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Why I Spearfish - The Personal & The Political

Photos of guys holding fish on social media and dating apps? I used to instantly judge a book by it's cover (or a man by his fish).

In my twenties, my associations with a person that hunts assumed without hesitation that they were right-wing, conservative, likely religious, misogynistic and that they live in a culture that I just wouldn't feel comfortable in. I felt like we were worlds apart.

Fishing on the lakes of Ontario - learning about the circle of life.

Yet I grew up fishing. My grandfather would take me out on the lake in the early hours of the morning, or the darkening hours of the evening and show me how to sit quiet, be present, pay attention, catch a fish, clean it, prepare it and eat it. He taught me to connect. With my food, each other, our shared environment, and the greater cycles of birth, existence and death.

My grandfather would have my brothers and I catch worms and frogs for bait, and learn how to hook them on even if we were initially a bit squeamish.

"This is the circle of life, you have to be able to engage with it." He was not cruel in his words, but wise. We are in this circle whether or not we know it, and my grandfather taught me to show up to it with intention, integrity and gratitude.

Though I was raised in the suburbs outside Toronto, it was these glimpses of moments on the water with my grandfather, and my habit of always escaping to the trees and lakes of Ontario, Canada that had me feeling most alive, most healthy, most connected to myself and the wide wild world. These glimpses helped me cope with the stressors of the capitalist and patriarchal world I was embedded in.

In my twenties I spent years involved in social justice, activism and humanitarian work. My values had me more and more trying to find ways to divest from corporations and governments that created such destruction - not only for humans but ecological devastation at large.

In my roles in organizations overstaffed and underpaid trying to stretch resources I was always pay-check-to-pay-check, and living in a perpetual and normalized state of burn-out. I felt guilty when I couldn't afford organic local food, and angry as housing stability continued to be precarious. Despite my many privileges I have had to access food pantries as well as teetered close to homelessness in multiple chapters of my life. Not because anything is wrong with me, but because there are so many things wrong in our systems.

We have completely lost our connection. We have lost site completely of our place in the circles of life.

Into my thirties I have continued to see systems of injustice infringe on every aspect of all species on earth. So many times while I'm swimming or freediving and I see other animals along the way I have found myself envious of their ability to find a home, not have to live in a state of dis-ease simply to pay rent to someone else. Their ability to forage and harvest food without having to exchange their soul for it. They may lose their life, but they have not traded in their dignity.

Girls that Spearfish - Emerald Freediving Charlie Gray

Yet all that marine life that I am often so jealous and in awe of - their homes, food and dignity are also threatened, violated and being destroyed.

Most of us on this planet are living in both a very real and tangible state of housing and food instability. Both economically and ecologically.

And here I find myself, again in the water. Finding healing, connection, and it giving back.

I've learned to tap into the genetic coding of my DNA that links us to our cousins like the Orcas and Dolphins. My adaptation and awareness is ever-deepening further into my environments, myself, and that which is greater.

Spearfishing in Ireland - Irish spearfishing course - Emerald Freediving

I've ended-up with one of those guys who has photos with fish. In fact I've become a woman who has photos with her fish.

They are not trophies - but they are filled with pride. My partner Dave has invited me back into recognizing my place in the circle, the way my grandfather once did. With intention, integrity and gratitude.

To spearfish well you must become a part of an ecosystem.

In fact you build the awareness to realize you already are. You are not merely a consumer or spectator but in interconnected kinship.

Spearfishing circumvents the ecologically destructive fish farms, trolling, by-catch, or marine pollution (i.e. net discards, fuel, etc.).

Spearfishing Ireland - Emerald Freediving

Something that my ancestors here along the Atlantic ocean would have done merely to survive has in some ways become a privilege. Yet for me it also has become not only a necessity as food prices continue to soar, but a political stance against systems of injustice and destruction.

I have gotten to know many spearos and hunters here in Ireland, and come to learn that the majority I meet actually are more caring and connected to their environments than most people I know - left or right wing alike.

Girls that Spearfish Ireland - Emerald Freediving

Spearfishing for me is not about sport, it is not about winning. Spearfishing and foraging for me is both political and personal.

It is entering into the closest connection I can with my food. It is ecologically principled and rooted in the truest form of sustainability far from green-washing. It is a source of food for me that does not cost the money I do not have anyway. It is a source of dignity, health and well-being.

Spearfishing keeps me calm, present, grateful, and connected to those I dive with (because we never spearfish alone, right!), the eco-systems I am interconnected with, and my food source.

Spearfishing is sacred.

Spearfishing is intentionally engaging in the circle of life, so that it all, so that we all, may continue.


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