Without a doubt, cafes are a treasured addition to our communities as destinations for consuming our favorite hot and cold beverages.

Maybe of more importance and of unmeasurable value is the opportunity they afford us for a daily serving of a much coveted sense of belonging, for garnering a feeling of inclusiveness and interaction with other comrades who live within and just beyond the borders of its locale.

Take this morning for instance, two couples who frequent and enjoy the daily ritual of attending one or other of the local cafes found themselves sitting in close proximity and through conversation had the time to fill in  some of the blanks beyond the passing pleasantries exchanged on previous occasions.

My female counterpart, a self described “newbie” residing on the edge of  town for eighteen years, sitting next to an “oldie” like myself, along with our husbands, found ourselves sharing commonalities of interest as well as differences. Yes, we dipped a toe or two into each other’s perspective on what makes Almonte an enjoyable place to live as well as what might be required to right the road concerning current issues of dissent.

Off the top, we quickly found we shared many similarities as to why Almonte is the place we each have chosen to call ” home.” Where differences came to light, they were easily spoken of within a climate of friendliness and respectful listening. For instance, differing perspectives on the use of the OVRT didn’t have anything to do with being a “newbie” or an “oldie” as much as individual expressions of preference for what constitutes a quality lifestyle, whether or not taxpayers have the right to be treated equally and keeping everyone safe in the process.

As to resolving the current issues of heated debate, we determined that it would require firstly, a willingness to agree to disagree by respecting the passionate feelings on each side of the debate. Secondly, there would be a need for representatives with a very high level of energy who could plod through the ways and means of bringing the passions of both sides to a meeting place of common ground so that the town could move beyond the hotly debated issues and at least restore harmonious two way conversations once again.

We learned that we both enjoyed and appreciated the many layers of creativity available to us through an expanding arts community and valued the many means by which creative works could be shared with the broader community … hanging right above our heads where we sipped our favorite brew, an artist had a display of paintings for sale, creating a focal point of interest within the cafe while all the while generating conversation among attentive observers, who by all appearances were strangers to each other.

As had been our discovery following our recent visit to the Textile Museum for the first time, the ” oldies” found themselves needing to catch up with our own local wealth of places to frequent. Despite having lived here most of our lives and never having taken advantage of these experiences we issued our excuse with some degree of embarrassment that “we had saved it for our retirment years” … the “newbies” had something to teach the “oldies” about the gems within their crown!!

Textile Museum (Millstone photo)

Nature plays a big part in the enjoyment of the area for these transplants from the city … peace and quiet, hiking, biking, gardening, all important to the quality of their chosen rural lives, all the while echoing why living locally appeals to many of us. Living on the edge of town like they do, there is a growing appreciation for a neighboring farmer’s knowledge and the respect shown for the management of his land. Avid gardeners and tree enthusiasts, both are learning to work with rocky, clay soils, managing and planning for wind and the impact of drought on their gardens.  Although our current gardening is limited to pots, our ten years of gardening in the hardened clay, rocky soil on the shores of Three Mile Bay, White Lake allowed us to relive our own experiences and passion for gardening and share the joy of living close to the land.

A mention of Augusta Street Park put Ken right on his own turf and the history of his childhood playground, the running of the creek through the Sadler family farm which led into relaying a vision of fresh garden produce being delivered door to door on a flatbed by Mr. Howard Sadler and the ladies of the house coming out to purchase from his seasonal selections.

I believe the message from today’s interaction is found in recognizing that most of us choose to live in Almonte for many of the very same reasons. Our passion about living here is found not only in the family histories of all who have resided, worked and flourished over many, many years but also in the influx of a new energy and the reaped benefits that are derived from different experiences, talents and potential seen through fresh eyes.

With courage to build upon what is already great about Almonte and a willingness to enrich it without destroying its very essence and soul, one would believe we have a winning combination. It isn’t that we will agree on every issue but we can be agreeable on how decisions will be arrived at by listening deeply and respecting differences in perspective and experience, demonstrating a willingness to diligently explore what serves the needs of the constituents with an end goal of moving forward as a whole.

Cafes are a great place to get the dialogue going between people, who like ourselves call Almonte their home and share a vested interest in the town’s future…..as was voiced ” we don’t see ourselves ever leaving Almonte.” …lots of time to continue our conversations over a hot cuppa!

Karen Hirst