Ten Minutes from Home   (12.06.05)

A country lane near home

I seem to be living a dream these days.  I have finally determined that living in the country is what I have wanted most of my life.  Thank goodness that I’m almost doing it now, albeit in my golden years. 

I say, almost, because this home of ours is definitely in an urban landscape.  There are no septic fields, no water wells, no propane tank outside the back door for heating, no power lines stretched across the front drive leading from a transformer mounted on a power pole, no lightning arresters on the roof, and no gravel roads leading up to our door.  Most people here don’t step out their door in the morning to walk to the barn to work.  Many step into their cars in their double car garage and back out early in the morning for their daily commute to the city – Calgary.

But there are differences – nice differences.

Most noteworthy are the people.  In the smaller towns like Cochrane there are fewer strangers.  Part of this is statistical, there is a smaller population so you tend to see the same people more often; but then there is still the small town approach with respect to contact with others to be noticed.  There is almost always a smile and a greeting from anyone to whom you look at and offer a smile.  Many will stop and talk, just for the sake of getting to know you.  The coffee house community is another pleasure that we weren’t expecting.  It is cosy and communal.  There we find many unique people with skills and knowledge that cover a breadth of subjects, and most seem to have the time to sit and talk.  What is more, I can find these individuals in their favourite place almost every day of the week and at the same time.  I’ve learned a lot from these folk already and I’m sure there is more to come.

Another discovery is the amount of time I’ve gained back in my life.  This happens daily.  I can get almost everything I need in the town and any place I need to go is literally five minutes away.  If I’m on my bike, maybe 20 minutes away, but then I’m getting some exercise as well.  I estimate that I gain about an hour each day and some days more.  That accumulates to roughly 400 hours in a year.  My old self would have been anxiously trying to fill that time with something to do, but in my fully retired mode there is a voice that keeps saying, “Just relax, Jack.  Look around, smell the air, meet new people and engage.”  So, that is what I’m doing and it feels good.

Then there is the propinquity to the countryside.  This is where the ‘ten minutes from home’ comes from.  Within ten minutes of driving I can be in a country lane, far removed from any urban ambience.  That brings me a bit closer to my dream and I find that good for my soul.

I was in the city the other day and actually noticed the smell of the air.  Mind you, I was driving along a main street so there were lots of vehicles making exhaust fumes, but it was a new awareness for me.  When I lived in the city, I never noticed this smell.  From time to time I could see the pollution in the sky, especially when there was an inversion, but the constant impure odour – no, I never noticed.  I can’t help but remember one of my first visits to a doctor in Manchester, England in 1966.  I had moved to that huge, industrial city after spending most of my life in Calgary, then a small city of 250 to 300 thousand.  He inspected my throat, nose, and ears, and then stood back and looked at me for a second before saying, “I can certainly tell you weren’t brought up in this place.”

Leslie and I are looking forward to our first summer in our new house and in our new town.  We are not going away on any significant trip.  As Cochrane neophytes, we are going to take in all the town events over the summer and fall, and do a lot more ten-minute adventures into the countryside.  Maybe by the end of 2012 we can finally say that we’ve fully arrived.