Spring. Is was there on the weekend and the manager of the hall was away. So, she gave me her address and told me to get the key to the hall out of her mailbox, go look at the hall, and lock up when I was finished, and return the key to the mailbox. This sort of thing is commonplace and I think it’s amazing that there are still places like this. They have no reason not to trust people, so everything is done on the honour system, and people respect that.

These little stories are quite indicative of life on Salt Spring: slow paced, but never boring, friendly and trusting, community-minded and…quirky.

*Photo by Ben Beaver, my fabulous fiancé*

Christmas Traditions – Part Two

Well, Christmas is tomorrow so I thought I’d better share some more Christmas traditions before it’s too late and I have to wait until next year!

In my last post, I shared a story about a tradition we may have lost for the time being. Today, I would like to share a story about one that has returned.

When my brother and I were quite young, our parents would take us to see a Christmas play at the local theatre what seemed every year. The play was called Christmas With Scrooge and it was a wonderful musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This was always such fun, and the cast was full of familiar faces from around town, and our friends. It was a real community play and it seemed that whoever wasn’t coming to see the play was in the cast. It was a wonderful way to get in the spirit of the season and I always loved going.

One year, they had to stop putting on the play. The family that was the driving force behind the play had some health issues and one of the creators passed away the following year. It appeared that the play was done for good.

This year, after 11 years without Christmas With Scrooge, the island rallied and the play came back! The same family who had started this in the beginning was able to bring it back, and many of the original cast members returned. And once again, the entire island seemed to be either in the audience or on the stage. Friends of mine who were young children playing puppies and little kids the last time were now playing carollers, ghosts or other more prominent roles. It was an amazing experience to be in the audience for this show again, and to feel all the memories of childhood Christmases come rushing back. This year was especially meaningful to me as I was able to share this with not only my own family, but my fiancé and his family as well. They didn’t live on Salt Spring the last time the play was on and had never seen it before. It was wonderful to see them enjoying a new Christmas tradition.

I find it a lovely coincidence that the same year we lose the tradition of gingerbread houses and Christmas dinner with our family friends, we gain back the tradition of a community Christmas play. The holidays are always a wonderful time for my family and I, but this was just one more way to make it extra special.

And as per our yearly tradition, my whole family went down to Fulford on Salt Spring to pick our Christmas tree. This year we picked a beautiful, large Grand Fir and it smells amazing!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!

Christmas Traditions – Part One

Christmas might be my favourite time of year. I love summertime, and I enjoy the springtime, but there’s nothing like Christmas. Living on the West Coast, we don’t usually have a white Christmas, and we all get very excited at the first sign of snow. But even if it is a green Christmas, it’s still the best! So, this will likely not be the only post I write about Christmas this year…

My family, especially my mom and I, are very into Christmas. Our house gets totally decked out in lights and decorations – it looks like a Christmas wonderland. We have bins upon bins upon bins of delightful Christmas decor, lights, figurines, stockings, tablecloths, you name it. Every year, we haul the bins down sometime in late November or early December and get started. It always so great to unpack everything again, and look at all our Christmas memories for past years.

Today I would like to share with you one of my favourite traditions. This is one that we sadly won’t be able to do this year, at least not like we usually do. Gingerbread houses! As you have perhaps read in my Halloween blog post, my family shares lots of traditions with Dawn’s family. Dawn is one of my parent’s best friends, her youngest son is quite close with my brother, and our families have always shared the holidays and special events together. For many years, we have made gingerbread houses together in December. Dawn would always supply the gingerbread, and she’d come up with new configurations and plans every year. We always had trouble getting the houses to stay upright, so she was always trying to make something new and more stable for us. My mom would supply the candy and icing. This meant we got to go to the bulk section of the grocery store with her, and go nuts! We picked out everything we could think of that could go on a gingerbread house – smarties, ju jubes, licorice, chocolate chips, skittles, coconut, candy canes, and more. Then Mom would make a giant batch of icing, often in multiple colours, and we would go to town!

