The Yellow Face

Climactic scene from The Yellow Face. Illustration by Sidney Paget.

The Yellow Face

Racism: The late Peter Wood, a previous discussion leader in my Sherlock Holmes group, asked if this story, taken together with the derogatory depiction of the black boxer Steve Dixie in “The Three Gables,” indicated that Conan Doyle was a racist. A strange way to put it, because this story is typically contrasted with “The Three Gables” as one that is quite liberal on matters of race. But how then do we square this circle of the liberal Doyle in “The Yellow Face” and the indulger of stereotypes in the later story? Perhaps it is simply a matter of time: in this story and the next (“The Stockbroker’s Clerk”) a young author subverts conventional racist (or in the Stockbroker story, anti-Semitic) attitudes, whereas at the end of his career a more curmudgeonly author indulged in them.

Perhaps: But perhaps we should look more closely at the portrayals. Can they all be reconciled? “The Three Gables” mocks the black boxer, treats him as a joke and a coward, and disparages his physical characteristics. In “The Yellow Face,” the little black girl is treated lovingly and accepted into the Grant Munro family, to the applause of Watson and the silent approval of Holmes.

But what about those physical characteristics? When we first realize that the “creature” behind the yellow mask is not a monster, but a little black girl, she emerges with “all her white teeth flashing in amusement,” in contrast to the rest of her “coal black” appearance. She’s very non-threatening and even lovable, and yet the flashing white teeth conjures up something stereotypical, I would say.

         Or how about Watson’s reaction to seeing the picture of John Hebron, Effie’s late husband? He is handsome and intelligent-looking (Doyle always thinks you can read character or in this case intelligence in a face): anyway, Watson says Hebron in the little portrait within Effie’s locket looks handsome, “but” (the “but” is important) shows clear signs of African descent. Handsome but African. So not so handsome? Or surprisingly handsome for an African? Or does it just mean handsome but now you can see why little Lucy is coal-black?

And Effie’s own reaction? Unfortunately, she says, the little girl takes after her husband’s people rather than mine. Now, does that simply mean that in a society with racist conventions it would be better to look white? Or does it show Effie’s preference for white over black?

Preferences versus actions: Of course, preferences are one thing and active discrimination is another. The whole thrust of “The Yellow Face” is to endorse acceptance of the little coal-black girl. That’s why it is hailed as liberal and ahead of its time. And yet, and yet …  “Dark or fair, she is my own dear little girlie,” says Effie, which sounds noble, and yet perhaps should be interrogated, as they say. You could replace dark or fair with good or bad, and then which one would be good? Is this a story about accepting someone even though they are black? Which of course is better than rejecting them because they are black, and it says a lot about Grant Munro and Watson and Doyle that they will accept little Lucy. A lot positive, I mean, and yet behind that acceptance is still the notion of difference.

Locket and pipe: But let us move on to two interesting objects in the story, the locket and the pipe. First the locket, which Grant Munro had been led to believe did not open, but it does open and it reveals Effie’s secret: the race of her first husband. Grant Munro had begun the story by telling Holmes and Watson that he and his wife had no secrets from each other, that they shared every word and thought, and had not even had an argument in three years. An extended honeymoon, one might call that. But then it turns out that Effie hasn’t really shared every thought; she has this whole hidden past that Grant Munro knows nothing about. It is as if after three years Holmes finally revealed he has a cocaine habit. But Watson knows all about that habit, and deals with it as one does when you are one half of a couple that lives together in intimacy. Is the story in part about getting beyond the honeymoon and dealing with the reality of the other person rather than your idealized projection of them?

This is not a pipe: Or at least not just a pipe. Grant Munro’s pipe, that is, which he leaves behind, and upon which Holmes bases some character analysis. This is reminiscent of the hat in “The Blue Carbuncle,” but in that case what Holmes discovered seemed important. How important is it that Grant Munro is muscular and left-handed? But on closer examination there is something important about the pipe: it has been mended twice, which suggests that Grant Munro is one of those people who prefers to patch up something he values rather than throw it away in favour of something new. Is this symbolic of something? Of his tendency to hold onto things, like his marriage to Effie even if he finds it broken in some way? Even if she’s been hiding things from him, even if it turns out she has a coal-black child? Yes, even then he’s not going to move on to another marriage; he’s going to make this one work.

