wide eyed

I am visiting Poul and Janice and he is showing me a picture of a halibut he caught. Halibut have eyes on only one side of their head because they bottom feed on the other side. This is a fact that I know, then forget, then get reminded again and always say, “Really?! Wow! Wait, I think I knew that.” Poul explains the nature of halibut to me with such animated passionate interest for knowledge it makes me want to go fishing, write a book about it or – okay, let’s be honest, serve halibut cheeks with miso orange sauce. But why read a book when I have Poul? He is one of my favourite walking encyclopedias. He explains: when halibut are younger they have eyes on both sides of their head. As they mature, the one eye migrates to the upside. What an odd puberty that would be. “Mom…Mom! I woke up and my eye moved three inches to the left!” “Honey, how many times have I told you not to talk to my white side, come around to the front of me where I can see you!”
I ask, “Why have two eyes on one side? Why not just have one?” Well, of course, two eyes give you stereoscopic vision and halibut are predators. Another thing I know but didn’t really put together before: all predators have eyes in the front of their head so they have depth perception and can accurately grab what they’re gunning for. Prey have eyes on opposite sides of the head so they can see anything coming. I wonder if this is the same for humanity? We think of people who have eyes close together as being shrewd and even sneaky, and those of us who have wide eyes…well…are naive as they come and have to watch we don’t get taken unawares. Growing up I had a friend who joked I looked like a dolphin because my eyes are so far apart. I need to have eyes on the sides of my head with friends like that.

We go on to talk about birds. Some of the little ones will dart their head back and forth before landing on a branch. Probably most of you know this, but I didn’t. They lack stereoscopic vision so to help determine depth, they move their heads back and forth to get a zoom in and a zoom out view and shoot for something sort of in the middle. And the predator bird…well…the eagle eye is famous for its accuracy.
I peer out the window and look at the little fluffy chickadees bobbing their tiny little brains about. I think, “That’s a bit like a writer…we see life close up, then have to pull back our heads and write about the experience to get a different more distant perspective and then move back in to experience life close up again and hope we land on something.”

Anyway, it was a lovely visit with Poul and Janice. Janice organized a little party and a bunch of my Rosebud friends came over to visit in their gorgeous house over looking the railway tracks and golf course. Their daughter is a mini cupcake Janice: a sweet tween dangling her legs off of a “big person” chair, listening in on the adult conversation, working up the courage to add a story, cheeks flush red when she does. Their boy, such a distillation of Poul and promise – he sneaks in from playing outside for the sole purpose of slyly and successfully slipping a whoopee cushion under Marie Russell without any of us seeing. It is an Olympian gold medal victory for him when Marie is startled with loud long flatulence at the table and we all laugh. Oh that little cutie, he definitely has his eyes at the front of his head.
As I munch away at the delicious food everyone has made, surrounded by dear faces I have known for over twenty years or more, my attention rests on Janice, a little quiet and a little exhausted perhaps. She has organized and hosted this whole thing. She’s a Mom selling tickets for her daughter’s swim club, she’s a busy physiotherapist who just increased her work load and her commute, she’s a wife to a genius recreating a job. She’s a prairie girl. She’s used to a big wide sky, the chance of hail, the extremes of weather, the relentless sun. She is used to being able to see the approach of hope and dread from miles and miles away. She is steady and watchful and has bursts of brusque passion that I attribute to being Dutch and I like it very much. Particularly when she swears. It always surprises me when she says she feels she isn’t very expressive (around all these “actors”) when it comes to feelings – when it comes to love. She often says she has an analytical and scientific mind. I look around me at the friends, at Poul and the kids, the apple crisp, the children’s art on the walls, the piano, the picture of her folks. I see the purple kale tossed into a bouquet of yellow daisies. I see her heart expressed so thoroughly and vividly. I know exactly how she feels about me. I know exactly how I am loved. Lucky bird.

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