Every year we would have a blast. Inevitably someone’s house would always fall down and someone else’s would turn into a massive pile of candy, and we’d just spend a couple hours being silly, sugar high and laughing until we had some candy covered “houses”. I say “houses” because I seem to remember one year where someone attempted to make the Eye of Sauron out of candy and gingerbread.

Last year, we almost didn’t do this because Dawn’s daughter wasn’t going to make it home for the holidays. But at the last minute she decided she couldn’t be away and came out to Salt Spring and we made it happen. I loved that this tradition was still so important to all of us, even now. Last Christmas, the youngest one of us was 18 and the oldest was I think 25. I think it’s pretty special that even at that age we still wanted to get together and make gingerbread houses like when we were little.

This year, I don’t know if we’ll be able to carry on the tradition. Dawn has moved away and her kids are busy and in different cities. I imagine we will continue to make gingerbread houses with other friends, but it might not be the same.

I have searched all through my photos and I can’t seem to find any of the gingerbread houses, so I have included photos of other Christmas-y things at my parent’s house.

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Dancing in the Rain

Growing up in a place like Salt Spring has left me with many fond childhood memories. I was lucky enough to live very close to two families with children around the same age, so I had two good friends within walking distance of my house. Right next door was Ian, 2 years younger than me and 1 year older than my brother and still one of my closest friend. Four doors down the road was Sarah, my very best friend in the whole world – to this day. Many of my favourite memories involve these two.

Today I would like to share a story about a rainy day at Sarah’s house. I don’t remember what year this was, but we were still in elementary school I think, or maybe middle school. Just old enough that our parents would let us walk to each other’s houses by ourselves.

I was over at Sarah’s for the afternoon and it was raining. I guess we got bored with playing inside and we decided the best thing to do would be to put on T-shirts and shorts and rubber boots and go outside. Sarah had a really long driveway with lots of potholes. So we ran outside, up the driveway, in the pouring rain and jumped in all the puddles. The aim was to get as wet and cold as possible. After we had jumped in all the puddles and ran up the whole driveway, we thought we weren’t wet enough. So we started running around and dancing in the middle of the road. Salt Spring is a pretty quiet place, especially in the Fall and Winter, so there were no cars around and we had the road to ourselves. This was before the days of iPods or portable speakers (or at least before the days where our parents were willing to buy them for us), so when I say dance, I mean we danced to whatever music we could make up or remember.  I don’t remember if we sang out loud, or if we just danced to the music in our heads, but I’m quite certain we looked a bit nuts to anyone who may have passed us!

Once we were sufficiently exhausted and soaking wet, we went back down to Sarah’s house and changed into warm, dry clothes and drank hot chocolate by the fire. That’s another perk of island life – wood-burning fireplaces. Nothing is as cozy as a fireplace.

I’m sure Sarah and I did this more than once and perhaps this story is an amalgamation of several times like that, but this is how I remember it. This to me is telling of what childhood can be like on Salt Spring – carefree, outdoors, and a little weird. Not to mention wet and muddy.

I don’t have any photos of Sarah and I dancing in the rain, but I did find some photos of us playing dress up.

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My Fairytale

In 2009, I began dating a wonderful boy named Ben. He had been a friend of mine for a few years and we dated all the way through high school. We had our ups and downs, but we were crazy about each other.

When we graduated in 2012, we decided to stay together and make our relationship work, even though we weren’t necessarily going to be in the same place. I started university in Nanaimo and he went traveling for 2 months that September. When he came back, he lived on Salt Spring and I was still in Nanaimo. After a few months of back and forth, he got his own apartment in Nanaimo as well and even though I lived in residence at school, I practically moved in with him. At the end of my first year of university, I moved back to Salt Spring to work and he stayed in Nanaimo. By the time his lease was up and he was moving back to Salt Spring, school was starting again and I was moving back to Nanaimo into a house with my best friend and another girl. Once again, he went back and forth visiting me for a while before he and my best friend’s boyfriend at the time decided to move up to Nanaimo. Once again, we practically lived together for the remainder of that year.

