Skipping Rocks at Carkeek Park

Blended Family Fun on the Beach just after Sunset

Morgan & Talia at Play

~ Summer of 2004 ~

All photographs by William Dudley Bass.

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Morgan showing Talia how to skip rocks into the Sound, Carkeek Park, Seattle, June 2004.

Morgan showing Talia how to skip rocks into the Sound, Carkeek Park, Seattle, Wednesday 16 June 2004.

Kristina, my partner at the time, and I discovered one of the best ways to blend our quirky families was to play together. Shared activities made any chore much more fun and the play a hooty wild blast. Sometimes we played rough, too. My kids and I called wrestling with Daddy “rumble tumble.” Kate was the roughest, although Talia enjoyed a good tumble, too, until she decided she didn’t appreciate a particular move. Morgan didn’t care for such forceful fun. She was a more gentle, restrained, and patient player who valued eccentric, witty goofiness over “play fightin’.”

At the time our blended 3.5-way family lived in the Yellow Dragonfly House, our little community in Seattle at the top of Fremont and south of the Zoo. One of our all-time favorite places in Seattle was Carkeek Park. We have many fond memories of spontaneous visits, quiet rambles exploring hidden ravines, noisy joy on the beach, picnics and cookouts, sweaty runs, cold sits, glorious sunsets, and spontaneous visits by the Bubble Man blowing blizzards of bubbles to delight children and whoever else loved bubbles.

The Bubble Man at play in Carkeek Park, New Years Day 2012.

The Bubble Man at play in Carkeek Park, New Years Day 2012.

Carkeek Park encompassed a network of forested ravines, jungley woods, meadows, and beaches. Piper’s Creek, named after the Piper family and their old homestead and orchards, flowed down the middle of the largest ravine into the sea. Piper’s Canyon was surprisingly wide and deep for Seattle. Located in the northwestern corner of Seattle, Carkeek was also known for having among the best beaches in Seattle. These are Pacific Northwest beaches, in case you’re dreaming of hot, sunny, tropical isles.

Here the beaches were an alchemical masterpiece brewed up by Nature. Sloping contours of sand ranged in color from yellow and orange to gray, brown, silver, and dark, bluish gray. Shades of color shifted with the everchanging dance of light and shadows. The sandy beaches were riven by bands of pebbles and stones. Logs and beach wood lay scattered around where they have been tumbled and rolled ashore. Random collections of sea shells, crabs, kelp, bones, birds, clams, Japanese sea glass, and occasional flotsam of shipwrecks and lost cargo decorated the semi-wild beaches of Carkeek and its sister parks along the Sound.

The beaches of Carkeek Park swept clean by Winter storms, New Year's Day 2012.

The beaches of Carkeek Park swept clean by Winter storms, New Year’s Day 2012.

Puget Sound, gouged out by massive Ice Age glaciers long since melted, was part of a complex of interconnected waterways known collectively as the Salish Sea. The biggest draw, at least initially, is the everchanging and awe-inspiring views of the Olympics across the sea from Seattle. On clear days, sunrise from the East cast magnificent alpenglow upon the west-facing Olympic Mountains. Evenings the same day brought displays of rich, vibrant colors as the sun slid down behind the rugged, snowy peaks of the Olympics. Cloudy days brought equally beautiful views of distant mountain ranges wreathed in fog and clouds or bearing through small but dramatic storms.

Upon one of these trips where we blended Basses, Katayamas, and Hughes into our little Postmodern clan, we skipped rocks across the waters of the Salish Sea at Carkeek Park. I  grabbed my camera and took Morgan Bass and Talia Katayama (later Bass). Jean Whitemarsh Katayama, Talia’s maternal grandmother and Morgan and Kate’s stepmother, accompanied us down to the beach. It was almost summer, the tail end of spring, with Summer Solstice less than a week away. The air felt summery when we arrived, although it’s often chilly along the waterfront at night. We drove to Carkeek to enjoy the sunset.

The day was Wednesday, the 16th of June, in the year 2004. Morgan was 10 years old, and Talia had turned 2 a little over a month ago. Me? I was 45 years alive.

Talia is EXCITED to see ROCKS and WATER!

Talia is EXCITED to see ROCKS and WATER!

I loved skipping rocks. Indeed, I fancy myself a Master Rock Skipper. Although I can throw twenty or thirty stones all a plunky-plop into the water until I get ’em just right. Then, aye, then I can skip stone after stone after stone. Sometimes I can get eight, ten, a dozen bounces from one rock a skippin’ then thirteen or fifteen from the next pair of stones, then back to more ploppy-plunks. Being borderline ambidextrous, I can skip rocks with both hands. I’m proud of my ability to make round, heavy stones skip at least once or twice. It’s the spin. A round rock with enough spin will pivot so fast as to shoot back off the surface tension of the water.

I show my girls not to throw rocks underhanded or overheaded. Furthermore, I demonstrate the worse stone throwing move of all, one to hope never, ever happens, a wild windmill through the air with rocks raining down atop people’s heads or upon their own.

