I just finished reading Brian Doyle’s One Long River of Song, a book of exquisite essays with the appropriate sub-title of Notes on Wonder. One of the lovely things about this book is how Brian Doyle finds wonder in the most ordinary of things: his twin sons eating dirt, sturgeons, fighting with his brothers, the trial of William Blake, and even his own impending (and untimely) death.
Some of his words particularly linger in my mind: his encounter with the shrew, in which the tiny creature was “awfully near my two absolute favorite eyeballs”; a bricked up heart felled by “a child’s apple breath”; his small magical moment crouched in a hedge with his brothers, reminding the reader that “You were there too, remember, in your childhood cave”; and his Last Prayer, in which he addresses his God with “Thanks. Best life ever.”
I thought the fact that he is a deeply religious man – Catholic – might get in the way of my enjoyment of his essays – I am neither Catholic nor deeply religious – but it didn’t at all. However, I have to admit the image of his wife actually kneeling by her bed to pray startled me – and shattered a few stereotypes that I acknowledge I held about deeply religious Catholics and about progressive thinkers.
I first came across Brian Doyle through his essay Joyas Voladoras, which was reprinted in The Sun magazine. I was so taken with it that I sent the link to various family members and friends – and later discovered that this collection of his essays, also containing Joyas Voladoras, had been posthumously gathered for publication by his friends.
Not only are these essays funny, enlightening, and moving – they are instructional from a writing point of view. As an essayist myself, I found both the subject matter and his widely varying writing styles filled me with ideas.
Reading his essays in bed before I went to sleep felt like I was having a visit with a friend just before I turned the light of my day off. I read the essays in random order and when I was done, I searched through the book a couple more times hoping that there was one more that I had missed!
Linda Light writes about a wide range of topics, from the joy of family recipe books to homelessness. She lives in Vancouver close to her daughters and grandchildren.