Thursday, July 16, 2015

What a difference a day makes…

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Balans en grenzen uit meer dan werk, I remind myself after 5 pm each night.  And so, I take evening walks after exercise, after work, most evenings.  The harbour is familiar, of course, but like any good friend it has it’s temperament.

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Yesterday was moody, still and humid, clouds low over Brownsea Island.  The sailboats moored still, at rest.  From Evening Hill, it was a blend of greys, sky indistinguishable from water.  Paddle-boarders oared along the Spit; only the rescue craft gave colour to the beach.  A line of sailboats threaded among the red and green market buoys, hurrying home before dark.  It reminds me of evenings along Puget Sound, mist laden with mystery.

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Today was different, quiet but contemplative.

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Pico Laser dinghys drifted into the Parkstone Yacht Club, sails reaching for the day’s last breath of breeze.  Faint laughter drifted up from the (Members Only) Boat House, fueled by cold beer and warmed-over canap├ęs.

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The forest of masts glowed in the fading light, while a lone thunderhead made futile menace over houses on Sandbanks Road.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Beach ponies and live bands

DSC02158 (1400x916)The wind was blowing hard Saturday evening, whipping stinging sand across my face and arms.  The low sun turned the dunes orange, throwing sawgrass shadows across their tops.  Sailboats and ferries crossed the blue channel of the harbour entrance, Old Harry Rocks in the distance.  A group of teens tended their fire pit and drank cheap beer in a hollow, shadowed from the elements.

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I sat, cross legged, on the crest and surveyed the peaked tents and broad arena below.  I’d expected that Beach Polo was a cross between Volleyball and Water Polo, but there were no nets or goals deployed.

There were, instead, Ponies and a lot of well-heeled spectators.  A big orange ball, lots of mallets, flying hooves and sand, lots of cheers and oohs from the stands.

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‘Actual Polo, sort of.

The event is detailed at the British Beach Polo site.  The spectator-level pictures, above, are from promotional sites: I was too far away to get good detail.  Tickets ranged from £25 (General 1-Day) to £60 (Extended, Beach after-party), and it looks like it could be an intriguing novelty that might be good fun next year.


DSC02423 (1400x932)Sunday began drizzly and grey after a restless night, then deteriorated onwards.  I was, nonetheless, determined to attend the Grooves on the Green music event in Ashley Park.  It was a bit desultory on arrival: a couple of bands playing to a dozen or so people, food and drink vendors looking damp and forlorn.  Children jumped in puddles (the bouncy-slide was closed down), trying to splash parents huddled beneath bright umbrellas.

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The planners had tried to work up a tropical theme for the Calling Stage and novelty groups like Funkathon (with the big hair, below).  The main stage struggled with transitions between larger, more polished acts.

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It was the exact opposite to the sunny Sandbanks Beach event of the prior evening, but more congenial (and better beer).

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What’s in a name?

DSC02178 (1400x932)I began exchanging light conversation with the fellow in the next seat, 30,000 feet above the midwestern prairies.  ‘headed home?  ‘how’s business?  ‘vacation plans?  ‘got any kids?

I hesitated.

It was only a week since the funeral: I didn’t want to burden a stranger nor get emotional trying to talk about it.

How many children do you have?

(Deep breath) Two, but I’ve just lost one of them.  He was surprised, then sympathetic. 

We talked for a moment about the loss and it’s impacts, welcome human concern, then moved to another topic.  It went okay for a first try.

It shook me, though.

One of the most difficult things that I had to resolve during the early weeks was how to talk about William’s passing.  I didn’t want to be manipulative nor to make others uncomfortable.  It took practice to be able to give a few short sentences and a reassuring smile that made casual conversation okay with colleagues and casual friends.

A key was recognizing the importance of his name.

The doctor asked his name, first thing, in the delivery room: I was too choked to say William Patrick Hampton clearly when I looked at him for the first time. 

My parents always told me to listen for how it would sound at graduations, at sports nights, growing up. 

I repeated it as we filled out his paperwork at the funeral home, fearing that each time would be the last.

Historically, names referenced lineage and professions as well as identifying individuals: many Dutch names contain origins and physical traits.  Today, names confer identity and a place within  society, document marital and professional status.

As a parent, I always used his given name, William.  He shortened it to Liam in high school and used that variation familiarly in the service and  in college.  It was sewn onto his uniform (to be removed before donating to charity), and framed in artistic Samoan script above his doorway.

The name is important.  A recent Times article describes how Vice President Joe Biden copes with the recent loss of his son: its striking how he uses Beau in every quote. 

Similarly, I’ve found that saying his name gives William presence and legitimacy when I talk to others, even though he’s gone and his story is frozen.  It remains a gateway to telling people how I remember him and his life’s meaning.

You’re not being manipulative if you’re stating reality, I’ve been counseled. 

How many children do you have?  Two, William and Laura.