Elie and I recently spent a long weekend with family on Salt Spring Island, lucking into blissfully warm days filled with blue skies. We took our car over on the ferry from Tsawwassen, which is a gorgeous passage through the Gulf Islands. When you live in the Pacific Northwest, you start to take its beauty for granted. But if you pause and view the scenery from the eyes of visitors—like we do Kauai or Santorini or Paris—it’s awesome in the most literal sense of the word.
The trip was bittersweet. While we enjoyed a relaxing, peaceful weekend with people we love, the island is also the place where Elie’s sister, Ava, passed away. Everyone who knew Ava described her as someone with a big smile and an even bigger heart—a beautiful, sensitive soul. She worked as a grant writer for an animal rescue organization and had a particular love for sea otters. After her passing, the family donated money to the organization to build an otter sanctuary to help heal wounded or abandoned animals. We went to visit the sanctuary, the first time Elie’s dad had been there since Ava’s death. I never met Ava, but I could feel her presence there, in the quiet shade of the fir trees, and my heart hurt for her life, cut so tragically short.
It’s a hard transition to talk of life from death, but let’s do it. Because especially in the shadow of Robin William’s passing, I feel acutely aware that we must cherish the time we spend with the people we love and to communicate to them clearly—and often—how important they are in our lives.
We spent the weekend on Salt Spring with my Mom and her friend, my father-in-law, Moe, and a family friend and her daughter. Together, we boated, explored, relaxed and laughed as the four-year-old made friends with every child (and many adults) she encountered and danced at every opportunity. Being with a child is the best reminder of the joy we receive from putting aside our insecurities about how we may be perceived and living purely in the moment. Actually, living with Elie reminds of the same thing. It is the part of him I first fell in love with—his ability to be completely comfortable in his own skin and to live his life with joy.
There is so much joy to be found in life.
Here are a few recommendations to get you started in planning your visit to Salt Spring Island. In the meantime, consider calling someone you haven’t talked to in a while and telling them how much they mean to you.
A Guide to Salt Spring Island
Where to Eat
We had several lovely meals at Harbour House. They get much of their ingredients from their on-site farm (which you can tour), and the rest is sourced from local farms. If it’s nice weather, sit outside on the deck before the sun goes down and the evening chill sets in.
What to Do
Definitely don’t miss the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Ganges. Give yourself several hours to explore—it’s spectacular. The strawberries from Foxglove Farm were some of the best we’ve ever eaten, and I fell in love with the cow’s milk cheeses from Moonstruck and the goat’s milk cheeses from Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. Talk with artisans about their work—all artists must live on Salt Spring Island, make their wares themselves, and be at the market to sell it themselves. We learned a lot about turning arbutus into bowls.
Wander through the art galleries in Ganges.
You’ll also be rewarded for venturing beyond Ganges. Driving along the wooded coastal roads, it’s hard to imagine professions exist here other than farmer, craftsman or chef. At almost every turn, you’ll find a roadside honor bakestand or farmstand, or a gallery tucked behind a screen of arbutus and fir.
Go for a hike. There are many to choose from (maps are available at all hotels), and most will lead you to a beach where you can picnic or swim.
If you have an extra afternoon to spare, you can take a water taxi to Saturna Island. Take a 10 – 15 minute walk up the road to have lunch at the Saturna Island Family Estate Winery. It has beautiful views and a small menu featuring local produce, cheeses and meats.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Foxglove Farm, a working 120-acre organic farm and education center owned by husband and wife team Michael Ableman and Jeanne Marie Herman. They have a few rooms in the main house and a couple of cabins. The rooms and cabins are rustic and charming, and we enjoyed our stay very much. Just bring your own toiletries and expect it to operate more like a vacation rental than a bed and breakfast.