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Skipping Forward, Easing Back
Skipping Forward, Easing Back
a walk along Lake Allende

By Lou Christine

Picturesque San Miguel wasn’t agreeing with me. I was feeling blue. I wasn’t into people. I needed to escape, not for long, not even the weekend, just for a few hours.

I suppose I’m like most people. From time-to-time I too have to face bumps in the road. Last week was my turn.

Oh, it was the usual . . . me feeling sorry for myself. Hardly anything had been falling into place. My so-called projects were launching themselves sideways. The New York agent dropped off the face of the planet. Some significant relationships were rapidly sliding South.

Piling on, my eyes itched, my throat was bone dry and my nose seemed forever clogged, perhaps brought on by the combination of the bone-dry windy weather and swirling street dust.

So in the late afternoon I hopped into Chanticleer my trusty Ford Escort, a sturdy red rooster of a car, forever faithful. I wasn’t so sure where I was driving.

We negotiated over the chaise-torturing topes on Salida a Celaya. Just outside town, on the right, I steered Chanticleer into Los Frailes, San Miguel’s residential subdivision. We lumbered down to the lake’s edge.

Lake Allende is the body of water we’re able to see here from the higher elevations of this town. The lake varies in size throughout the course of the year. With summer rains its volume increases. The lake fans out. In the winter time it shrivels, affording its wildlife less of a watery space to reign.

While at the lake and while getting out of the car my focus remained fractured. I had yet to take in my surroundings. I began to walk with no specific direction in mind other than to skirt the lake.

The sky showed itself as cloudless, crystal-blue, picture-perfect. To the west the sun seemed suspended, fixed into the upper portion of a snap shot, hanging there before sinking behind the silent mountains. The fire in the sky had less searing power that afternoon. It soothed the skin rather than burned. The steady wind coming off the lake felt good, perhaps ironing out some of the wrinkles on my brow.

I nudged forward, dug my lowly heels into soft mounds of freshly worked soil. My sneakers crushed short and brittle stalks left behind from a past harvest.

The normally still waters, now driven by the wind, created waves licking away at the shore line, incoming echelons one after another. Out on the lake three-stately white herons with orange beaks cawed to one another while cruising just above the water’s surface. Other fowl, smaller than the herons, black in color balanced themselves upon the choppy waters.

Washed up shore line debris gave proof of civilization. I’ve seen worse. The debris was a potpourri made up of crumpled plastic containers and cigarette packs, with their flip-open tops torn open, looking more like open mouths, like battlefield casualties. There was a headless baby doll, various chunks of foam, an errant shoe and countless pieces of shredded paper bleached by the sun and mixed in with the lake’s silt perimeter.

I wondered about that discarded shoe. I tried to envision the moment and reason, the when and why, how those lost and tossed possessions departed from their rightful owners.

Something propelled me! I searched for the right-sized stones, amply shaped and flat enough, so to skip over the lake’s waters. The stone picking was slim due to the lack of rocky properties in the soft-turfed neighborhood. Just a few stones barely passed for the real deal. When put to the test, after a yeomanly toss, they miserably skimmed the surface and went ka-plunk. I skipped the skipping and marched along further.

Checkered about on the dried-out lake’s bed sat remnants of a deteriorating infrastructure made up of what were once bridges and some sort of man-made water conduits. Those crumbling abutments looked downtrodden. Perhaps they matched my mood. If they could, like me, they too might complain about feeling useless while stranded and stuck as relics mired in a state of funk.

I meandered across a small peninsula, just a finger of land extending toward the lake’s center. My moping advance avoided prickly bushes appearing as if they were dying to stab somebody. They leaned out looking like scary-looking characters, parched and desperate whose boots or roots you wouldn’t want to be in, sapped of moisture and barely surviving in a sparse existence.

I came upon disinterested cattle, chaperoned by a shabby herdsman, seemingly oblivious to all, including my oncoming. While I moseyed past his point of view he remained squatted, staring straight ahead, within his own thoughts perhaps. For the sake of silence’s gold, we hardly acknowledged one another. His forlorn cows and one scraggly bull foraged atop the nothingness to munch upon the scraps provided by nature.

Once again I was at the water’s edge. With the sun waning additional birds returned to roost.

I decided to give the rock skipping another try. To my advantage the stone pickings were better. With renewed enthusiasm I snatched some rounded beauties and further tested my arm’s strength and eyes’ aim. Working on my side arm I got off some good ones! I was getting action! . . . Skip! Skip! Skip! . . . Skip! Skip! Skip! Skip! Skip! . . . I found myself almost sprinting about, and bending over to replenish my ammunition.

I was thrust back in time recharged with memories belonging to my sweet bird of youth. I thought back to the long-ago, childish idea, that kids are guaranteed a rosier existence. Taking away the backdrop of the Mexican mountains it was as if I was back on the banks of the Delaware.

I had walked some ways. I peered back to find my spot and check on Chanticleer, who then was a mere red dot, parked alone, somewhere down the shoreline.

The squeals of children echoing from a nearby village had me envisioning kids with their cheeks turning red, playing their hearts out before Mexican suppertime.

Out by the lake all was at peace, granting my woes a needed respite, as if I were munching on sweets and buttered popcorn.

The facts presented themselves. As corny as it sounds they were: in the scope of things I was no worse or better off than those taking off herons or the drifting birds balancing their fragile lives atop that lake; I wasn’t washed up like the junk on the shoreline nor was I stuck in the mud like those dried-out bushes; I was no richer or poorer than that lone disheveled herdsman nor was I hungrier than his emaciated stock.

While clutching those prized skipping stones I realized our methods aren’t always at first shaped to skip over life’s problems with just one or two heartless flings. Unlike inanimate objects, unlike the concrete ruins stuck out in the middle of the lake, we possess the abilities to contour life’s path and have the wherewithal to balance things out so as not to sink and drown with the weight of life’s turmoil.

Those sounds of glee in the distance insured happiness was somewhere, and by the exclamations of those children, happiness was alive and well.

I stopped and placed my hands on my hips. While I rotated 360 degrees I saw: behind me, the jewel of San Miguel glistening in the distance; the lake’s wildlife scurrying home settling in for another starry night; the herdsman slowly coming to life, mustering his flock, then scooting them back to somewhere behind the tree line; the sinking sun’s rays stretching my likeness in its shadow. Time had come to move on, to go back to San Miguel and deal with the deal.

It was simple, refreshing. My innards were rid of exaggerated woes. I merged with nature, a selfless encounter, offering nothing more than the miracle of life, proving that the very best things in life are absolutely free. Who was I to complain? Who was I to take myself so seriously?

My step livened and my lips began to whistle a sweet tune. Back in the car while scooting home, Chanticleer took on a peppier nature too, as if he had caught the spirit.

So there you have it. I went for a ride and I took a walk around the lake, not the most exciting of endeavors, yet far, far from the worst that can happen. Why not try it sometime?


Lou Christine is a local author who has lived in San Miguel for over 20 years.
This story was first published in Atencion in 2000.

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