“If you mess up and you see right away the rock you just threw is going to hit someone, what do you do?” I asked my daughters.

“I don’t know,” Talia said and pouted.

“You say, ‘Hey, you! Watch out! I accidentally threw a rock at you, but I didn’t mean to!'” Morgan replied with an expression of stern gravity before bursting into a grin.

“Aww, Morgan, they’ll be all bloody before they know it if you tell ’em all that,” I said with a chuckle.

“This is what you do. So listen up,” I commanded. “You shout, ROCK!'”

“Rock? But you just throwed rocks, DaDa,” Talia observed.

“One word. Rock! That’s all you need to say. Just like in rock climbing,” I explained. “Most people around here know enough to look up quick or duck and take cover. So whadaya say?”

“Rock!” “Rock!”

“Louder! Again, what do you say when you think your rock is gonna hit somebody? Quick;y,  now!”

“ROCK! ROCK!” Morgan and Talia screamed together.

“Good!” I said. “That’s awesome, kids!”

Jean just laughed.

Morgan showing Talia what stones make the best skippy rocks.

Morgan showing Talia what stones make the best skippy rocks.

I demonstrated how to throw from the side using their abdominal muscles to snap their torso around with great force. Twist back and turn to the side, then unwind your entire upper body. My arm swings around as a scythe reaps a swath of wheat. My wrist snaps with a sharp flip as my index fingertip spits the final launch from the cradle of my thumb and palm. My throw is one of controlled violence. The stone spins, smacks the water, and bounces one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times.

“Wow!” Morgan blurts out. She figures out what to do, tries and flubs, then gets it down. Next she turns to teach her little sister Talia. Only 2, Talia is quite happy to fling pebbles into the surf to make splashes. Grandma Jean gets in on the game as well, tho she can’t skip as well as she can sing.

“Look, Talia, you hold it just like this! OK?”

“Look, Talia, you hold it just like this! OK?”

"There you go!" Morgan & Talia skipping stones at Carkeek. Wednesday 16 June 2004.

“There you go!”
Morgan & Talia skipping stones at Carkeek. Wednesday 16 June 2004.

Morgan turns loose a skipping stone into Puget Sound. Across the water sit the Olympics. Carkeek Park, 16 June 2004.

Morgan turns loose a skipping stone into Puget Sound. Across the water sit the Olympics. Carkeek Park, 16 June 2004.

We skipped rocks into a glorious and beautiful sunset. The four of us wandered back and forth along the beach, scrounging around in the sand as we searched for the perfect skippy rock. Together all of us skipped and threw and hurled and drops rocks, pebbles, stones, and even driftwood until it was too dark to see anymore. It was a joyful time of quiet communion between individuals still working to get along and understand each other.

Down on the shores of Carkeek Park; L2R: Jean, Morgan, Talia, & the Salish Sea.

Down on the shores of Carkeek Park; L2R: Jean, Morgan, Talia, & the Salish Sea.

A loud whistle sounded in the distance as the train rounded the bluffs heading south along the Sound. Railroad tracks cut through the park between the beach and the bluffs with chain link fencing to keep out people and large animals. Trains rumbling along the tracks carved around our seashore parks have killed so many people. A pedestrian overpass allowed us to cross over above the rails and down to the beaches. We turned to watch the train thunder behind us, marveling at the massive power, momentum, and inertia of the locomotives and its train of cars as it barreled down the tracks.

A Grandmother and her Granddaughter watch the train as it rumbles by. Jean & Talia, Carkeek Park, Wednesday 16 June 2004.

A Grandmother and her Granddaughter watch the train as it rumbles by. Jean & Talia, Carkeek Park, Wednesday 16 June 2004.

The train vanished as quickly as it appeared, rounding the next bend toward Golden Gardens Park. Blustery whirlwinds swirled in the drafts gusting behind the last cars. Jean, Morgan, Talia, and I clambered back up to the parking lot, found our car, and headed on home.

Going home was no reason for Morgan and Talia to stop playing by any means. Instead of preparing themselves for bed during these last few days of school, they acted as if it were already Summer Break. They dressed up along with their sister Kate in a wild assortment of colorful garments to play “Dress up like a Pop Star.” For a few years dress-up play was often a daily and nightly occurrence with the rest of us treated to a occasional performance show. Those innocent, almost idyllic times are grist for other stories another time. We had to get our kids into bed!

Morgan & Talia playing "Dress up like a Pop Star." The Yellow Dragonfly House, Seattle, Wednesday 4 August 2004.

Morgan & Talia playing “Dress up like a Pop Star.” The Yellow Dragonfly House, Seattle, Wednesday 4 August 2004.

 

~ the end, for now ~

 

William Dudley Bass
Wednesday 13 March 2013
Seattle, Washington
Cascadia

 

Copyright © 2004, 2013, 2015, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.

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