Living as we do in this comparatively small apartment – small, that is, compared to a four-bedroom house – would for most people be considered either a step down or an inconvenient accommodation. Whether because I grew up in the beehive of a boarding school or whether I am so constituted that I prefer manageable spaces (possibly an extension of my supreme desire to control my environment) I cannot say; but of this I am certain, these digs are possibly the most agreeable I have inhabited. If I reflect upon the tiny burrows where I’ve hung my hat in the past – for example the cubicle in the men’s residence at Glendon Hall, Toronto where I studied Philosophy; the room with the slanted ceilings on the third floor of Domus Legis on Seymour Street in Halifax when I attended law school; the apartment we had in the By Ward Market with a working fireplace; and my marginally larger first house on St. George Street in Almonte – while they each had their peculiar charm, none of them competed with the brightness of our apartment. Because we occupy a corner unit on the top floor of the building facing southwest, and because there are windows on two sides of the apartment, we have the singular advantage of daylight from multiple sides of the building. This contributes astonishingly to the vibrancy of the setting and further captures varying breezes which dreamily billow the sheers.
From the moment we settled here I have been unreservedly content. The wide doors and airy, sunny atmosphere immediately grew on me. The unqualified utility of everything appeases my sense of rationality. Although I wouldn’t have thought it possible, my level of satisfaction has recently been bumped up more than a notch or two. On the heels of my mother’s move from her two-storey house to a retirement residence, my sister and I have absorbed many of mother’s surplus possessions, objects which for one reason or another are not suitable for her compact apartment. As you might expect we have preserved only the pick of the lot and abandoned the rest for sale to a second-hand dealer in Smiths Falls. The selection of the finest items is consistent with what motivated us upon our own downsizing expedition. The very desirable result is that we have maintained a collection of only our favourite and most valuable possessions. While my sister was able to incorporate many of mother’s furnishings (having discarded her own by choice), we were largely restricted to decorative items as we had already purged our furniture and were not inclined to go any further. We have added to our inventory a number of artifacts which include a tiny antique (1890) silver figurine, several original oil paintings, a 100-year old Persian rug, a crystal decanter, a Sligh grandfather clock, a wooden encased wall-mounted barometer and – our one concession to furniture – a miniature mahogany set of drawers. The addition of these articles to our already congested dwelling precipitated certain requisite relocations and we were even obliged to unload one of our Oriental rugs (which we bequeathed to my sister). As for our belongings, they have the air of being bountiful (though I am certain there are those who would label our humble rooms full to bursting or perhaps something less incriminating like profuse). For my part, I am reminded of the reclusive den of the Count of Monte Cristo.
It is not insignificant that I attach extraordinary meaning to this resort called home. Its utter lavishness and convenience (including in particular my uninhibited access to a computer to compose my daily ramblings) afford me what I consider the height of luxury; and equally weighty is that, having retired from the practice of law, I now have the privilege to relish our pied-à-terre throughout the day. This seemingly small compliment is a considerable improvement of the mere glance to which I was formerly accustomed. This prerogative symbolizes my withdrawal from the less engaging (though more demanding) duties of my professional avocation (including the human relationships that went with it). Certainly my former occupation was rewarding but nothing surpasses the unalloyed freedom of retirement!
As I strengthen my immoderation in the hedonism of my cherished things and habits and allow myself the leisurely dalliance of aimless literary composition, an odd development has transpired. There has been a commensurate depletion of my former social congresses. While I have somewhat painfully come to recognize that the attrition of those associations is entirely natural and to be expected, I confess that my initial reaction was one of deprivation and even a remorseful feeling of having been the object of deceit. It is so terribly easy to confuse the visceral vacillations of society with reasoned choice and deliberation. Who among us can resist the gravity of social status and superior connections? Who wouldn’t at least consider nurturing an alliance with one’s business associates? Yet similarly who can argue against the absence of such vigour when the cause of it has evaporated? All this is to say that lately I have had sufficient foundation to rethink the merit of certain erstwhile confederacies. As with any alliance, once the appetite for it is diminished the thrust is exhausted. My changing needs have redirected my mind.
I am at last free to devote my intellectual capacity to an analysis of what is dearest to me, the unrestricted and frequently vapid ideas that daily percolate, the possessions in which I have invested so much time, interest and money, and the simple pleasures of reading improving literature and listening to clever music. Setting myself adrift has meant the breaking of some ties but I am convinced that the time of life demands it. Quite simply put, I am one happy cave dweller!