We’ve had a flash rainstorm in the Fraser Valley after weeks of blazing sun and uncommonly hot 30 plus degree days. The grass in my front yard is an unearthly shade of burnt umber. It looks like an African Savannah, I half expect to see wild boars and hyenas chasing prey across the cul de sac. My four a/c’s and five fans have helped in abating the apocalyptic heat, but most days I’ve melted into the couch, dreaming of the bright, cool air of Spring.
I was looking back through some Spring pics this morning; a trip my brother, sister in law, daughter and I took to Mayne Island earlier this year. We stayed for a couple of days with my cousin in his tree house overlooking the ocean, collecting clams on the beach, eating fresh, beer battered cod and catching up on the twenty years it’s been since we all last got together. Someone might even have pulled out a pipe with a little homegrown to go along with the view and conversation.
My side of the family are oddballs. Hippies, seekers, escapists, artists and fishermen who find, or perhaps lose themselves in remote places. We pick up after decades as if no time has passed and joke about how it has. The only thing that seems different is how much older we look to each other. We have such a good time together, we enthusiastically plan future reunions that most likely will never happen. More probably, we will retreat back into our own worlds, revisiting memories with affection; hiding away like hermit crabs.
Mayne Island is breathtaking in its wild, remote beauty. It’s home to a small community of 1,100 full-time residents, a refuge for introverts, organic gardeners, glass blowers and writers. Even the summer months see only a small percentage of visitors to the island. We left the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal on a stormy March morning, and arrived to sunshine on the other side. The Gulf Islands enjoy 30% less rain than the mainland, which makes it seem much further away than it really is.
The Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal is surprisingly welcoming. Lined with gourmet bakeries, coffee, jewelry and art shops, it’s a pleasant prelude to the short 45 minute ferry ride. We stopped for vanilla & chai tea lattes, seated on tall stools across long pine tables. I ran into an old friend and her daughter on their way to a Salt Spring Island retreat. Little indulgences and surprises all become part of the unexpected magic of a trip.
On the other side, we met up with my cousin. I’m pretty sure our last get together was at a wake, so it was good to connect on a happier note. After much bear hugging, back slapping and unsuccessful flat tire fixing at the town’s only gas station, we headed out into the bush. The winding paved roads gave way to gravel before approaching my cousin’s tree house. I suppose it isn’t really a tree house, but rather a sprawling bungalow with a top floor addition. The bachelor suite addition where my cousin lives, sits high amongst the cedars and eagle nests overlooking the ocean and the Gulf Islands. It’s one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen. I would surely live upstairs also if I owned such a place. An artist or writer’s loft above the treetops is such a romantic notion.
They say you can see everything there is to see on Mayne Island in a day, and that may be true. But you certainly can’t experience it without a few days to ease into island time. The tapestry of island life is different. The days are marked by the growing foliage, whether the clams are stuck to the rocks (and thus not ready to be harvested) and the deer droppings on the front lawn. Neighboring dogs are welcomed like visiting emissaries. The daily itinerary is set around delivering some of last night’s fish and chip dinner to 90 year old Mabel, who lives next door. Even though Mabel’s sort of out of it, it makes her day and that’s what matters. Maybe even share a noon time corona with her family while you’re at it.
It’s important living on an island that’s only serviced by ferry twice daily, to own the tools of self-sufficiency. My cousin’s hydraulic pump came in handy fixing the flat tire on my car and his espresso machine pumped us up with the necessary fuel for a day’s jaunt into town. “Town” is a library, a hardware outlet, a gas station (whose air pump doesn’t work) a grocery store and a coffee shop where the locals gather to catch up with each other. The very effusive grocery boy, who’s also the town mechanic will fix your car for a case of Blue. “But”, we were forewarned, “Don’t make eye contact or we’ll be here all day.”
A trip to the island wouldn’t be complete without some beach combing, light house gazing and a seafood lunch at the local golf course. I can’t even remember what we did afterwards, but it likely included socializing with the neighbor’s dog, potting some strange island plants – which are now growing as a mini ecosystem complete with weeds in pots on my back deck – and maybe a bit of afternoon napping. Followed with more food, tales of India, Osho and lots of gut splitting laughter.
All too soon, the weekend was over and we headed back to the drizzle of the mainland. But these kind of trips, the ones where you kick back with people you love and don’t do much of anything, leave you with a sense of family history, renewal and connected-ness. There’s much to be said for short getaways and simple pleasures.