What did Effie think? Did she think her husband would throw her over when he discovered her black child? Divorce? And what was her plan? She told him to trust her and he would know all some day. When? What would happen to allow that? And in the meantime what was she planning to do? To run off every night to visit her child and still keep her husband in the dark? Effie keeps talking about trust, but she is the one who has no trust: she does not trust her husband to stick by her; she gives him less credit than he deserves, as he puts it. But then he shows what he is made of, and the new family of three walks out of the story together, presumably to become a stronger unit for no longer having a dark secret at its core.

Dark secret: Pun only half intended. That’s what’s at the core of this story, as it is of so many of the stories. This at first seems like so many of the other stories: a character has some unpleasant bit of history that has suddenly come forward to haunt him (or in this case her). Often this leads to blackmail and then murder. Holmes has seen this many times, and if he is guilty of prejudice in this story, it is not race prejudice but the lazy prejudice of thinking every case is just like another. So he assumes there is something like an American lover come to blackmail Effie, and there is bigamy or infidelity. Even Grant Munro fears there is some sort of infidelity, and though Holmes tells him not to fret until the truth can be known (good advice though hard to follow), he himself tells Watson it’s a bad business and constructs an elaborate theory which even Watson dismisses as pure surmise.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a dark secret is only dark because of skin colour. There is nothing criminal in Effie’s past. Though if you think of it more, and if we look at this story as an indictment of Victorian mores, maybe (by the standards of the time) Effie has done something wrong in marrying a black man. Such things were frowned on; that’s why she is so frantic to cover it up, to hide her first husband and her little girl even from her new husband. Not because of bigamy, infidelity, or any other sin or crime, but because in Victorian times one might be shunned for having done what Effie did.

But is she guilty of something else? We of course see nothing wrong with her marriage, but what about her treatment of her child: leaving her behind for three years or more, and for what? Because she fears losing her husband, over whom she seems quite smitten or something: half crazy with fear of losing him, based on what? Her own misperceptions of his character. It’s about time these two came to know each other better. Husbands and wives not sharing fully is a problem Doyle will touch on in “The Second Stain.” And of course there is Neville St. Clair’s secret in “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” but would that have been a good one to hold onto? Ah, marriage.

Excerpted from my book of Sherlockian Musings, available at Amazon Canada, Amazon USA, and  Amazon UK. Also at MX Publishing.  The musings were originally written for the Stormy Petrels of British Columbia.

The Cardboard Box

Excitement in The Cardboard Box. Illustration by Sidney Paget.

 

The Cardboard Box

No foreigners here: After several stories in the late collections about external threats, this story from His Last Bow takes us back to the domestic issues of the early stories. Which after all is no surprise because in fact this is an early story, originally published in 1893, but then suppressed until 1917. And why suppressed? Because it was about sex, some report Doyle saying. Can that be true?

Perhaps it was just too gruesome: Those severed ears, you know. Ugh. And what do they represent? Some commentators go on wild Freudian excursions: castration anxiety, they say. Well, there certainly is some sort of anxiety here, residing in the heart of the murderer, Jim Browner, but he’s the one who performs the double “castration,” so it’s not clear how the Freudian approach would work. But Browner certainly has reason to question his situation, as his wife seems to be involved in an extramarital affair.

Or perhaps it was too bleak: Consider the closing lines, where Holmes almost seems to descend to lament, noting the “circle of misery and violence and fear” that humanity seems trapped in. Did Doyle not want this sentiment spread abroad? But he did publish the story again eventually, in 1917, in the midst of a horrific war, at a time when its sentiments may have been more appropriate.

A preposterous way to settle a dispute: War, that is, but also perhaps murder. Holmes voices Watson’s thought in the famous mind-reading passage at the beginning of the story (so famous that when the rest of the story was suppressed, Doyle rescued the passage by inserting it in “The Resident Patient”).

War and Murder: One tiny appearance of the foreign in this story is Henry Ward Beecher, the American preacher and anti-slavery advocate, whose trip to England on behalf of the North in the American Civil War is what Watson was thinking of. Watson, says Holmes, then went on to think about the preposterousness of war as a means of settling international disputes, a comment much more à propos in 1917 perhaps than in 1893.

