Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Skipping stones and liitle boys

    My two-year old neighbor toddles into our living room and starts his inspection process while his mother and I talk in the entryway. He picks up a small black flat stone off the coffee table and examines it.

     “That’s yours,” I tell him. “You left it here the last time you were over, and I saved it for your return.”
     You’d have thought that I had given him the keys to the Magic Kingdom from the grin that comes over his face. He grasps it, turns it over and over and rubs it with the tips of his fingers.

     After numerous attempts, he fails putting 
the object into the slit in his jacket pocket, and it lands on the floor where it remains. Changing plans, he works on the complexities of zipping up his jacket in his latest desire for independence. -So much for a slippery stone.
     To be perfectly honest, I had forgotten all about that stone resting near the pile of magazines. I had recovered it off the floor and placed it there after his last visit. I never gave a second thought that down the road it would make a little boy so happy – at least for a few seconds - like discovering a long lost toy car hidden under the couch.
     Typical of all preschoolers, he is ready to move on and basically the visit is over as far as he is concerned. He sides up to his mom, wraps his arms around her knees and we both realize that our few moments of opportunity for adult conversation is finished for today.

     After mother and son leave, I gather up the flat stone no more that one-half an inch in length, and hold it for a moment. One of my favorite things to do at the beach no matter what the season is searching for just that shape of stone and skipping it on the water’s surface.
    If you are like me, you are weary of all the violence in the world. It is complicated, and if and when solutions get addressed, perhaps, there will be a more humane way of co-existence. That’s why I turn to simple pleasures free of brutality keeping me sane in a messy global community.
     There’s a practiced art to skipping a rock — YouTube will come to your aid, and if you find just the right shore, there are a multitude of thin light stones lying there waiting for you.
     Stand perpendicular to the water’s edge, give the rock an underhanded toss and let it go. If you are lucky, it will skim the surface, gain momentum and skip a second, third or fourth before dropping into the depths. The object of the game is to see how many times a stone can bounce before sinking.
    The stone generates lift in the same manner as a flying disc by pushing water down as it moves across the water at an angle. Surface tension has very little to do with it. The stone's rotation acts to stabilize it against the torque of lift being applied to the back.

     I have solved many of my most troublesome problems strolling the beach listening to the slap of the waves on the shore and randomly tossing stones out like I was physically letting go of my worries one at a time.
     Growing up friends and I would have our best conversations skipping stones together and often it was just the companionship we needed while trying to solve the perplexities of growing up - like figuring out why we were so misunderstood by our parents and teachers alike.
     In my head I have the image of my mother as a young woman – she was the best stone skipper by a long shot – and it reminds me that I should keep that picture of a vigorous, active person alive instead of one of her last years in ravished health. - So, I see her deftly skipping stones without a care in the world.
      For those of you trivia buffs, there is The North American Stone Skipping Association (NASSA), founded by Coleman-McGhee in 1989 and based in Driftwood, Texas, sanctioned world championships for four years from 1989 through 1992.
.     Believe it or not, there are official NASSA World Championships, too. The World Stone Skimming Championships 2016 will take place on Sunday, September 25, 2016 on Easdale Island, near Oban in Argyll, Scotland.
      “Skim it far, skim to the stars!”  - Its motto, and the only entry requirement is that you must skip a stone three times.
     The world record according to the Guinness Book of World Records is 88 skips by Kurt "Mountain Man" Steiner, age 48. The cast was achieved in 2013 at Red Bridge in the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania.
     I suppose if nothing else, it is satisfying to know that I am not alone in sporting the hobby, if you want to call it one.
     I reach into my sweater pocket and out comes an unusual stone – I am a collector of rocks and have been for years. I put this one on the coffee table for my little neighbor. In the meantime, my cat will get in the act by knocking it to the carpet when he is in a lighthearted mood.
     I have no doubt that my wee friend will use his sharp eyes and we will “play” the game all over again with 2 stones instead.