First find the body of water you knew as a child, thinking about the body.
Baptism was practiced by John the Baptist, a Jewish preacher, in the early 1st century. Revered as a major religious figure in Christianity and Islam, some saying he belonged to the Essenes, a semi-ascetic Judaic sect who expected a Hebrew messiah and who practiced Baptism ritually.
Anais Nin writes in The House of Incest, “My first vision of earth was water veiled. I am of the race of men and women who see all things through this curtain of sea and my eyes are the color of water. I looked with chameleon eyes upon the changing face of the world, looked with anonymous vision upon my uncompleted self. I remember my first birth in water.”
Baptism is practiced in several different ways. Aspersion is the sprinkling of water on the head. Affusion is the pouring of water over the head.
Walk towards the beach or drop past the deer trail clearing to the muddy bank. Don’t slip on the summer grass, you will need to strip down. Now praise the sun that reflects off the water’s surface by stretching your arms out in a Y towards it. Good. Feel the way it warms your skin, the vibration of it. If it is cloudy and there is no reflection, there cannot be baptism. If it is cloudy and there are incoming storms, you cannot be purified this way.
*See also: rain as a form of baptism.
Precipitation is performed in several ways. Remember first your birth in water in a porcelain tub in a house by a seaside cliff. You take the clothes off, the sea crashing on nearby rocks. Remember how it wailed for you, too, once.
*See also: driftwood on the shore, driftwood in the water, driftwood in your heart. It may take years to come ashore.
The tide comes, small crabs and nonsense things crawling into pools and crags until morning, the places you can’t get them out of or speak about. A sand bar above the horizon’s edge is an image that means there’s still hope. Your humanity stands a quarter of a mile out and you swim the marathon.
John was sentenced to death and subsequently beheaded, so you dip your feet in the frothing water. The wave is something the ocean does, too. Don’t hesitate, but there’s room for regret because you’re halfway past the waist now. That scrap of fishing net to the right has knots of hemp and cotton and promises. Waves lap each other like birthday cake icing and white foam—the visions of your parents nearby and a paper hat strapped to your head by string in a darkly lit room. The joy of your eyes blowing the candles out with all the wind your little life lungs can handle, it is enough.
Experts say the gravitational pull of the moon ebbs and flows the coming and going of tides on beaches across the world. Still others say there’s billions and billions of stars and solar systems to find out there. They say you are eternally saved after a lifetime of baptizing and for some reason that is just enough for this first lesson.
Christopher Bowen is the author of the chapbook We Were Giants, the novella When I Return to You, I Will Be Unfed, and the non-fiction Debt. He was a semi-finalist in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Competition and honorable mention in the 45th New Millennium Writing Awards in the non-fiction category. He blogs from Burning River (http://www.burningriver.info.)