Sex scandal: Yes, even in the nineteenth century there were sex scandals, and there was one involving Henry Ward Beecher and some alleged adultery. Some critics say that’s why Beecher is mentioned in the story, and adultery certainly is relevant to the story, but after all Watson was thinking of Beecher’s public life and war and the preposterousness of resorting to violence, which seems even more à propos to the story’s theme than the rumours of adultery, which after all only have to do with the story’s plot.

But let’s consider the plot: It is a tangled one. There’s Browner married to the angel Mary, who turns out to be rather less than an angel; and there’s her sister Sarah, who is attracted to Browner herself, creating a triangle that Browner wants no part of. Then there is Alan Fairbairn, whom Sarah pushes on Mary, creating yet another triangle: we move from Browner and two women to Mary and two men.

And what comes of it all? A double murder, a crime passionnel, committed by Browner, for which he takes the blame while at the same time laying off some of it on Sarah Cushing. We get to hear Browner’s confession at the end, a confession that I think makes us sympathize with him – and yet can we allow people to go about committing murder (or starting wars) even if their cause is just? The last lines of the story, the lament of Holmes, leave that question unanswered. “What is the meaning of it?” he says, voicing the great Victorian question that troubled the likes of Tennyson mourning the death of his friend Hallam.

Well, what is the meaning of it? The Victorians tended to buck themselves up and somehow still saw meaning. By the time of this story, however, especially the time of its second publication, modernism was in the air: meaning was threatened altogether. And so we can see this story as almost ahead of its time, or at least as being in tune with Doyle’s bleakness in The Valley of Fear.

But the mystery is solved: Yes, it is. But what does it amount to in the end? A postal error. The reason two severed ears were sent to Susan Cushing was that they were actually meant for someone else, as Susan Cushing herself says. Holmes thinks so little of his solution to this problem that he asks Lestrade not to mention him in connection with it. Is this fair? It is after all a clever solution to what seems like a baffling problem: it baffled Lestrade after all. But if the puzzle can be solved, something larger remains intractable: the passions of the human heart, the love that turns to hate (in both Sarah and Browner), the violence that a man may resort to … Instead of feeling uplifted by the solution to this crime, we feel with Holmes: what is the way out? What does it all mean?

And what else? Watson is the bored one here, eager for a case in the manner we usually associate with Holmes, meaning … Well, who knows? He also gets a “thrill” when he learns there may be more than just a bizarre prank going on. But Watson is us: if he is excited by the thought of “strange and inexplicable horror,” what does that say about us? Perhaps that we are the bored ones looking for stimulation? Like Holmes usually, like Watson here? Oh, it is very confusing. Is this the most confusing story in the canon? Some call it the darkest, and this despite the lack of fog: instead we are in the blazing August heat, but we still can’t see because of the glare. The glare hurts our eyes. Is it the glare of reality? The reality that people cannot stand, to paraphrase a later poet? The glare from the human heart? The heart of darkness?

Respectability: Often respectability is a cover for a deep dark secret from the past (or America). Here the respectable Susan Cushing is simply that: a respectable lady with nothing in her past that can account for the crime, for the simple reason that the crime is nothing to do with her. So what is she doing in the story? Just one of those innocent bystander types, like Scott Eccles in “Wisteria Lodge,” dragged into things to serve someone’s ends? But not even that: she’s in it by mistake, by sharing the same initial as her sister Sarah. But wait, there is something there: it is her sister who’s at the heart of things. It’s not completely accidental, and one of her sisters is a scheming manipulator and the other is an adulteress: can she be as innocent as all that? She even has ears that look like her sister’s. How is it that one from the family can be so proper, and the other two … well … Hmm. Oh, wait …

Respectability in the midst of horror: Perhaps we are not Watson and his thrill at horror (or maybe that too), but Susan Cushing, the respectable one, in a world of horror, horror that she generally is able to keep at bay, but which here presses in on her through the agency of the post office. And so it means we thrill to horror and shrink from it and are guilty of it ourselves. Perhaps that’s what it all means.

Excerpted from my book of Sherlockian Musings, available at Amazon Canada, Amazon USA, and  Amazon UK. Also at MX Publishing.  The musings were originally written for the Stormy Petrels of British Columbia.

