This morning I was reading about how great it is to leave Toronto and retire to Elliot Lake in Northern Ontario, several hours’ drive away. It’s cheap, the article said, and showed pictures of happy, healthy people riding bicycles and walking their dogs. There is lots for active seniors to do. It’s beautiful, too, even in the long, cold winters. What a great idea, I thought to myself. Leave the city behind and retire to a lovely place where I could canoe and hike to my heart’s content. Maybe I could even get Pat to take up bike riding (the couple in the photo looked like they were having a good time, anyway).
I was thinking about this later in the day while I was out in the garden. Friends were coming for supper and I found a recipe for salmon with golden beets and baby fennel–both of which I have in the garden just now. This will be fun, I thought. I will add some baked potatoes with sour cream and chives, maybe some local peaches for dessert. I am so glad to have company and an excuse to cook a nice meal…
That’s when it hit me: if I lived in Elliot Lake, who would I invite for supper? I guess I would make a few new friends, but it wouldn’t be the same.
Real estate listings sell a lifestyle–they showcase houses with broadloom and bedrooms, they tell you about the amenities in this or that community. The one thing they can’t include in the deal? Close friends and family. I would have to leave them here. Maybe Elliot Lake isn’t for me after all.
I left the garden and prepared a simple meal for my friends. We enjoyed our time together, lingering over dessert amid flickering candlelight. The food was terrific (if I do say so myself!). We laughed and talked and caught up on each other’s lives.
I think I enjoyed it even more than usual because of what I had been imaginging earlier in the day. I had been thinking about what life would be like if I wrenched myself away from the people I love, just to follow a retirement dream. Fancy bike trails and cheap real estate, however tempting, just can’t make up for loving relationships like these.
Don’t get me wrong: I am quite sure that Elliot Lake is a great place to live and that everything they say about it is true. If I lived there already it would be the perfect place to retire. But relocation–as much as we are accustomed to it these days–underestimates the value of staying firmly rooted in one place. Are housing prices and recreation centres really more important than love, community, friendship and family connections? Should we toss out relationships with long histories and close ties, just so that we can move to somewhere with prettier scenery?
I would rather stay put and have someone to share my beets with.