Sunday, March 25, 2012

On Sharks and Baptisms

There was a group of people on the beach. It was a cold Sunday morning in January, just after sunrise. Two men dressed in black pants, white shirts and black ties, accompanied two very large women in long white dresses to the edge of the water. After a moment's hesitation they walked out into the cold water of the Gulf of Mexico. When they were waist deep they paused. After seeming to have small conversations, each man to each woman, the men laid the women backwards in unison and dunked them. It was a baptism. I was astonished that people would go into the water in such cold weather.  When the two men and two women returned, they were met by some women who had emerged from the group to wrap the two soaked women in blankets. They all walked up the beach and rejoined the group. Two more very large women in long white dresses separated from the group, accompanied by the two preachers. As they walked towards the water, dolphins surfaced and rolled just a little beyond where the baptism had taken place. There was a big commotion amongst the people as they pointed and became agitated. The main group joined the four at the edge of the water. I could hear their voices. They were speaking with heavy accents. I think they were Haitian. They thought the dolphins were sharks. The preachers and the two very large women in the long white dresses balked and did not want to go out into the water. For me, the temperature would have been a much greater disincentive to going into the water than sharks that were really dolphins. A British couple, out for an early morning walk on the beach, was assuring the people that the fins they saw indeed belonged to dolphins and not to sharks. The group spread out along the edge of the water, pointing and exclaiming every time a fin appeared. I too assured them that the fins they saw were dolphins, but they remained unconvinced. Finally, after no fins had been seen for a while, the lure of being with Jesus overcame the fear of being dismembered by Jaws. The two preachers and the two very large women in the long white dresses nervously ventured out into the cold water of the Gulf, performed their baptisms, and hurried back to shore.

I wish I had photographed the Haitian preachers and the very large women in the long white dresses. But I hadn't. I had just stood there, with my camera and tripod, and vacuously watched the baptisms and the sharks.

Later, when the sun rose higher into the clouds, there was a nice sunburst. I hurried up the beach to get the sunburst above the pier with a flock of gulls in the foreground. The sunburst faded and the flock fled, leaving me with this serendipitous photograph. It is about 9:00 on a Sunday morning. The beach is deserted and there are no people fishing from the pier.  It is too cold to go to the beach, except for photographers and Haitians, each performing their own sacred rituals.

© 2012 Buck Ward          The Photographist

1 comment:

  1. You paint a great story Buck - no photo needed.
    ~ rws