Skimming Stones

East Durham, NY, Friday May 1st, 2020

I grew up in Meadowbrook, Riverstown, Glanmire, County Cork. Beside the Glashaboy river.  We had two television channels. We spent a lot of time by the river. Skimming stones and building rope bridges as children. Drinking cans as teenagers. It comes back to me frequently as I sit by the creek across the road from our house in  Upstate New York. I find myself skipping stones with Saoirse. She rambles around picking out candidates for me to splish-splash or skim across the river. She puts one in her pocket to give to Clare when we get home. She will do this with great ceremony. There are waterfalls, deer, chipmunks and what I’m guessing are three eagles, but I’m not sure, they’re massive whatever they are. I saw a bear once. Sitting like a toddler at the edge of our yard eating berries from a tree. I felt completely star struck. Skimming stones with Saoirse. I am absolutely in the moment with her and also fleeting back to the glashaboy with Paul, Michael, Justin, Dave, Morgan, David, Anthony and Kieran. My mother told me not to go in the river because there were river rats. I just today realised maybe that was a dubious claim. Were there water rats or did she just not want us to drown? Either is fine. She also told me there were worms in the ice cream truck ice-creams. To this day, to the best of my recollection, I have never had an ice cream from an ice cream truck. That’s fine too. Skimming stones with Saoirse down at the creek. I am grateful for what I have now and what I had then.


It’s hard not to wonder how much more pain this virus will inflict. Hard also not to wonder how much irreparable long term damage our fearless leader has already caused. It often seems like he’s in a competition with himself. A race to the bottom. Except there seems to be no bottom. This week we had a sitting president suggest that maybe we could inject disinfectant. This week? Last week? Today? A hundred years ago? Who knows? Poor leadership is a leak in the roof. On a bright summer’s day it’s fine, somedays you even forget about it. When the storm comes your roof will fall in and your house will be destroyed. The virus has reminded us that we are all interconnected. Not an ideal time to have an isolationist at the loudest microphone. The fire in the servants’ quarters will find the master bedroom.


Flat stones are the best, of course, flat mid sized stones. Flat small ones are good too, especially in a lake, but in a river or stream, flat mid sized stones will dance across the current and find the far side of the shore. I count the splashes, skim one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and crash on the other side. I count the splashes. I count my blessings. Now and then.


I wash Saoirse’s hands and sing ABC. She has the melody down so far. I wash my hands. I count to 30 million. I try not to turn on the news.


Stay safe.

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