Brian Doyle | August 2012
Editor’s note: Brian Doyle ’78 died early last Saturday morning, May 27, having been diagnosed with a brain tumor last November. Editor of the University of Portland’s quarterly magazine for more than 25 years and author of countless novels, short stories, essays and poems, Brian has been a regular contributor to this magazine since 1987, writing stories and essays about herons, naps, life and death, his undergraduate laundry bag, heartbreak, a kindly scoutmaster, the scent of dogwoods and the memories and gratitudes they carry, that time he met Jorge Luis Borges, flinty women, “the order by which people are admitted to heaven,” the Coherent Mercy. And, about basketball — apparently his favorite window into the rhythms and mysteries of humanity and the world. Brian wrote about basketball just as often as we gave him the chance. Remembering him now along with so many of his colleagues, fans, friends and family all over the country, we reprint here one of our favorites, which Brian wrote about his brother, Kevin Doyle ’69, himself dying of cancer in 2012.
We were supposed to be driving to the pharmacy for his prescriptions, but he said just drive around for a while, my prescriptions aren’t going anywhere without me, so we just drove around. We drove around the edges of the college where he had worked and we saw a blue heron in a field of stubble, which is not something you see every day, and we stopped for a while to see if the heron was fishing for mice or snakes, on which we bet a dollar, me taking mice and him taking snakes, but the heron glared at us and refused to work under scrutiny, so we drove on.
We drove through the arboretum checking on the groves of ash and oak and willow trees, which were still where they were last time we looked, and then we checked on the wood duck boxes in the pond, which still seemed sturdy and did not feature ravenous weasels that we noticed, and then we saw a kestrel hanging in the crisp air like a tiny helicopter, but as soon as we bet mouse or snake the kestrel vanished, probably for religious reasons, said my brother, probably a lot of kestrels are adamant that gambling is immoral, but we are just not as informed as we should be about kestrels.