September/October 2014


21 Laws of Nature as Interpreted by My Children

Joel Cross/Unsplash

1. If you shake hands with an evergreen tree and the branch bites you, that’s a spruce.

2. Insects rule the world, but they don’t talk about it.

3. The reason the ocean is salty is because all the animals have been peeing right in it since before there was even time.

4. One of our grandmothers is dead, and now she is growing flowers.

5. Dad says all beings are holy in the same proportions, except the Los Angeles Lakers, who are demonic.

6. The best way to eat a worm is to have another kid do it.

7. A shrew is like a mouse with a bad temper.

8. Dad says every time you go for a walk in the woods you ought to get credit for a full day of college.

9. Anyone who thinks people are cooler than animals should remember that a lot of animals can eat people.

10. The reason that scrub jays and conifer jays bicker all the time is because they love each other.

11. The way to tell a mammal from an amphibian is snot.

12. Mom says camping is a way to see God up close, but Dad says God loves us and wants us to shower daily and sleep in a bed.

13. Plants are smart because they can eat sunlight and we can’t.

14. Dad says people still kill whales for money even though whales have languages and songs.

15. If you find poop in the woods and it’s tiny round balls, it’s a rabbit. If the balls are larger, it is a deer or elk. If they are really large, you should come home.

16. Eagles can see so well they can see what you did yesterday.

17. Dad says evolution is working to make us less violent and make animals more forgiving.

18. The more money you have, the less you pay attention to plants and birds.

19. Dad says some kinds of trees can drink clouds.

20. If you can’t make a new ant, don’t kill an old one.

21. If you are really sad, go outside and you will feel better after about an hour.

Brian Doyle (1956-2017) was the longtime editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He was the author of six collections of essays, two nonfiction books, two collections of “proems,” the short story collection Bin Laden’s Bald Spot, the novella Cat’s Foot, and the novels Mink RiverThe Plover, and Martin Marten. He is also the editor of several anthologies, including Ho`olaule`a, a collection of writing about the Pacific islands. Doyle’s books have seven times been finalists for the Oregon Book Award, and his essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, OrionThe American ScholarThe Sun, The Georgia Review, and in newspapers and magazines around the world, including The New York TimesThe Times of London, and The Age (in Australia). His essays have also been reprinted in the annual Best American EssaysBest American Science & Nature Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. Among various honors for his work is a Catholic Book Award, three Pushcart Prizes, the John Burroughs Award for Nature Essays, Foreword Reviews’ Novel of the Year award in 2011, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008 (previous recipients include Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, and Mary Oliver).”