The Town of Almonte

Whenever I contemplate living somewhere other than Almonte I invariably recoil. Here’s a list of why:

.  Almonte General Hospital;
.  Lab Testing;
.  doctors, lawyers, accountants;
.  dentists;
.  optometrists;
.  audiologists;
.  chiropractors;
.  massage therapists;
.  churches;
.  chartered banks;
.  grocery stores;
.  hardware store;
.  bicycle shop;
.  LCBO (liquor store);
.  beer store;
.  retail;
.  restaurants;
.  B&Bs;
.  Mississippi River;
.  Ottawa Valley Trail;
.  Elizabeth Kelly Library and Foundation;
.  service groups;
.  Canadian Legion and Masonic fraternity;
.  museums;
.  hockey rink;
.  curling rink;
.  Mississippi Golf Club;
.  Old Town Hall (with theatre and Steinway grand piano);
.  parks, alameda and riparian walkways;
.  retirement home and town houses; and,
.  nearby Ottawa (north), Perth (South), Arnprior (west) and Manotick (east).

To be truthful, the only reason I even contemplate relocating is my passion for the sea – in particular, the Atlantic Ocean. I reiterate my decision to study law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia rather than at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, Ontario. My father was of New Brunswick stock. Try as I might to quell my affection for the sea by the comparing it to the Mississippi River that flows through our entire County of Lanark, there simply is no comparison of the Atlantic Ocean whether on a calm day when the sun glistens across the rolling expanse or on a blustery day when the dark sea is chopped by thousands upon thousands of white caps. Against this incomparable imagery I force myself to be reminded of the utter convenience of living here.

This morning while bicycling on the Ottawa Valley Trail that passes through the centre of town – and pointedly overlooking the Mississippi River as it passes the Old Town Hall – I encountered Rickey Minnille, the Deputy Mayor of the Town of Mississippi Mills, on his electric bike. We instantly engaged in shop talk about electric bikes. I have known His Worship for almost four decades.  His father (who I believe was called “Rocky”) and mother were practically celebrities in Town when I arrived here in June of 1976. It speaks to the strength of the Town that both Rickey and his sister had successful business undertakings here and are among the better known and more active members of the community.

Naturally there are many other familiarities which insinuate the past 45 years here.  Admittedly though my acquaintances have diminished since I retired from the practice of law. But overall I still feel very much “at home” in this environment almost to the point of ownership or entitlement. Most certainly there is a shield of security which abounds.

The only other possibility I have considered is Newfoundland which attracts me because it is an island in the North Atlantic. Its seclusion and coastal dominance win me over.

Living as we do in a situation which is highly mobile enables us to have these ephemeral ambitions. Neither of us is hopelessly tied to family though we are currently spoiled having everyone who matters within 45 Kms. There may come a time when having family to rely upon is a necessity, another of the so-called collaterals of old age. Indeed if we were to keep things simple the greatest adventure abroad we’d consider would be Florida because it is well situated and lovely, we’re accustomed to the trip there and back by car, the harmony with Americans is sous entendu, the health and commercial expressions are comparative and reliable.

I for one haven’t the energy for any other transition. The capacity for change is very much guided by practicality. The thought of going to New Zealand has from time to time appeared on the horizon. We have friends there.  As well as in Australia.  Our friends speak glowingly of both countries; they’re all Canadian; and none of them has any regrets about having relocated. Nonetheless I cling to my heartfelt imperative to “listen to my instincts” which tell me to stay put.

This is not to suggest for a second that I haven’t an unfettered acclaim for this little town of about 5,000 total. When I came here in 1976 the population was around 4,500.  We’re not considered a hub for big-box stores. But there is noticeably an influx of people who seem set upon living the usual country life of friendliness and cooperation. Many of them have constructed grand homes along the Mississippi River.

“Whatever patriotic feeling he (William Henry, Prince of Orange Nassau) had was for Holland. There was the stately tomb where slept the great politician whose blood, whose name, whose temperament, and whose genius he had inherited. There the very sound of his title was a spell which had, through three generations, called forth the affectionate enthusiasm of boors and artisans. The Dutch language was the language of his nursery. Among the Dutch gentry he had chosen his early friends. The amusements, the architecture, the landscape of his native country, had taken hold on his heart. To her he turned with constant fondness from a prouder and fairer rival. In the gallery of Whitehall he pined for the familiar House in the Wood at the Hague, and never was so happy as when he could quit the magnificence of Windsor for his far humbler seat at Loo. During his splendid banishment it was his consolation to create round him, by building, planting, and digging, a scene which might remind him of the formal piles of red brick, of the long canals, and of the symmetrical flower beds amidst which his early life had been passed.”

Excerpt From: Thomas Babington Macaulay. “The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 2.”