Simple pleasures bring bright memories skipping to mind like rocks on water.
We skip rocks less often as we age, though waterways are everywhere, and so are rocks. Rarely we pause to prospect for a smooth, flat stone; test its weight; wind back, fling it sidearm and watch it spin like a Frisbee as it curves down to tap dance across the ripples.
This friends and I did back when I was a kid, sometimes competing for the most skips. It was good, clean fun, if nothing got in our way, like a Coke bottle or possibly a duck.
Why don’t we do that anymore?
This I wondered Aug. 24, when on a canoe trip in Montana I crossed a glacial lake so clear that feet deep shone the sunlit skeletons of sunken trees, spines stretching into evergreen depths.
In shallow water, their dead limbs can snag, tip, tangle and drown you. Nature in all her majesty can turn on you in an instant, or over a season.
In one remote Montana mountain range, the locals recalled that an older couple last winter moved into a thin shack, relying for warmth on a gas-powered generator and a space heater.
When that generator’s distant drone died and worried neighbors finally pushed through the snow, they found the woman dead, and the man, nearly so, lying with her in the bed. Of several pets, only a dog survived.
Wilderness offers no forgiveness.
On the shores of glacial lakes lie rocks of many hues: rust, maroon, gray, aqua-marine. Some are so flat and smooth you can’t resist flinging them with a snap of the wrist to see them skip: tap, tap, plunk.
So at a landing on my canoe trip, I skipped rocks and wondered: Why don’t I do this more often?
Then I felt the muscle pull in my back.
Oh yeah. Now I remember.
As you grow older, slinging something sidearm isn’t as easy as it used to be. And you don’t want to risk the injury with 3 miles yet to paddle, especially if you must canoe about 4 mph to cut through a ski boat’s wake. Drift and it will tip you, and dunk you in the dead trees.
So that’s how I came to be here, Aug. 25, resting uncomfortably in a plastic chair on a wooden deck, pondering life’s simple pleasures.
I’m stove up, laid out, too sore to do the chores my wife wants me to, like raking invasive weeds out of a meadow pond. It’s not a terrible job, in hot weather. Last time only one leech got on me.
Of life’s simple pleasures I now count the brief inability to do work that leaves a laborer prey to a blood-sucking parasite, possibly a whole posse of them.
Too bad you can’t hit those with a rock.
As summer fades to fall along life’s sunlit rocky bone-strewn lakeshore or whatever, we all should pause to appreciate simple pleasures, such as skipping rocks, paddling canoes, staring into clear mountain lakes, and feeling nature touch us with all her raw, naked beauty.
Thinking ahead is good, too. So is taking ibuprofen.