We have just returned from a summer vacation in Florida. This is the first time since I was seventeen years old that I have taken a summer holiday. Granted there may have been holidays when I returned home from university but those so-called vacations were really nothing more than blank time between summer jobs and returning to school. As I said, the last time I recall a true summer holiday was the summer I spent on the Costa Brava in Spain, then Paris, France and Stockholm, Sweden when I was seventeen years old.
In this instance our original plan had been to go to Shediac, New Brunswick during the same two-week period at the beginning of July. This direction was primarily because my late father was from New Brunswick and I have for years harboured some regret at not having acquainted myself with his roots. However our penchant for Fort Lauderdale (which we have visited several times before) won the day when we reasoned the likelihood of encountering masses of families with children on the northern Atlantic seaboard. It turns out we were wrong about the distinction as the resort in Florida was surprisingly popular with families (and their horrid children).
In any event the southern detour was not without its compensating moments. I refer specifically to the epiphany I experienced upon the day of our departure from Fort Lauderdale. In our customary anxiety to get on with things we found ourselves putting suitcases into the trunk of the car at the front door of the resort at 1:30 a.m. on Friday, July 18th. This early hour activity is amusingly not unusual for us when once we have set our collective mind to a task. As we quietly made our way out of Fort Lauderdale and onto the Interstate 95 North my mind for some reason turned to a contemplation of my candidacy in the upcoming municipal election. This was a concern which had preoccupied me since I filed my nomination papers with the Clerk of the Town on April 30th last. Perhaps the recent weeks spent swimming in the warm Atlantic waters, the leisurely evening meals and the days spent at the spa and in the sun all combined to remind me of the pleasures of the southerly climate generally. And more especially to remind me of my dread of Canadian winters. In addition I had lately been warned by the Town Clerk and those familiar with municipal matters generally that the agenda for new Councillors is particularly onerous during the first few months after the election (which is to be held on October 27th next). Along the way I had made some casual investigations about the cost of flying back from the south to attend Council meetings; the initial enquiries were not encouraging.
I should add that this past January we had booked two months on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. These arrangements were subsequently abruptly reversed after I announced my candidacy for election and indeed upon our request our full account payment was returned to us. As we drove north from Florida I was overcome with the silliness of what I had precipitated. It may also have helped sober me on the point that only days before I had resigned my tenure as a columnist with the Millstone News (our local electronic newspaper) upon discovery that either no one or very few were reading what I had worked so hard to write. The effect of that revelation was a combination of disappointment and recognition that I had successfully deceived myself into thinking I had any special literary talent to offer. The effect of it was to estrange me from anything which depended upon public approbation. The resulting seclusion caused me to rethink other important matters in my life and to reassess what was important to me and to me alone. I realized that being on Hilton Head Island in the winter was something I had long anticipated and I decided in a flash that I wasn’t about to let it slip through my fingers a second time. While driving out of Florida on that dark early morning road I telephoned Shawna Stone, Clerk to advise that I was withdrawing my nomination for election.
The obvious corollary to this seemingly hurried decision was a call to our estate agent on Hilton Head Island. I reiterated our desire to secure a tenancy of the same home. When that was done we made the concerted decision to detour Georgia and drive instead to Hilton Head Island to settle the matter in person. Since we had left Fort Lauderdale so early in the morning we were on Hilton Head Island by approximately one o’clock in the afternoon. Denis insisted that we get some lunch before directing ourselves to the estate agent. We ended by going to Signes, our favourite spot for lemon crumble squares among other things. Actually I am mistaken about the order of things. We went to the Marriott resort and spa in Palmetto Dunes first, only to discover that there was virtually no accommodation on the entire Island. It was only with luck and the gratuitous interference of the Marriott front desk clerk that we secured a place nearby (and to which we shall never return).
All this is by way of preamble. What has significantly transpired in this short space of time is that I have transformed my project of living from a remake of the standard career model to a veritable retirement scheme. In an instant I have cut myself loose from commitment and obligation. In retrospect I see that at the beginning of the New Year (2014) things were happening so fast on the heels of the sale of the office building that I hadn’t allowed myself time to digest my rapidly unfolding affairs. My anticipated retirement from the practice of law went from a target date of November 30, 2014 to March 31, 2014. Commensurately the office was precipitously shut down and files transferred to my successor. On January 1st we hadn’t given any thought whatever to the sale of our house; yet within about fifteen days it was sold and we had effected the ultimate “downsize” including the disposition of tons of surplus stuff we had accumulated for years. The metaphorical nature of the purge was not lost upon us. Yet in the heat of the moment I clung to the former need to “do something” which inevitably translated into something I characterized as “productive”. When therefore several of my colleagues suggested I throw my hat into the election arena I fell for the confidence and mistakenly took up the challenge without a great deal of thought. In many ways it is an ideal time of my life to undertake public office. If nothing else it was an opportunity to use my knowledge of the area to good purpose. But the project collided with what our other plans. Suddenly I was reminded of those plans and I began the immediate withdrawal from the election campaign.
Now that we have returned to Almonte and now that our destiny is set in stone, my peripheral affairs have correspondingly readjusted. For example I have given notice of my retirement from the Committee of Adjustment of which I am a member. My tenure as a Director of the Mississippi River Power Corporation is conveniently about to expire as the Town has already given notice that original Directors such as myself are to be retired after having been on the Board since its creation in 2000. When I collated all this information I could see that my official duties had nicely dovetailed into imminent obscurity. In my usual way I view this as serendipitous if indeed not auspicious. All said it was a good summer holiday.