 

A Poem about Dr. Watson

Watson with Holmes in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter.
Illustration by Sidney Paget

Here’s a poem of mine about the beloved Dr. Watson, written for a contest held by the Watsonian. Haven’t heard the results of the contest yet, but never mind:

                    Watson
Cut out the poetry, he said,
The game’s afoot, a man is dead.
I’ll solve the crime as Euclid might,
But still I need you: you can write.

The fixed point in a changing time,
The common man caught up in crime,
The loyal Boswell throwing bombs,
The burglar who yet had qualms.

He’d follow Holmes where’er he led,
Though not to Lhasa when thought dead.
He fainted when he reappeared,
He took strange drugs, saw what he feared.

He let himself be made a fool,
And yet he was a willing tool,
He gave to Sherlock Holmes the glory,
But it was Watson told the story.

A little different from my usual Musings.  If you want them, check out Sherlockian Musings at Amazon Canada, Amazon USA,and Amazon UK. Also at MX Publishing.  

 

The Norwood Builder

Where there’s smoke, there’s a Norwood Builder.
Illustration by Sidney Paget.

The Norwood Builder

The Curious Incident of the Physician in the Dark: Which I suppose could refer to either Dr. Watson himself or to Dr. Verner, who is given money by Holmes to enable him to buy Watson’s practice, all to enable Watson to move back in with his old companion.  Holmes talks of there being two singular incidents in this story, but really this is a third: why does he go to such lengths to get Watson back to Baker Street?

         My first thought was to think what reason Holmes might have to do this.  To ensure the stories get recorded?  To get an admiring audience on hand?  But he can always win applause from the police; he has no need of Watson.  And he doesn’t even want the stories published; or so he says from time to time.  Maybe it’s for companionship or to have a lesser light to shine in comparison to, or maybe Watson’s bumblings inspire him …

         But I began to think I was looking at this the wrong way.  Maybe it’s not so much that Holmes needs them to be together; maybe it’s the stories that need them together.  Holmes and Watson in Baker Street; that’s the iconic arrangement.  Conan Doyle needs them back together, and he even seems to need to emphasize the importance of this by introducing the far-fetched story of Holmes paying Verner to pay Watson. 

And another curious incident: Sherlock Holmes gets discouraged in this story.  When was Holmes ever discouraged before?[1]  And why should he be so discouraged?   The facts are against us, Watson, he says, but are they?  McFarlane’s mother hates Jonas Oldacre: is that a fact proving murder?  Of course, Lestrade thinks the facts are on his side too.  Look at the motive, look at the opportunity: isn’t it obvious?  “A trifle too obvious,” says Holmes (before he gets discouraged).  Now, this is Holmes the believer in facts, details (“I pay a good deal of attention to matters of detail,” he says, and there’s no reason not to believe him).

         And yet here he feels his instincts going against the details.  And the details seem overwhelmingly to support the other side (Lestrade’s side), or so Holmes says, though I don’t believe him.  So again why?  Why does the story set things up this way?  Surely to emphasize the importance of instincts.  Doyle seems to want to create a situation in which you have to trust your instincts (or Holmes has to trust his instincts) against the apparent evidence.  This is not the same as theorizing without evidence, I don’t think.  It’s not like that silly theory about a tramp or any of the other five theories Holmes says he could produce; it’s not about sitting down rationally and coming up with an alternative to the obvious explanation.  It’s about following one’s instincts, being an artist, one might say, knowing when the obvious is a trifle too obvious, letting one’s active sense of disbelief have full play.

Like an artist: Holmes essentially calls Oldacre a failed artist, not knowing when to stop, adding just one final touch to his masterpiece and thus undoing the whole thing by trying to make it even better.  Holmes is the true artist here, even in his discouragement, maybe especially in his discouragement as he agonizes over the disconnect between what he knows in his bones to be true and what the facts seem to tell him.

Holmes and Lestrade: When Lestrade bursts in ready to seize Holmes’s client, I thought, Oh, like something out of Nero Wolfe: private detective versus the official police, antagonism, the whole school of hardboiled private eyes and hostile officialdom.  But Lestrade quickly gives way; they are quite cordial, really; these stories belong to a different school.  There is of course rivalry between Holmes and the policeman, but a friendly rivalry, and in the end Lestrade is most appreciative, like a child before a teacher … (wait, I thought that was Watson’s role; well, maybe Watson is the child before his father; Watson is the son, and Lestrade is the pupil).

