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Salt Spring Island, BC 26 August 2015

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Island Mind

A very calm day, the first day in a week when we didn't need to get anywhere other than where we were. I was prepared to vegetate and watch the boats on channels below us, but Rochelle had a better idea, and so after a yummy fritata for breakfast and some delicious farro salad for lunch, we took a ride around the south end of Salt Spring Island, and a walk in Ruckle Provincial Park, where the pictures were taken.

Driving the narrow windy historical island roads put me to thinking about the changes that happen when people live on islands. It makes them more self-sufficient, of necessity. We experience this on the Mendocino Coast when the power fails, but also when we want something that only exists on the "other side."

In the extreme case (Hawaii) where one's island is thousands of miles from a mainland, self sufficiency can become complete, or one fails to adapt. Ask an adoptive Hawaiian if they mind the isolation, and they'll usually say "No." And then a few sentences later they admit they take a couple of trips a year to the Mainland. 

Salt Spring is not that far away from the bright lights, but the nearest ones, Victoria, are also on an island, only a bigger one. Last night we could see the lights of Vancouver to the northeast: two ferry rides and about three hours away.

Living on an island, one of the first things you figure out is that getting lost is harder. There's always water, no matter which way you travel. An island this size, it's not long from anywhere to anywhere else.

960 : 1141
<p>Beaver Point</p>

Beaver Point

On an island, the supply lines tend to shorten, while the skill-sets seem to broaden. All along the roads here, there are farm stands and little huts with produce and products for sale on the honor system. (Crime is not as much of a problem on an island. Where you gonna hide?) A typical sign says "Seasonal Produce -  Coffee - Eggs - Art" because on an island, you can't specialize the way so many do in cities. Islanders are generalists. It takes a city to enable narrow specialization and dependence on others for almost everything outside your own special product.

We stopped by Salt Spring Island Cheese Company only to find out that they make goats milk gelato, too. And they sell their neighbor's jams and olives.

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Island life requires toughness, because shocks to the system come from every direction. Urban life may be more dangerous – crime, speeding taxis, stressful work – but the wear and tear on an island is more pervasive. At the same time, surviving with a handicap is easier on an island.

This Madrone, at the extreme northern edge of its range, has been getting along fine despite the fact that one of its limbs and the heart of its trunk have been dead for decades.

Salt Springers write about the slower pace, the resonances of gentler times, and while that may be true, and we may feel it in Mendonesia as well, I think it's that flexibility we learn by being polymaths, practitioners of many trades but masters of none.

Suits me just fine. I could live here if I wasn't so happy in Caspar.

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