Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mulling Things Over

I had a Board meeting at seven-thirty this morning on Mill Street in the historic grey stone building which was the former offices of the Public Utilities Commission, once the throne of the General Manager, Brian J. Gallagher after whom the new $19M generating station is so deservedly named. I turned out precisely at 5:30 a.m. to prepare myself. Downstairs my new iPhone 4S was simultaneously sounding its alarm, producing the mock chime of Big Ben. Glancing out the upstairs windows, I was glad to see that it was raining. This meant I needn’t have any regret about not going for an improving bicycle ride (which in any event I couldn’t have done because my Electra bike, along with three others of various makes, is presently being overhauled at Almonte Bicycle Works).

The cherished early morning moments pass quickly. Between gobbling bran and eggs and sipping black coffee at the oak kitchen table, I conducted routine enquires upon my laptop computer, checking email (two separate addresses, one personal, the other for business) and glancing at my bank accounts (to see if anything suspicious had transpired overnight, wary as I am of identity theft and cyber hacking). Apart from the Board meeting I knew I hadn’t much on my agenda today which provided a welcome and less brittle view of the world. At my age the prospect of eternal employment has both its advantages and disadvantages and the balance of either is mercurial.

Now that the new generating station has been built and commissioned, our Board meetings are primarily focused upon day-to-day management and maintenance and counting our money, a giddy amount by any assessment, and a sum over which the Ward councillors are perpetually squabbling. My appointment by the Town to the Board ends December 31, 2012 so my days in what some have labelled an “Old Boys Club” are at last numbered. My retirement will mark twelve years on the Board, an engagement I have enjoyed since the initial deregulation of the hydro industry by the Ontario government. The President, Desmond Houston, will also hit the wall at the same time. He has skilfully guided our Board through some very exciting years in the history of hydro generation in Almonte. Prior to his appointment to the Board, Des had been the Clerk of the Town of Almonte, and I similarly enjoyed the benefit of association with him in that capacity. He is a lesson in lobbying.

After our meeting I sauntered up Mill Street in the cold drizzle, thankful I had worn a heavy wool sweater coat and silk scarf. En route I stopped at the Post Office to check for mail. There was none. It was premature to expect anything before the sorting was completed mid-morning or later. Back at the office I settled into whatever needed doing. To my surprise it was almost eleven o’clock before I surfaced from my immersion in fiddling administrative details. There was some substantive legal work to do throughout the remainder of the day, but nothing significant, mostly just massaging on-going matters, parrying the odd call, and meeting with Clients to explain to them the terms of a trust agreement which I had drafted years ago. I actually welcomed the opportunity and likened the explanation of the instrument to a defence of a thesis. I appreciated the opportunity to illustrate the agreement in light of the issues which had sparked their apprehension. They left satisfied, at least that’s what they said and what their overall appearance betrayed.

Lately I have a heightened awareness of what I am doing, everything is oddly more acute. At times the acuity is somewhat of a burden as I feel that I am drowning in minutiae, that somehow I have succeeded in burying myself in detail, but in the end – when I have accomplished the task – I can see that I am merely taking care of business, being alive to the many niceties of a transaction which can easily be unobserved. Because these many elements come flooding upon me, I am sometimes overwhelmed. If nothing else their resolution is time consuming. I have to temper my anxiety by reminding myself that this business of law is not without its delicacy, the perpetual unearthing of which at times distresses me. On the other hand it is the very wearing nature of the work which shortly materializes into absorption and meaningfulness. Finding meaning in life, in anything, is not a given. One doesn’t wish to construct things artificially, nor I suppose is it possible to do so with much success. In the result it lies to the facts to speak for them. As with most realities, the revelation is gradual and hard won.

Another feature of my life lately is a clinical purity, manifested parenthetically by an on-going purge of my material world. Everything is directed to irrefutable transparency translated into bluntness in my approach to almost anything. I am guided by both purpose and objective. In most circumstances the motivating principle is nothing higher than a practical business decision, but even in the realm of personal relations I find I am increasingly disposed to distance myself from extraneous behaviour. It is not that I sense I am running out of time and must therefore propel myself in these matters; rather it is an appetite for substance and connection. The substance is the meaningfulness; the connection is the propriety of it. It is also a more simplistic approach to living, unadulterated not to the point of banality but rather clarity. Life is often complicated by factors which really shouldn’t have any bearing at all upon the circumstances. These complicating factors are not always external. One must frequently rid oneself of contaminants, an elimination which is at times knotty.

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