In May 2014, I moved back to Salt Spring again and he went tree-planting in the interior of BC  for 3 months. That fall, I moved back to Nanaimo again and he started university in Vancouver. For the next 2 years, we spent the school year living in different cities, him making the trip to see me every single weekend, and spending the summers together on Salt Spring. In May 2016, I graduated university and we spent one final summer on Salt Spring before – finally – officially moving in together in Vancouver in August.

Throughout all this, he has been my rock. He has taken care of me, supported me, made me laugh and made me feel so loved and so special. He amazes me with his many talents and his wacky sense of humor, his kindness, his curiosity for everything, and his strength through the tough times.

It’s now been over a year of living together, and 8.5 years together. Even though it was tough for a few years living apart, never once did we consider ending our relationship. He was always stronger than I was, he helped me stay positive and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A little while ago, and after much discussion over the last few years, we decided we were ready to be engaged. We found a ring and ordered it together. It arrived a few weeks ago, and due to unforeseen medical issues, we had to delay for a little while. But now he is well again. A few days ago, he officially asked me to marry him. Can you guess what I said?

Unpopular Opinion: I Don’t Like Halloween

That’s right. I don’t like Halloween. Now, wait a second, before you leave, just hear me out. It’s not like I hate Halloween or anything.

As a kid, I liked it just as much as anyone. Who wouldn’t? My brother and I would get all dressed up and then our family would head over to our friend Dawn’s house. She is close with my parents and my brother is good friends with her youngest son. We didn’t get any trick-or-treaters near our house, but Dawn did, so we’d go there every year. She always had the house decorated, with big bowls of candy, and we would all go out trick-or-treating together. Her street was always pretty good for Halloween and we always came home with tons of treats. My brother and I would always spill it out on the floor, sort it into piles and trade each other so we got only the kinds we liked. This process would go in for several days after Halloween. Every day, until we finished our bags, we would dump it out, sort it, trade, eat as much as our parents would let us, and pack it all back up again.

As we got older, we started making different plans. We would go to other streets where our friends lived and go separately. Once we got too old for trick-or-treating, we would just go to Halloween parties with our friends. I always liked those, just hanging out with my friends, dancing and eating insane amounts of sugar. Then I graduated high school and all my friends went away to university in different towns and we weren’t always together for Halloween. I was lucky in that I went to the same university as my best friend, but even then, we didn’t do much for Halloween. We were kinda hermits in university, we never went to any of the crazy parties, we just stayed in our room as watched TV together.

Last year, I came to the realization that I don’t like Halloween. I had been living in Vancouver for a couple months and on Halloween, my boyfriend decided to go watch scary movies with his friends. I didn’t go because I was starting a new job the next morning. I was sitting at home, by myself, watching Grey’s Anatomy for the 100th time, eating Halloween candy out of the box, and I realized I just don’t like Halloween, for several reasons.

  1. I hate being scared. It’s my least favourite thing. I never watch scary movies, I hate it when anyone jumps out to surprise me, I just hate being scared.
  2. I really, really hate spiders. They are the worst.
  3. I don’t like the colour orange.
  4. I don’t like creepy things like zombies and monsters and all that stuff.
  5. I don’t particularly like dressing up in costumes. Just not really my thing.

So there you have it. Halloween, just not my favourite event of the year. It’s not like I dread it coming or I can’t wait for it to be over or anything, I just don’t love it. I much prefer Christmas. In fact, I’m a bit of a Christmas fanatic, so I just look forward to that.

Still, it is fun to dress up as a cat every now and then. Or Salvador Dali.

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Why am I here?

Hello again! Thanks for coming back!

You may have noticed on my About page that I do not live on Salt Spring right now. So why am I writing about “life on the rock” when I don’t live on the rock? How can I be an island girl if I’m not on the island? Well, let me tell you.

I was born and raised on Salt Spring Island. My parents moved to the island a few years before I was born, and they had me and my brother in the very same house they live in today. I grew up there, went to school there, had my first jobs there, and I very strongly identify as an Islander. When I graduated high school and went to university, I didn’t go far. I went to VIU in Nanaimo. It’s just a 20-minute ferry ride and a 45-minute drive from my parent’s house. VIU stands for Vancouver Island University. Vancouver Island is much much larger than Salt Spring but still has an island-y feel. And being so close to home, I came back to the island frequently. I spent all my summer breaks working on Salt Spring, I came home on many weekends and I came home for Christmas and all my breaks.

