On Skipping Stones

About three miles from the house is the Liberty Reservoir. It’s an artificial lake that provides water to Baltimore. It being a pretty day–clear blue sky, temperature around eighty-five–I packed a bag with notebook and pens, grabbed a towel, and drove out to the reservoir. I wanted to get some writing done while communing with nature.

The road into the lake was closed off, so I parked in the visitor lot (as had many others), grabbed my bad, and jumped the barrier. I had to hike into the lake.

It was about a mile and a half to the lake. For the first thirty seconds after I’d jumped the barrier across the road I had second thoughts–perhaps this wasn’t a good idea. Hearing voices along the road eased those fears, and passing a couple of their way out eased them completely. I hiked around a bend, then around another, and at the top of an incline there was a fence. I jumped the fence, and a well-trod path led me through what seemed to be a Christmas tree farm to the water’s edge. I laid out the towel, sat down, and fished out my wriitng materials.

It had taken about twenty minutes to reach that spot from the car.

I wrote three pages over the next hour. A character I anachronistically named “Dirk”–I needed a name, stat, and that was the first thing that came to mind. After about an hour I had a visitor; a man came down the path with his black Labrador. They stayed for a few minutes–the dog wanted to pull him out into the lake, and finally the man tired of that.

It was relaxing just to watch the wind blow across the water. It was the right place to write–I was writing a scene set at sea. It was quiet, too. Though the highway ran across the lake about three quarters of a mile off from my position I barely noticed. Finally, my arm cramped up, and I needed to stretch. I skipped stones across the lake.

There’s a common mistake people make when skipping stones. They look for flat stones. Usually, flat lightweight stones. There’s an obvious problem here. When you put the spin on the stone, a flat lightweight stone will curve and tumble rather than fly true. Then you’ll get maybe one skip if you’re lucky. The key to a successful skip is not the angle. What you need is a heavier stone, one with a single flat side. Spin the stone parallel to the flat side and the stone’s weight will keep it stable in flight, giving you multiple skips.

Another fifteen minutes skipping stones and I was ready to hike back out to the parking lot. All in all, it had been a perfect outing. 🙂

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