         Anyway, Lestrade is appreciative, and not just at seeing a good trick, but because his reputation is barely saved.  Reputation, reputation, reputation: it is a driving force in these stories, usually for the criminals, but in this case we see that even policemen care about it.

The great god Moriarty is dead: And what a loss it is to poor Sherlock: where will he find crimes now?  In the past, he says, he could see Moriarty’s hand in everything, as if everything criminal stemmed from him, but now … nothing, and London is much more boring.  One might think that a criminologist would want to abolish crime, but of course: no more crime, no more crime-solving, and crime-solving is what Holmes lives for.  Abolish crime?  Not he.  Luckily, then, it turns out there can still be crime after Moriarty (just as it could never have been true that all the previous crimes of the canon had been orchestrated by that foul spider: an interesting notion, to be sure, comforting in its way: now we can explain all criminality, just by reference to Moriarty, but life is seldom so simple, nor canons either).

Do you need to relax?  Have a cigarette: At least that’s Sherlock Holmes’s prescription for frantic McFarlane.  The times were rather different.

And the real motive: Sexual jealousy.  A spurned lover.  Hell hath no fury like an Oldacre scorned, that ferret-like little man; you can tell he was evil just from his looks (there’s that physiognomy again).

Parlour tricks: Some would dismiss the Sherlockian identification game (I see you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an asthmatic), and true, even Watson can see how it’s done now, and after all how does it help solve the crime?  But it makes Holmes look like a genius, that’s the point.  Usually in comparison with slow-witted Watson.  The contrast is essential not to solving crimes but to setting up the yin and yang of the stories, the Holmes-Watson partnership, which Doyle is at such pains to re-establish here.  We only know it’s Holmes because he can do such things; the rational mind might object, but the instincts know the parlour tricks belong.

         It’s the same with deducing that the will was written on a train: what does it matter, except to show Holmes’s genius?  Well, perhaps it also shows Oldacre came up with this at the last minute, which shows that the murder plot was an afterthought, and yet so deeply motivated.  A paradox.


[1]     Well, he does get a bit discouraged, briefly, in The Sign of the Four.

Excerpted from my book of Sherlockian Musings, available at Amazon Canada, Amazon USA, and  Amazon UK. Also at MX Publishing.  The musings were originally written for the Stormy Petrels of British Columbia.

The Priory School

Thorneycroft Huxtable, BA, MA, etc., arriving at Baker Street.
Illustration by Sidney Paget.

The Priory School

Musings of Dr. Sheldon Goldfarb, BA, MA, MAS, PhD, etc.

Priory? First of all, what is a Priory School? I’ve looked up “priory,” and it means monastery or convent, but that can’t be what we have here in Victorian England. Perhaps it means there used to be a monastery on the spot? And it is a boys’ school, so a bit monastic perhaps: and with lurid goings-on as in an old Gothic, like for instance The Monk. But still.

And who is the Priory Schoolmaster? A question of moment to me since I have assumed the title for the Stormy Petrels in our monthly discussions of things Sherlockian. In the story both Thorneycroft Huxtable, that pompous fool, and the German master who gets murdered have the title of schoolmaster applied to them. Not sure either is a good role model to follow. I will certainly not go speeding across moors on my bicycle. (Not that I have a bicycle or know where the nearest moor is.)

Moors and Bicycles: Common motifs at this point in the canon. Doyle does like to take us to barren places, and lately he has become interested in cycling. Not sure if that means anything.

Nasty Aristocrats: That’s another common motif, though the Duke at first seems pleasant enough, more so than his secretary, though of course the secretary turns out to be his illegitimate son, and thus from the same class, just a bastardized version of it, you might say. (Who was his mother, by the way? Oh, dear, I’ll be turning into a Great Game Sherlockian soon.)

         But at the end certainly the Duke is rather nasty in wanting to hush up his illegitimate son’s involvement in the kidnapping of his legitimate son, and also in that murder of poor Heidegger. Poor Heidegger. But why did he set off after the young heir? He didn’t even know him. Not a good thing to be a Good Samaritan, apparently. This story is full of questions.

