Let’s go back in time to 2012. The beautiful, incredible Chacahua, Oaxaca, Mexico.
A small island with a tiny bay lined with beach front restaurants, still little known to the tourist hordes. We took a boat over from the mainland; my cousin, his girlfriend, and me. It was just the locals and us. We had the beach to ourselves and we set up our tents in the very middle (something of a mistake if you forgot your flip-flops).
There were no life guards, as is common in Mexico, and I put on my snorkel and swam out until I was well past the point that any life guard would start blowing their whistle frantically. It was frightening and exciting looking back at the distant shore while my muscles ached. For a moment I feared I wouldn’t make it back and there was no one on the beach to scream to if they would even hear my cries. But I trusted in the flow of the ocean and with my snorkel on I floated calmly, staring at the sandy ocean floor as the waves pulled me back to land.
The next day we set out with a local fisherman and his crew, and a pile of net that took up most of the little boat. Once we were so far from shore that it was just a smudge on the horizon we began to cast the giant net out as we sped along. The sun was setting and it bathed the ocean in an orange warmth. I climbed over the edge of the boat to swim in the sunset hues. The sea seemed endless in three directions and the fourth was blocked by the boat. I felt an intense freedom but also a smallness, a vulnerability in the arms of the ocean. I savored the notion that this simple and benign thing could easily kill me just with it’s vastness.
It was getting dark so my companions pulled me back into the boat and we started pulling the net back in. It was a bizarre experience. I know these things happen everyday, but with my sensitive nature it was hard to tug the fish from the net for fear of damaging their delicate fins. It was hard for me to see them piled one upon another in the boat until the ones at the bottom were surely being crushed and suffocated. Clearly, every one of these fish would die and be eaten. That was the whole point of this exercise. But when all the fish you’ve ever eaten was breaded and found in the frozen food aisle it’s hard to make the connection to the brutality of its origin. That’s why I think it’s important for people to know where meat comes from if they choose to eat it, and to face those deaths that fill their stomachs.
With the boat brimming with dying fish and the sun well set we headed back to land. Now I could see the bioluminescent phytoplankton flaring as the water sloshed around the boat. Blue and sparkling they splashed from my hands as I played at being a Water Wizard!