“I spent uncounted hours sitting at the bow looking at the water and the sky, studying each wave, different from the last, seeing how it caught the light, the air, the wind; watching patterns, the sweep of it all, and letting it take me. The sea.” – Gary Paulsen
I left Hawaii for a university in Boston at 18, excited to move on to my next adventure. Boston is on the water, but I rarely saw it and I missed it quite a lot. In part as a response, every university I’ve attended or place I’ve moved to since has been on a river or near the ocean. The list isn’t too short, and it was mostly for work which took me all over the US, Europe, Asia and even the Middle East. And with each move or short stay, I always sought out the largest body of water nearby. Just to say hi. To get acquainted, To see if we should become friends. And so as I continued on to work in corporations, my need for the blue was always at the back of my mind. I started to scuba dive, and whenever things got a bit much for me I would book a liveaboard trip on a distant ocean, and once there, poof! I was immediately returned to the state of happiness and grace that I so desperately sought.
“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head, and whispered to her neighbor: ‘Winter is dead’.” – A.A. Milne
Its now spring in Hawaii. Our “winter”, such as it is, has come to an end. This time of year for the ancient Hawaiians also meant the end of Makahiki (probably closer to february-march), a very important 4-month period of celebrations, competitions and feasts. It was a time for the chiefs to redistribute the bounty of the island, for the people to tend to repairs, and to give everyone a relief from war. And most interestingly for me, it was a time to let the land and the sea rest. No hunting or fishing was permitted during this time. It was an inherent understanding that fish and plants also need a respite to regenerate. Thus the end of Makahiki signaled it was time to resume harvesting, fishing and hunting.
In Hawaii we are immensely fortunate to be able to dive year-round, other places, not so much. With spring in Hawaii comes a change in the sea. Some dive sites become formidable and un-diveable, others lay down to rest a bit, and transform into tranquil glassy oasis. Our rotating around the island is kind of like an ocean-enforced Makahiki as it gives the ocean a rest from all of us, and when the seasons change we are able to look forward to a new set of dive sites, and often different sets of marine life.
My cousins were just here for a visit, we always love to see them and their kids. One day they went to Chinatown in Honolulu to buy fishcake (kind of a raw fish puree meant to be cooked in soup). They were told the shop hadn’t had the right fish in 4 months! Which of course made me think of the Makahiki. These days we don’t have a season to rest from fishing or hunting anymore. And the ‘fishcake shortage’ isn’t an isolated occurrence of a shortage in fish. Even as divers we miss seeing many kinds of fish, and spearfishers are always telling us they can’t find big fish anymore on the reefs. Wouldn’t it be wise of us all to take heed of how the ancient Hawaiians looked after Hawaii? We let fields lie fallow. Why wouldn’t we let the sea rest from all our fishing?
I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of sharks and fish to the health of the reefs. Sharks and fish are essential to keep the oceans healthy – and healthy oceans are important to sustain life on earth as we know it. I’m not picking a fight here, I’m not the expert on this. But I am wondering if we can’t do more to save the diversity and populations of marine life?