Have you noticed anything different about the island lately? If your answer is no, take a walk, ride or drive around the rock, especially concentrating on the commercial areas in and around Ganges, and keep your visual senses wide open. Surely you must see it now.
It’s the colour grey. It’s infiltrating the buildings and structures of our island. It’s advancing slowly but steadily. You can see it on the exterior walls of condos, banks, government offices, stores, supermarkets, and even park benches. You’ll look at some storefront that you’ve walked by a thousand times before and think to yourself that you don’t remember it being grey. That’s what I mean . . . it’s insidious. Grey. As if six months of rain and overcast, cloudy skies wasn’t enough. Just the thought of it makes you want to turn your collar up and point your body into the nearest warmth. I mean, why do so many of us leave the island in the winter and head for sunnier, vibrant climes? It’s to avoid the grey!
Yes, we are witnessing a sneaky transformation. It probably started a few years ago with that upscale condo development near the mouth of Ganges Harbour, named Grace Point (or perhaps we should call it Grey’s Point). That was the first volley in what we now call “the greying of Salt Spring.” It’s our own version of “50 shades of grey” but somewhat less titillating than the original. Whoever is responsible for this extreme makeover probably received their architecture design degree from the University of Ikea.
Remember when Salt Spring was full of colour? Do you recall the rich earthy tones? The warm terra cottas and soft salmony accents that transported you mentally to a small fishing village in Guatamala? Or perhaps the wild, crazy purples and oranges that psychedelicized you back to the Haight-Ashbury ‘60s?
It’s not that I have anything personally against the colour grey. I grew up in a little suburban grey stucco bungalow. I used to own a compact grey Renault station wagon. You can find me sometimes standing outside in a grey winter storm staring up at the steady grey drizzle. Maybe a cussword or two will escape from my moistened lips, but more often than not, I’m willing to forgive our forsaken skyscape.
Some people don’t have a problem with grey. It’s a nice, conservative colour. It has a calming, neutral effect on its surroundings. If grey was a country, it would be called Switzerland. But say, wasn’t The Wizard of Oz shot in black and white (meaning grey) until it turned a glorious technicolour when Dorothy landed in Oz? Colour equals magic!
There’s more to this story, however. When it comes to the greying of Salt Spring, it’s not just the colour of the buildings that is changing the identity of the island. No, it’s the aging population (of which yours truly is a prime example) that is adding to the greying hue. With the realization that people are living longer while the birth rate is in decline, our society has reached the tipping point where seniors now outnumber children. A walk down any aisle of your supermarket of choice will drive home the point: the hair colour you are most likely to encounter, if there is any hair at all, will be some shade of grey.
Those baby boomers among us are leading the procession. Gone are the mislaid fantasies of staying young and flexible by working out at the fitness centre. Most of us can’t even remember whether or not we’ve let our gym memberships expire. We’ve lowered our expectations to the point where, with telescopic walking poles firmly in hand, we shuffle forward in an attempt to meet our daily 10,000-step quota. As we carefully watch each footfall we remain focused and mindful of our mantra (Ow) which addresses the cosmic question as to whether or not we are likely to outlive our retirement savings.
Mind you, we the “greys” of Salt Spring, still endeavour to make ourselves useful. We may have become a drain on the medical resources here, but we still maintain that we are capable of some aspects of physical activity, such as gardening. Granted, the ground seems much farther away now than it did when we were younger, and getting back up on our feet from our knees requires the skill, balance and agility of the Flying Wallendas.
Not everything has changed though. Much of our conversations still revolve around drugs. Except instead of comparing our experiences with weed, stimulants and psychedelics, we now exchange anecdotal stories about statins, blood thinners, Advil and puffers for asthma.
The only part of us that isn’t getting any greyer is the grey matter in our brains. An MRI of the brain may show an encroaching white plaque taking over. I wish I could tell you which body functions might be affected by this whiteout, but I’m afraid that part of my memory has caught the last ferry off the island. Gone. Zippo.
There’s an old joke about a senior who was trying to straighten out the wrinkles in his stockings until he realized he wasn’t wearing any. If I had a dollar for every wrinkle on my skin and a nickel for each grey hair on my scalp and in my beard, I would buy a tanker load of the most cheerful rainbow colours and paint the town red and every other bright pigment that exists on this planet. You can bet that grey would not be one of my choices.
Nobody asked me, but there must be a way to halt this greying of Salt Spring. Even if we can’t stop it completely, maybe we can just slow it down enough so that we can still continue to use and appreciate all the other colours in the miraculous spectrum.
If you are one of those who will miss the poignant subtleties of the colour grey, take this bit of advice from a grey geezer: I love sour cream and I love gravy. But if you mix the two together, you will not like the resulting grey-vy.