This is Ruckle Farm, my touchstone, not Stowel Lake
Two weeks ago I spent time back on Salt Spring visiting the idyllic Stowel Lake Organic Farm, Community and Retreat Centre to write a story for Aqua magazine. Three families make up the core of the residents who have made a conscious decision to live together on a large piece of property (115 acres), to farm organically, and to offer weekly classes and longer retreats related to personal and spiritual development. Twenty-two adults and 10 children, one Au Pair, a lead farmer and undoubtedly others who have roles in what some would call an intentional community, but they would be unlikely to refer to in that way, live there.
The property was originally purchased back in 1973 by a leading lady and mother to one of the younger generation. In 1996, she received an inheritance which I’m just guessing was relatively substantial. I’m guessing that it’s unlikely that these 12 adults and their children could all live off the profits of growing vegetables or hosting retreats. One of the husband’s runs his own company – Guayaki-brand Yerba Mate, the other works at Vancouver island University. The third works full time on the farm. It’s a safe bet to state that the interpersonal and economic realities of these Thirty-somethings and their children would be significantly leaner without each other and without the elder who decided that sharing her life with this younger generation was a smart idea.
I walked away that day with two main thoughts. The first was that it’s totally within the realm of possibility for every one of us to think a lot more consciously about lifestyle, about how and where we choose to live in an attempt to achieve a lifestyle that is surely going to bring us closer to self actualization. My second thought was Holy Shit, look at how I’m living. I’m single, middle aged, and living in an apartment that does not provide me with any of the things that typically lead to wellness. It feels like that movie Groundhog Day. I am back exactly where I was before I left to live on Salt Spring, except this time with the knowledge and experience of a different lifestyle; the one I had there that seemed to suit me better where career and the material were secondary to lifestyle, except even then, income, the ability to generate enough money, always the ultimate dictator of choice it would seem.
One of the things I am desperately missing about Salt Spring is how much I was able to wander, in my own company, with my camera and be intimately connected to the natural world on a daily basis. I had no idea how much that mattered to me. Now that I don’t have that and don’t do it, I realize what a significant a part of my life that was. It wasn’t just about getting outside into a forest or along a shoreline. It was about what it allowed for me, mentally, emotionally, spiritually; a relationship I got to have with myself that was a direct consequence of my immersion in a place that was green and quiet and where I could go to places that had very few others around.
Now, I’m more likely to be surrounded by concrete, where the view is of other apartments right outside my windows or too much time spent on the Skytrain going back and forth to Vancouver to socialize. Sure, I could drive 20 minutes to some trail for a walk but the thing is, here, that’s always accompanied by so many other people and for me, for some reason, being alone in a natural environment, to be able to wander, to really look at things and take it all in without having other people around was, I’m now realizing, the crux of the experience for me.
When I moved to Salt Spring in 2008, I couldn’t articulate it then but my emotional well being was pushing me towards a lifestyle that my creative self needed. Now, full circle, I’m wondering how I’m ever going to re-create that for myself in the city with the subtext of another life running interference.