Now that I have finished university and have moved out for good, I live in Vancouver. This is a bit farther than Nanaimo, but still not too far. For those who aren’t familiar with the west coast of Canada, Vancouver is the biggest city in BC, on the mainland. Now, it takes about 5 hours for me to get back home. I still try to go home as much as I can, for birthdays and holidays and long weekends. I still feel a very strong pull back to the island.

So, why the heck don’t I live there? For all the great things about Salt Spring, there are a few drawbacks.

First, there are virtually no rentals available on the island. The few rentals that are available, are typically only available in the offseason. People who own property on Salt Spring often use it as a summer home and rent it for the winter season. Which means, if you want to live there, you have to buy a house. That would be fine, except I am 23 and I don’t have the money to buy a house right now. Real estate on Salt Spring is quite pricey, and most young people simply can’t afford the high prices.

Second, there are few jobs for young professionals. I have been out of university for 1 year and I am trying to build my career. Salt Spring is not the place to do that. Being a tourist town, there are plenty of great summer jobs for students, but very few opportunities for people just starting out and making a name for themselves. Maybe in a few years once I have established my career I’ll be able to move back there. Perhaps even open my own small business!

So that’s why I don’t live on Salt Spring now. Simply, because I can’t. Part of the reason I want to write this blog is to help me feel connected to Salt Spring, even while I am not living there. Of course, there are other things that connect to the island still, like my family and friends who are still there, but this is just one more way to keep in touch.

And here’s a picture of my dog, because I love him:

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Welcome!

Hello and welcome to the first blog post on “Life On The Rock”! Thank you for reading. Please take a look at my about page to learn the purpose of this blog. I’d like to use this opportunity to tell you a little about my background, and a little about Salt Spring Island.

As mentioned before, I was born and raised on Salt Spring. Literally, born in the master bedroom of the house my parents currently live in. The island will always be a special place to me, and I hope to use this blog to share the beauty and charm of Salt Spring with you all.

Salt Spring Island is the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands and sits between Vancouver and Victoria on the West Coast of BC. Salt Spring is very special island for a number of reasons

  1. It is an extremely creative place. The island is full of artists. Everything you can think of! Musicians, painters, sculptors, potters, jewelers, chefs, textile artists – even artisan cheese, bread, and wine! I have been surrounded by creativity since day one. Sometimes I think it’s surprising that I didn’t grow up to be an artist. But I am a graphic designer, so maybe that’s close enough? (If you’re interested in graphic design, maybe check out my other website?)
  2. Salt Spring is a wonderfully kind place. Everyone is quite accepting of everyone else. Being such a small place, more often than not, everyone knows everyone else. Incidents of bullying in schools are much fewer than other places and each person is encouraged to do whatever makes them happy. The high school offers numerous creative options for students to find their passions, new and local business get a lot of community support and overall, I think everyone feels free to pursue their dreams on Salt Spring.
  3. It is beautiful. Salt Spring is a gem. I will try to include many pictures of the island to show you what I mean. For more beautiful pictures of Salt Spring and the west coast, check out this guy. Salt Spring is nothing if not a haven for nature lovers. Hikes, beaches, mountains, forests, ocean, lakes, you name it. Beautiful nature abounds.

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Growing up in a beautiful, nurturing place like this was a real privilege. I was raised with community spirit, to value art and creativity, to know that friendship and family are important, and to always treat people with kindness and acceptance. This kind of upbringing is invaluable to me.

Now, I could have come out of that island very naive about the way the real world works. Sometimes I feel a little like I grew up in a little, happy bubble. But instead, I believe that growing up amongst creativity, kindness, and natural beauty allows me to always see the best in everyone and everything. Maybe I’m just kidding myself, but oh well!

So that’s a little about my background and Salt Spring Island! Thanks for reading and see you in the next post!