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Kids circle the holy parts


KidsOne day I am sitting in my old body at my old desk reading young essays — essays sent to me by holy children of various sizes — and I can feel the joy sloshing and rising in me as their words pour in, and finally I get topped off by the phrase in otter words. A child has scrawled this in the brightest green ink you ever saw: in otter words, the holy parts are circled, she writes.

I think maybe the top of my head is going to fly off from happiness, and what remains of my organised mature mind sprints away giggling and mooing with pleasure.

You know how it's said that human beings are the only beings who can contemplate two opposing ideas at once? It's even better than that — we can entertain lots of joyous ideas at the same time, it turns out.

Such as, o my god, otter words, that's enough right there for hours of happy speculation, am I right? I mean, what are the otter words for trout and rain and minnows and ice and fur that has been warmed by the sun to just the right sheen and shimmer? I bet there are otter words for that.

And for clumsy fishermen, and for osprey, and for mud of exactly the right consistency for sliding in, and for dying chinook salmon like ancient riddled kings, and old red drift boats, and young mergansers, and huge herons, and the basso murmur of mossy boulders grumbling at the bottom of the river, and the tinny querulous voices of crawdads, and the speed-freak chitter of chickadees, and the fat feet of tiny kids, and the little pebbly houses of caddisflies, and the rain of salmonflies in season like tiny orange helicopters.

And the holy parts! which are circled, we knew that was true, the holy parts are underlined and illuminated and highlighted, aren't they, and circled with a huge honking blessed magic marker, isn't that so?

Sometimes I feel like the eyes in my heart close quietly without me paying much attention, and I muddle and mutter along thinking I am savouring and celebrating, and then wham, a kid, it's always a kid, says something so piercing and wild and funny and unusual that wham my heart opens again like a door flung open by, say, an otter, and wham, I am completely and utterly overwhelmed and thrilled by the shocking brilliant uniform that kestrels wear, and moved beyond words by the roiling sea in a woman's eyes, and I get the shivering willies hearing my dad's gentle snortling laugh on the phone, and my god have you ever seen a blue jay up close and personal, what a cheerful arrogant street criminal it is, all blue brass and natty swagger, isn't that so?

And most of all, best of all, better than every other joy and thrill, even the very best beer, which is a very excellent thing, are kids.

Sure, they learn to lie, and sure, they are just not as into dental hygiene as you wish they were, and my god they skin their knees nine times a day, and do things like smear peanut butter on their abraded knees just to see what it feels like, and shake flour on the dog! so that when he shakes off the flour at one million revolutions per minute there will be a flour cloud in the kitchen the size of Utah!, isn't that cool, dad?, but more than anything else in the world it is kids who make us see that the holy parts are circled.

You know and I know this is true. We forget.

I think maybe we should write it down somewhere, like on the wall by the coffeepot, or in steamy words on the bathroom mirror, so we will see it every day, and remember it more, and be refreshed to the bottom of our bony bottoms.

If necessary use otter words.

Brian DoyleBrian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices

Topic tags: Brian Doyle, otter words, holy parts, circled



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Existing comments

Sigh, just sat reading with wriggly pleasure.

jorie | 18 March 2011  

I really admire your writings involving children, My passion in my waning years are orphaned and vulnerable children, I do want to read your archives and futures,..do you have someway for that to be an automatic,tks, blessings.c.

carolyn belshe | 29 December 2013  

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