September/October 2014

"Odin's Cove #1," a photograph by Beth Moon.
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21 Laws of Nature as Interpreted by My Children

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 is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of nine books of essays, nonfiction, and “proems.” His most recent book is Mink River, winner of ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award for Editor’s Choice –Fiction (2010).