Profoundly seeing


National Gallery of Canada’s Grand Hall

This is our tradition on New Year’s Eve: Make a fancy dinner, drink wine, and watch a movie together. It started in 2008, when the best paying contract I’ve ever had came to the end and we decided to eat like January 1st was the start of the zombie apocalypse. No matter that I’d be collecting unemployment insurance until I found another job and the future was as murky as a snow filled sky. We would what-the-hell it up, mouths brimming with bonhomie.

Finding a meal that everyone will eat is no mean feat. One daughter has texture issues. Brown rice is full of texture but white rice isn’t. Another daughter has control issues. When she was five and didn’t want to eat the delicious from-a-box-chicken-nuggets I’d made for lunch, she shoved them down her pants saying she was all done. Just because it was New Years Eve and dinner was labeled “fancy” didn’t mean it would enter her chops.  Thankfully, third daughter will eat anything presented and if she likes it, groan with pleasure.

That final eve of 2008 we bought real champagne, ginger ale for the underage contingent, thick steaks from a quality butcher, strawberries out of season, whipped cream that gushed out of a can like stroke-of-midnight streamers, and made fresh Caesar salad (hiding the anchovies from the doubting eaters). Youngest, who loves an occasion, set the dining room table, arranged candles in the center, shook out the real cloth napkins, rinsed the Waterford crystal wine glasses (ginger ale looks real pretty in cut crystal) and dusted the bone china dinner plates.

They put on their party clothes (ie. not their pyjamas) and we ate fashionably late and felt emerald bedazzled (except for my husband who was content in his jeans and t-shirt). Afterwards we decamped to the basement to argue about which movie to watch. Fifteen minutes into the viewing, the elders fell asleep only to be nudged awake later to watch the countdown on TV, clicking as fast as a strobe light between Ottawa’s Parliament Hill to New York’s Times Square and back.

Eight years later this is what New Years Eve looks like: I say to eldest daughter “Will you be home for dinner tonight?”

“No. I’m going out with friends.”

Inwardly (lord, forgive me) I sighed with relief. She is striding towards vegetarianism and occasionally I offer non-meat options for dinner to the discombobulation of my husband who is an enthusiastic carnivore. With her out of the picture I had one less dish to prepare. No “sautéed spinach with chick peas and garlicky yogurt” for her!

The youngest was working until six. An edict from her employer pronounced that no one could leave the store until the whole job of cleaning each section was done. She would text us when she needed a ride home. We estimated 6:30 she’d be ready. Dinner at 7:00.

Citrus salmon was baked. Mini-potatoes and broccoli roasted. Brussel sprout salad with pine nuts and fresh Parmesan cheese composed. Wine poured in anticipation. Wensleydale and cranberry cheese consumed. We waited.

I sipped the wine observing it tasted like it was sprinkled with mold but I persisted. The bottle was a gift from the wine cellar of my brother-in-law and therefore beyond reproach.

We waited some more. The broccoli blackened. The potatoes shriveled. The salmon cooled. The cheese ran out. The wine still tasted moldy.

Finally, she texted and my husband dashed out to retrieve her. Feast time!

We dumped the wine after one taste by my husband who declared it had turned. I had already consumed two glasses of moldy wine but now had nothing with which to choke down our fancy New Year’s Eve din-din. Afterwards we consoled ourselves with half a box of Christmas chocolates.

Togetherness TV you ask? Middle child, a devoted hockey fan, said no thanks. She was watching the World Junior Hockey Championship. Youngest was determined to hang out virtually with a few friends as her dad could not drive her anywhere because he was busy soaking his bones in the bathtub after a long cross-country ski that morning. And me? I curled up on the couch with my faithful companion, the dog, and read a book about the art and resilience of Alex Janvier, a Canadian Indigenous artist, activist, and a survivor of the residential school system, digesting this fragment. His was “…a lifetime of looking and profoundly seeing.”

I looked around the living room, profoundly determined not to see the mess, and instead saw a room exuberantly lived in by family members confidently enjoying their place in our cosmos, sometimes full of good food and sometimes just full.

Image result for alex janvier

Alex Janvier and his art, wearing his Edmonton Oilers’ hockey jersey. Go here  for images of his installation at Rogers Place Arena in Edmonton.

26 thoughts on “Profoundly seeing

  1. This sounds like a great way to deal with New Year. We are half a generation on from you. We were all together for Christmas (one vegetarian son-in-law and one newly vegetarian daughter – not married to the other veggie) by New Year they were all in different cities… and we both went to bed before midnight!

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    • It was a quiet New Year ringing in to be sure. I’m trying to remember the last time I made it to midnight and I’m sure it has been at least 5 years. Usually the children are up long after we go to bed.


    • HI Shubha, I’d love to try one of your favourite vegetarian recipes. I recently bought a comprehensive tome by “America’s Test Kitchens” which has recipes from many countries. I’ve asked my daughter to pick out a few she’d like us to try in the coming weeks. I foresee a blog post on the horizon on being a neophyte in the land of vegetarians.


    • I will be carefully selecting my own bottles of wine henceforth to ensure my palate does not have to become accustomed to mold! Here’s to perpetually half-full glasses in 2017! Happy New Year, Donna. Many, many thanks for reading and commenting lo these many years.

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  2. “Emerald bedazzled’ is now in my vocab. Good ole dogger friends, always faithful and what a beautiful moment of profound seeing that you have profoundly expressed. (Ps, mouldy wine sucks, had to be said.) Happy New Year to you and your clan.

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    • Everyone should have a little bedazzlement in their lives even if just in writing. Although the moldy wine did suck, every drink of wine afterwards will be much better, eh? Here’s to fine wine and family in 2017.

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    • It’s easy to be resilient on a full belly and in the comfort of an overstuffed house. I wonder about the resilience of others in the world who are fleeing tyranny and war. But on that night, Derrick, I was a happy reflective woman, not a morose hag.

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  3. My dear writer. Life is perfection viewed. Don’t see the mess until the mood that made the mess gently fades. Plenty of time to clean when the mood changes to cleaning. You seem to read my New Year’s mind going back years and years. It changes, of course. Of course it changes. But unchanging rules of life – never drink wine that tastes of mould. It’s spoiled. Always have two bottle of champagne hidden in a cupboard. It never spoils. Blade Runner is the perfect New Year’s movie. It also never spoils. It speaks, essentially, of humankind. Etc., etc. You’re Canadian, need tell YOU!? In Canada I was adopted by raccoons, deer, and the world’s kindest people. Your children, your lovely children, will find their own holiday traditions which will be ever the same as yours in spirit. Count on it. I love your words.

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  4. Your descriptions are always brilliant. Sorry about the bad wine and broken plans, but profoundly seeing seems like something we should all make a concerted effort to practice.

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    • I saw the quote at an exhibit of his art earlier this week and it stuck in my head. Then I read it in the book I bought in the gift shop after and although I hadn’t intended to include it in this post, somehow my mind kept coming back to it. Thanks so much for your kind comment, Joey. BTW, did you read Victo’s post about praise yesterday? Another wonderful thing to bear in mind for 2017 – generous praise.

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  5. I’m sure that particular mold is terribly good for you – in fact it must be from noble rot so you probably now have positively aristocratic guts. Thank you for this …. having spent New Year”s Eve driving through fog across France, arriving home at 3 a.m and with none of my four adored by far from angelic daughters with us, the smiles you have given me are priceless. Happy New Year to you all 😊

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