August Mornings in Maine
August mornings in Maine are cool, perfect for hiking through the mountains that border the Atlantic Ocean. Bears are still active near some forest trails, but we never saw one. The solitude and beauty far outweigh the risk. Our children are old enough now to climb and hike, still young enough to delight in snakes and frogs, eider ducks and harbor seals.
Every time we hiked to a mountain pool, or to the rocky shore of the ocean, our boys stopped to skip stones. Every pitch was filled with anticipation and delight. They searched for flat stones as they walked, filling the pockets of their shorts and backpacks. Both boys spent quiet hours trying to beat their records, four or five skips, with unaccounted glee for long, graceful stone-flights across ponds and harbors.
Once their game was so long, their absorption so complete, my daughter and I found a shady spot at the edge of the forest and sat down together to watch. A lone park ranger walked by. He could see the boys throwing stones into the ocean, but he could not see me.
“Boys?” he said. He was younger than most park rangers, ruggedly handsome, and concerned. “Are you alone?”
I stepped out of the shade and waved. The ranger smiled back, paused to watch our sons skipping stones, smiled again, and walked on.
Memory and the Human Spirit
Memory exists in a dimension of the human spirit unlike any other area of faith or intelligence. The shores where our sons lingered this summer will flow in and out of their consciousness like tides. Sometimes when they are sad, anxious, tired or alone, they will search for a memory. Other times the sight of a flat stone or the smell of salt air will remind them of the August they spent skipping stones in Maine.
Skipping stones is not impressive. It will not build strength, or athletic skills, leadership potential or self-confidence. Kids who skip stones can be alone with themselves, content on a rocky shore without goals or ambitions, with nothing to entertain them but pockets full of stones and water.
Being content while alone is enough, though. Memory is also sufficient unto itself, for reasons every parent understands to be one of the gifts of loving a child. Skipping stones in Maine will be a fleeting moment in the life of our sons. It will also be our glimpse of eternity, a reminder that every child grows with a grace that is entirely his own.