Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Joey's Skipping Stones

There is a beach in West Cork near Ownahincha known as the Long Strand. It's a deadly beach, famous for sneak waves caused by the quick, deep descent of its shifty sands. Surfers love this beach, as do I — not so much for the surfing, which I was never very good at, but for the cobbles spit from the frothy churn of those steely blue waters.

One morning as I bumbled along the beach, the water was barely visible through a dense shroud of fog. I happened upon something singular and unexpected: a perfectly shaped skipping stone.

The fog made it special, like I was in a private room, especially reserved for this hallowed bestowal — the ultimate gift wrapping.

I picked it up and rubbed its smooth, flat surface between my fingers and thought of my older brother. We were riding bikes through the sweet smelling vineyards of Megier and came across a river where we stopped to cool off. I had never skipped a stone in my life until my older brother taught me that day. It was a memorable occasion, a time-honored passage of rites, and it was special. Little did I know that just a few days prior, he and my sister — whose favorite movie is Amelie — had an Amelie day, scootering around Paris, where they too skipped stones... c'etais la saison, Je s'pose.

That morning the beach was foggy and the waters choppy, not exactly ideal conditions for skipping stones, so I tucked the rock safely into my pocket and continued along my way. A few moments later, I happened upon another one. It was just as flawless as the first; I couldn't possibly leave it behind... and an idea struck — subtle and enlivening. A gentle clinking reached my ears as the second stone landed in my pocket. I continued along my path, alert and searching, and every so often the sea-smoked room would gift me with another stone.

I came across this another day at the same beach.
Soon my pockets clanked as I moved, a human-powered wind chime, laden with enough ballast to ensure my drowning should a sneak wave attack; but it was a risk worth taking, for I had gathered stones sufficient to compile a most splendid gift.

Upon returning to my beautiful, rented cottage near the Galley Head Lighthouse, I rinsed them up and set them out to dry on the stone-flagged patio while I searched for the perfect container. I found it in a bag that once housed a fancy chocolate Easter egg. After the morning fog burned off and the roads were safe to use again, I peddled ten miles into town and purchased a silver paint pen, which I used to carefully inscribe the title of my gift: Joey's Skipping Stones.

It was perfect and filled me with a deep sense of pleasure. Those significant stones were hand-entrusted from the sands of a most beloved Irish beach to the palm-studded shores of Southern California.

A few weeks later I got a text from my brother citing that he loved his gift, but wasn't sure if he should keep them, skip them, or chuck them at the neighbors dog that forever barked in the morning. What an excellent response!

It wasn't long before my nephew was born. I made certain to gather another bag of stones for him, so that someday my brother can teach his son the important lesson of skipping stones. A gift of generations. Perhaps someday when my nephew is on his own, facing tough life decisions, he will recall the much-needed advice imparted to him while skipping stones with his dad. If so, my life on this planet, will indeed, have been worthwhile.

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. ~ Emily Dickinson

Until Next Time,

Eliott McKay

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dancing with the Daffodils

Photo credit: aussiegall / Foter.com / CC BY

In the summertime, the Irish roads are lined with wild, yellow blossoms, king-sized daffodils to amaze the very tastebuds of delight. Those lovely masses trailed along the clover-splotched tarmac and became more beautiful with every curve in the road. I marveled at them wherever I went, and one evening, after returning home from the local library — yes, I had a library card in Ireland — my arms were loaded with books. I tossed them onto the sofa and declared: "I'm rich!"

In a response to this bold declaration and my endless fascination over those wondrous, bright blooms, this poem was given to me:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

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