Growing up at the Centre
When I was six, we moved back from Seattle to our house on Salt Spring, about ten minutes away from the Centre, part way up Mount Maxwell. After our move back, the Centre became a constant fixture in my life – from spending the night at the Centre for Shiva Ratri when I was six, to attending almost every single annual family yoga retreat (I’ve missed approximately four in my life) – we were Centre regulars.
My first memory of both Salt Spring and of the Centre is of meeting Sammy (then Gauthier-Depledge, now Vendargon) late summer 1989 in the Centre parking lot. We were both six, and were both attending first grade at the Centre School in the fall. I don’t remember the details, but remember deciding Sammy was a friend. Many years later, we are still friends, so my instincts were good!
First grade at the Centre School was wonderful. Usha taught us to read, write, and solve interpersonal problems by talking about it in a group circle instead of resorting to the rough justice often meted out in elementary schoolyards. Sharada taught us Art, and taught the older kids. I made a number of friends in first grade at the Centre school who remain friends to this day, including Jeramiah Morris, and Sammy.
I participated in my first protest at the Centre during first grade: all the kids protested the barn being torn down. We had a busy market in the barn selling hand made items (mostly “burritos” made of salal) in exchange for brick dust (the currency of choice), and removal of the barn was an insult to this burgeoning market economy. Unfortunately, as is often the case with direct action, our protest fell on sympathetic ears but the barn still was torn down.
Another (retrospective) highlight at the Centre was Halloween of either 1989 or 1990 when Sammy, Mason (my brother) and I dressed as Ram, Sita, and Laksman for Halloween. The costumes were a hit at the Centre, but very confusing to our elderly neighbours. Mostly, the neighbours couldn’t understand why I was painted blue (I was Ram).
I left the Centre school after first grade to attend almost every other school on Saltspring, both alternative and otherwise. I returned in grade 7 or 8, and was put into Ompk’s (Mark Classen’s) class. This was lucky for me, but probably unlucky for him as I was peaking in terms of teen snarkiness (sorry Om PK).
Whether or not I was attending the Centre School, I participated every year in the annual Centre production of the Ramayana. The players were all kids, but the production was organized by dedicated adults at the Centre. The Ramayana provided entertainment and structure to the long summers on Salt Spring: I graduated from being a little monkey, to playing Guha when I was 16 or 17 in one of the final productions of the Ramayana. Each year the Ramayana got more and more extravagant, and more fun.*
The latter part of my life at the Centre has revolved around attending the Family Yoga Retreat every year. I now bring my husband Oliver, son Devon (3 ½), (and new baby this year) to the Retreat. Seeing Devon running around the Centre grounds makes me nostalgic for my idyllic childhood. The Retreat is also an informal family reunion, where I can see all my Centre family who I often don’t see for the rest of the year.
Much love to all my Centre family, and I will see you at the Retreat this year!
*I’m not volunteering to put on the Ramayana this year, just in case anyone asks.