something woke me up early that morning while on vacation at the beach, i don’t know what it was. i don’t recall a loud noise or a bad dream of any sort. i just woke up and was unable to go back to sleep, not because of fear or worry this time, but because i needed to go take pictures.
most days, i wake up pretty early anyway, to read, write, drink coffee… do “my thing”. i love the peace of the morning, when my kids are still asleep and nothing but the cat knows what i am up to. but getting up and getting dressed and out the door is not usually something i do; but, on the morning these photos were taken, i threw on my running shorts and ball cap and went straight to the beach, as if i was being reeled into the sea.
there had been an unusually bad storm the following evening. When i climbed the stairs at the bottom of the dunes, i noticed the beach was full of shell combers and men with their sons tagging along behind, surveying the sand with metal detectors. i walked with my camera, but just wasn’t feeling it, you know? and then there she was. this beautiful creature that was so surreal, so otherworldly. i was in shock. what in the world was an amish girl doing in myrtle beach, s.c. of all god-forsaken places? was there an amish convention? were they passing through town? do the amish vacation?! or are these the black sheep of their amish clan, banished to nod? i came up with not one reasonable explanation for her presence on the beach that morning.
i felt a little creepy and a little odd stalking her like i did. she was so intent on her shell collecting, she did not even seem to be aware that i was taking pictures of her. what is photography but glorified voyeurism anyway, i thought? the subtle power of the beach’s gray beauty was in such contrast to the fierce afternoon sun and neon swimwear on tanned bodies i had seen the previous day. the singularity of her presence was contained by the deep blue of her long dress and held against the muted tones of the sky, salt-worn pier and the sea. she slowly and methodical searched for sea shells in the surf as i watched from a distance. it was as if the storm had washed her ashore.
i could tell you that i snapped a few shots and giggled off and that was the end of my stalking. i could tell you that i never saw the girl again, but i did. later that same day amongst the self-conscious string bikinis and tattoos, when the bright sun was performing its afternoon matinee, i saw her with her mother and father. her mother was riding an inflatable raft, which obviously had been purchased at the local surf ‘n shop, in her full amish dress and shoes. wet from bonnet to boots, the salty waves sprayed her silent smile. in hat and suspenders, the father stood at the water’s edge in sandy black leather shoes, smiling and watching his wife play. while their daughter, the young lady I photographed, lay in the lapping waves at his feet with an inflatable two-headed purple dinosaur floatie wrapped around the waist of her dress, all so unaware of a rebellion that looked more like freedom. i could tell you this is what i saw, but it would blow your mind.