Sunday, September 1, 2013

Children at the Beach - Milwaukee, 2010

We were driving out to Long Island this weekend and listening to Seamus Heaney's poem, "Railway Children," in an NPR podcast.  The Nobel laureate had passed away last week and we heard these words.  "We were small and thought we knew nothing worth knowing.  We thought words traveled the wires in the tiny pouches of raindrops."

These words brought me back to another poem about childhood, my favorite poem really in the English language, "Fern Hill," by Dylan Thomas.  It's a poem about a farm and what it means to be a child, living in the moment, and how we know nothing of time.

When I got home and was going through some pictures for other reasons, I came upon these.  A couple of years ago I went to Milwaukee to visit my mom.  She was very old and demented and it was depressing and sad to
see her.  I woke up one morning.  It was a beautiful summer's day and I couldn't resist a detour to the beach.  All my life I've gone to Lake Michigan whenever I could and this day was no exception.  I'd always found the lake restorative.

I put down my blanket, my book, a hat on my head and thought I'd relax.  But I hadn't been there long with a group of children came and started playing right in front of me.  I'm not sure why the rope is there.  I think it was corralling them in.  Anyway I couldn't resist.  I had my camera with me and I got a lot of pictures.  To me these children represent childhood and all its happy memories but especially those of the beach.  And the innocence of these children -
their ignorance to anything that might stand between them - touched me.  In many ways.

 I suppose these are sentimental snaps, but no apologies.  I loved these kids and for an hour or so they made me very happy.  I think about them now.

 They are older, walking, talking, in school.  Are they still playing together on the beach today?  I think of that wonderful story by Stephen Milhausseur - about the boy who doesn't want to go into the water for his first swim of the season because he senses that when he comes out of the water something - his childhood, his innocence - will be behind him.

I loved snapping pictures of these kids before they'd had that swim.  I believe it was Matisse who said that he had to grow up to be a child again.  Maybe that's really what an artist is.  Whatever.  I loved these kids and was happy taking pictures of them.

They brought back to the last lines of "Fern Hill" which some may find morbid or sad, but I find stunningly accurate - one of those truths about life that only the poets can put their finger on. "Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his time held me green and dying/though I sang in my chains like the sea."

With thanks to the poets.  And to these kids.  Wherever they may be.


  1. Thanks for posting the article...its really a good tip.... in chennai,real estate in chennai

  2. I know that children love having fun on the beach. It is very important that they have the appropriate gear: bags, umbrellas, chairs like and everything they might need to relax. And your story is as poetic as well as photos of children. They are beautiful.