Salt Spring Island, my ultimate Zen

Culture Travel
Marc Junker (Graphic)
Marc Junker (Graphic)

Sometimes at night, I lie awake worrying about minuscule things like cleaning the house to big life problems that seem to lead to constant stream-of-worry-conscious, like whatwillhappenwhenIfinishschoolwillIfindajobIlikewillmyboyfriendtravelacrossthecountryforme? Sometimes I even think of the irony of how I am sleepy all day, yet somehow I cannot sleep once I hit my bed. Nights like this, I have to calm myself down by thinking of a waterfall in a forest or even the constant waves at the beach, but these thoughts usually end up with me going to the bathroom a couple times per night. The one scene that seems to repeatedly get me to fall asleep is my adventures on Salt Spring Island, my ultimate Zen.

My first experience on Salt Spring Island now seems like a dreamscape to me. After travelling a short ferry ride, my friend and I were constantly welcomed throughout the island. Like in The Truman Show, the ceaseless greetings made me feel nostalgic for a past I had never lived, yet also a little creeped out because I wasn’t used to such friendliness. At first, I thought such quaintness was reserved for visitors as we boarded a dwarfed bus with a sign stating: “Your bus driver for the day is ‘Huggable Gus.’” But as the driver picked up locals, including a mother and daughter duo who gave Gus picked wildflowers in exchange for a ride, I knew that there was something distinctly unique about this place.

Getting off in Ganges, the hub of this benevolent island, my friend and I knew nothing about where we had landed. The elderly information lady, whose hearing aid’s constant problems seemed a little too stereotypical, enlightened us about a discotheque in a park. Excited to see a 1970s throwback dance party, we showed up to Mouat Park to find it was actually disc golf. Out of place due to lack of Frisbee, we were again greeted by another stranger, who gave us a flying disc. As we left the island, eating gelato, my friend and I planned out our future discotheque sheep farm, where we would live out our days wearing wool sweaters and dancing the night away.

One might think that such a magical experience can only happen once in a lifetime, yet Salt Spring Island seems to be located in some far away land: a land of fairies, unicorns, and gnomes that vomit rainbows. This year, my boyfriend and I rented a cabin at St. Mary’s Lake on Salt Spring Island. Like old times, the bus to Ganges took us past pastoral countryside reminiscent of England, complete with sheep farms and a minuscule steepled church.

This time the streets of Ganges were lined with decommissioned pianos, which would make music teachers cringe but left a haunting melody in my heart. We ate at the Tree House Café, with birds singing directly at us as if we were Snow White. Here, the island pace has hit everyone, and the café even accepts Salt Spring Dollars, a local currency that provides further evidence that the island has no problem remaining different from the rest of Canada.

We left town with a bottle of Mistaken Identity, a local wine we picked up at the Upper Ganges Liquor Store. I’m not sure if it was the fact that we paid $25 for it instead of our usual wine allowance of $8, but to us, this wine was ambrosia to the gods, sucked down way too soon. To walk off our slight drowsiness, we strolled to the ocean, where we met a fellow with a top hat named Salt Spring Matthew. Spinning a yarn like a sea captain, Matthew explained his crab-catching ways, complete with a Pabst Blue Ribbon in hand, while we waited in silence just to try and get a word in edgewise. Surprisingly, by the end of the conversation, he offered us accommodation in his backyard anytime we came to the island. Though we will always decline this offer, I will forever have kind thoughts of a drunken sailor who was born in the wrong era. By the end of this trip, my boyfriend and I talked about buying a café and living with Salt Spring Matthew until we had enough money to rent a house.

So when I’m up worrying at night, stressing about finishing grad school, finding a job, and buying a house, I think back to my nonsensical plan of owning a discotheque or living with Salt Spring Matthew. These things are crazy when I’m in Victoria, but while on Salt Spring Island, it seems like anything is possible—even the ludicrous can become reality.