After almost a month of dense, polluted air and clouded views, the fog rolled in late Friday evening, finally clearing the south coast’s skies of smoke. The classic coastal breeze is back to refresh the souls of Sooke, and brought back my wanderlust with it.
I find it amazing how the island renewed my passion for nature. I was always outdoorsy, often choosing time spent alone outside over hanging out with friends as a kid. But something happened when I hit highschool, and battling through my struggles with depression and anxiety led to me spending most of my time inside, behind a screen, trying desperately to numb my mind of the self-torturous thoughts that brutalized my conscience. I would often look out the window longingly, wishing I had the reason to go outside and do something.
That feeling still haunts me occasionally.
Living on Vancouver Island is a bit of a double edged sword: on the one hand, it seems there’s always something to do outdoors here, no matter the weather. On the other hand, though, it’s extremely depressing to not have the resources to do all the adventurous things there are to do. Unless you know someone who has a lot of money or you have a lot of money yourself, your options start to narrow quickly.
The summer is time for luxury here on the island, especially in areas like Sooke. The population of tiny towns doubles or triples during the tourist season. The narrow country highways become congested with convertibles and SUV’s more expensive than my home (though that may not be saying much?) instead of the beat-up trucks and 80’s throwback surfer vans that coasted town to town year round. Those who can afford to live here during the most expensive time of year can usually afford the more luxe pastimes, toting their various types of equipment around with them – bikes, boats, you name it – while the rest of us wait for October to roll around so we can have campfires again.
Despite this disparity, the minute I step outside I find myself content once again. I have no idea why, I swear there is something in that fresh Canadian air that is absolutely intoxicating. Whether I’m walking to work or going out on a hike, I feel it every day, and it keeps me grounded. If ever my stress levels are rising to high, there’s nothing in the world that fights it better than a walk down to the beach, taking off my shoes, and allowing myself to sink into the soaking sand and letting the waves lap around my ankles. Hell, just take a seat on a rock or some driftwood somewhere and just listen to the sounds of the sea, let the breeze invigorate the soul, and experience pure bliss.
It takes me back to being a kid, the way I would ground myself by stepping out of my shoes and socks, and into the rich Algonquin earth. Bringing only the most spiritual of my friends back to that bush behind my parent’s place to experience the earthly grounding for themselves, I shared that ritual with very few people. Now, living on an island filled with people who share that very same outdoor spirituality is yet another way Van Isle hit the refresh button on my geekiness for nature.
I know I will return to Ontario, even if just for visits, but when I do, I hope this renewal spreads over there, too. Seeing the beauty I grew up with from a distance stirs up a mixed pot of emotions; homesickness, nostalgia, regret. I wish I had realized the benefits the great outdoors presents to the mentally ill when my mental illness affected me the most. I still found spirituality elsewhere, but I was not meeting the minimum requirement. All the beauty of the 1000 islands, farms that stretched into the beyond so you couldn’t see the far fenceline, the rolling hills of southern Ontario throughout the seasons; draped in snow, blooming wildly, changing colours. I grew up in a beautiful corner of the world, and me and my mental illness took it for granted. Now that I’ve been away from everything familiar for almost a year, I understand the strength of my passion, and how I can use it to my advantage. My desire to be outside is powerful enough to knock down my depression and anxiety and say,
Today, we’re going hiking.
The fog rolled in, and it cleared my mind too.