It's 5 am and I'm awake. The little one has me on a schedule that is a far cry from my party girl ways. I creep out to the verandah to watch the sun rise and read a book, but get lulled into a trance instead by the enormous sound of the waves crashing just several feet from our doorstep. The babe sleeping in my arms makes everything infinitely peaceful. I laugh quietly to myself as I remember that I used to be watching the sunrise as I stumbled home after many debaucherous nights out on the town.
As I drift into reverie, a myriad of voices jolts me awake. Shouting and yelping and dogs barking. I think that a fight must have broken out on the beach...but who would be fighting in this sleepy little town, so early in the morning?
"Can you hear the fisherman?"
I jump, startled by this observation and realizing that The Boss has been standing next to me this whole time, probably embraced by the same tranquility I was.
By the time we venture seaside, there was no one there.
The next morning we all awaken early to catch the scene on the beach. 50, maybe 60 of the local village men are clear-eyed and ready for action as they mill about the shore. Within minutes a couple of boats appear and these long red nets surface. The men line up and heave, heave, heave, pulling the nets ashore. It takes 15 men to pull one net up. We wonder how many fish they will have caught as we hang about idly watching. Will it feed them all? Will there be enough to sell?
At long last the net is reined in. Dozens of tiny white fish jump and sputter within, but I don't notice anything substantial. Then I see it. There is a large grey fish caught in the fold of the glistening red net. His eye is wide and frightened, his breathing laboured. I stare, transfixed as he struggles for life, watching his breath move steadily towards death. I am disturbed to say the least. I imagine that his eye is looking at me, I think that he has a sense of his own mortality. Maybe he does. Maybe animals are more aware, more conscious than we give them credit for. I don't know. All I know for sure is in that moment, that fish was dying and something in him was reaching out to me.
I turned away, unsettled. When the fisherman came to our table later offering the much anticipated fresh catch of the day, I had no words. They say that we should be able to catch and kill anything we eat. That it is important to know what it feels like to have taken a life. I have always known that this wasn't an option for me.
Instead I remember that the Buddhists practice a technique called mindfulness. It is a method in which you attempt to be fully aware of the choices you make. So when you eat something, you cultivate an awareness of what the object is and how it made it's way to your plate. What graces the universe had to convene in order to create that morsel.
When I ate the fish that night I thought about the salty-sweet taste of the ocean and about the hard soles and wiry arms of the fisherman. But most of all I thought about the rise and fall of it's breath, the red net that became it's prison and the way it looked at me, as though it knew.