It was the summer of 2003. An August wedding was in the works. Frantic activity had been been ongoing for several months. We needed a break, so when good friend Laurie invited Semi and me to come to the beach for a few days, it seemed like a good idea. We love the beach, everything about it, and we love Laurie, too.
We were relaxing, forgetting all about the wedding to do list, basking in the negative ions of the Atlantic Ocean off the shores of South Carolina. It is wonderful to float along in the current, toes pointed skyward, chatting or simply existing as a tiny particle of the larger universe. Semi and I were feeling along the sandy bottom with our toes, for there were live sand dollars in abundance there. The water was about at ear level, for the sea creatures were in a depression at only that depth.
Suddenly, we heard a loud splash and turned back to the blue horizon to see a large fish twisting midair, completely out of the water. It had a white belly and a dark blue back. I estimate the size to be between six and ten feet in length. It was larger than either of us. “Did you see that!”, we both exclaimed at the same time. “Cool!”.
At that same time, it seemed like we perhaps were a little too far from shore. We could barely see Laurie who was sitting in a beach chair, lost in a good book. We started walking/swimming towards dry land. Things were still fairly calm at that point, but we were moving steadily. When we got to where the water was about chest high was when we saw it. Just to our left, less than a yard away from us was a large, dark blue fin moving speedily through the waves, parallel to our path. Then it disappeared under the water.
To say that we slipped immmediately into panic mode is much too mild a description. My first thoughts were for Semi, I placed myself directly behind her, holding her shoulders, thinking the shark, it had to be a shark by the way it swam and the shape of the fin, would get me first. Semi was getting married soon, she had her whole life ahead of her. I was a grandmother and had lived a good life. Besides, she was my child. Of course I would give my life to save hers.
Never before, and never since has my heart pounded in my chest with such force. It felt as though it would burst right out through my ribcage and explode in midair. Time stood still. We were trying to move our legs as fast as we could, faster even, but the water slowed us like we were wading in molasses. If only we could get to shallow enough water to be able to lift our legs into the air and run like the dickens, all would be well.
We were yelling at the top of our lungs, “Laurie, Laurie, Laurie!!!”. She didn’t look up at all, she did not hear us. We did not look around again for the fin, wherever the shark was, it was beyond our control. We could only control where we were, or try to. Fate was on our side that day, for we safely made it to the sandy beach, collapsing into helpless jellylegs at Laurie’s feet. We were breathing so hard that it was difficult to speak, but finally we got the story out of what had just happened. Laurie did not believe us! It was not a shark, she calmly claimed, you must be mistaken.
The wedding took place as planned. It was held in a pre-Civil War white clapboard church on the grounds of Mouse Creek Nursery. The windows were open and electic extension cords had been run from the main house to power fans. The chuch was overflowing with family and friends. It was easily 120 degrees Fahrenheit inside. Or more. But it still was joyful. The photo shows Semi’s expression of surprise that her husband to be is waiting for her at the altar, wearing a suit, with coat and tie. Even the preacher was in a short sleeved shirt, no tie. He survived. Barely.
The Fairegarden clan has just returned from their yearly beach vacation, again in South Carolina. We love the ocean and will go out into the water to body surf, swim, boogie board or just let the waves push us around. But Semi and I will only go out so far, or allow others to do the same. Our eyes scan the seam where water meets air for signs of fins. Offspring of Semi, LTB, who is now nearly seven years old was under my watchful eye when we saw three sets of fins surface about twenty yards from shore. Instinctively, I grabbed him by the waist and started walking backwards in carefully controlled steps. Then the fins arched up out of the water. It was a trio of wonderful dolphins, swimming together in formation, very, very close to us. We squealed with delight and hugged each other.
We went back to the family group who were sitting under the shade of the beach umbrella to tell of this wondrous sight. Semi and I exchanged looks in a knowing way that only those who have experienced a close encounter of the shark kind could. The two of us later discussed that summer of 2003, which was memorable in so many ways.
(Research revealed that our shark friend was a juvenile blue shark.)
This is the third and final post of Beach Week 2012. The links to other beach posts can be seen below. Regular programming will now resume. Until next year.
2011-Water, Wind, Earth and Fire