Names: We don’t have to worry about Heidegger the German philosopher because he’s twentieth century, but Wilder is an apt name for the illegitimate son (as Joseph Kestner says). Wilder than whom, though? His father? The legitimate heir? And the legitimate heir is named Arthur! How many Arthurs are there in the canon?*  Poor Arthur, kidnapped and never seen, just like the unseen presence behind Holmes and Watson. How often does an author name a character after himself, and what can that mean? Certainly, Holmes’s main concern at the end is to protect young Arthur. Beyond that he is content to let James Wilder go free and hush up the involvement of the Duke. But we must save Arthur, though from whom? Reuben Hayes is under arrest, James Wilder is on his way to Australia; all that’s left at the Inn is the kindly wife of Hayes. But one can imagine that someone named Arthur would want to protect someone else named Arthur: save him from harm and get his parents back together.

Money: Holmes doesn’t usually care about money, but here he seems eager for it. Is that just a way to get at the Duke? He won’t report him to the police, but he’ll take his money. Hmm. Odd.

The gypsies did it: No, of course they didn’t. It’s never the gypsies (or the butler).**  Some critics say the Holmes stories reflect fear of the foreign, but sometimes they mock that fear. In “The Naval Treaty” there’s almost a celebration of things Italian, and here the “foreign” gypsies are perfectly innocent, while the German character is the well-intentioned victim. We need foreigners to help us, but here we go bashing them over the head. Is that what the story is saying? Be kind to foreigners? It’s the hereditary Duke and his illegitimate son who are the dangers, and also Reuben Hayes, none of whom I think are foreign, though the name Reuben is suggestive: Old Testament after all, but still I think we have homegrown villains here, especially aristocrats. They’re often the villains in the canon.

Children: That’s uncommon, though: the focus on a child. There’s even a reference to a children’s game: Holmes talks of getting warmer or colder when leaving or approaching the Inn, “as the children say,” says Holmes. Are there other children in the canon? Not that young Arthur quite makes it into the canon, being unseen and unheard throughout the story. Still. A concern for children. Quite unusual. I once reproached the author of a Sherlockian pastiche for writing a story in which Holmes is very concerned to rescue boys at a school: Holmes never cares about youngsters, I said, but I’d forgotten this story.

         And there’s the grimy stable boy. For a moment I thought he might be young Lord Saltire in disguise, and now I pause to think: why after all is the stable boy there? Is it to suggest the sort of thing the young lord might be forced into? The horror, the degradation. Is that what Holmes thinks young Arthur needs rescuing from, the decline into servitude? The canon after all is full of stories about respectable people fearing they will be dragged down by some disreputable secret from their past. Is this story expressing a fear that a young lord could be dragged into the muck by the disreputable past activities of his father?

The past: Yes, there is something to dwell on. Some unfortunate passage in the Duke’s past life has produced a serious threat to young Arthur. So it is the standard canonical motif after all. You may be a lord now, young Arthur, but someone could come along to snatch you away from all that and maybe deprive you of your inheritance. In other stories it is this threatened character who is likely to turn murderer or murder victim; young Arthur is lucky to get off with a kidnapping, while it is the German Good Samaritan who dies trying to save him.

Moving on from the past: So we have a priory school, conjuring up the monastic past, and an old aristocratic title, and a schoolmaster who writes about Horace and who ends up collapsing in the parlour at Baker Street. How the mighty are fallen, how the past has decayed, how worrying about inheritance leads into crime. Is this the message? And maybe it’s time to transfer money from the decaying aristocracy to the self-made men of the middle class, the detectives, for instance. And finally remember to protect the children, especially the ones named Arthur.


*   More than I thought, actually. Donald Redmond says there are eight.  Most of them are quite positive characters, either heroes or sympathetic victims (or both, like Arthur Cadogan West in “The Bruce-Partington Plans” and Arthur Holder in “The Beryl Coronet”). There’s also the falsely accused Arthur Charpentier in Study in Scarlet. The most prominent villain among them is Arthur Pinner in “The Stockbroker’s Clerk,” but I note that Arthur is not his real name.

**  Well, it is the butler in “The Musgrave Ritual.” But it’s never the gypsies. Sometimes it’s foreigners, but other times they’re just innocents wrongly accused.

Excerpted from my book of Sherlockian Musings, available at Amazon Canada, Amazon USA, and  Amazon UK. Also at MX Publishing.  The musings were originally written for the Stormy Petrels of British Columbia.