I definitely have an addiction to putting myself into situations that scare me.
I went skydiving when I was younger not because it was on my bucket list but because I thought I had to. I spent my teenage years with groups of much older, slightly dangerous guys because it wasn't safe. I fly constantly and am convinced every single time it's my day to die. When I started doing this show I was terrified of guns and never wanted to kill an animal- and now I would love nothing more than to walk into a field to hunt.
When I do the show with women they are much better at preparing me for what I'm about to get into. With Holly and our duck hunting episode, she made me go through gun training, get fitted, spend some time at the range before she'd get into the field with me. Going out to hunt gaper clams in Bodega Bay with her partner, Hank (my first episode), he told me "You better keep up or you'll be left behind." (Hank, in your defense, we didn't have guns. I'm sure you'd be much more on my ass about details with shotguns in my hands.)
I came across Kainoa and Mike's dinner series through some help from the tourism board. They do these monthly dinners at Grand Wailea in Maui and let's be honest: the Grand Wailea isn't necessarily Original Fare ethos. But after a phone conversation I really got that they were passionate about utilizing ingredients foraged from the lands based on moon phases. And Mike suggested spearfishing. That sounds scary so yeah, let's do this.
As you'll see in the episode, Kainoa begins every venture into ocean or jungle or wherever he is seeking food with an Oli. It's the Hawaiian's chant to acknowledge the gods and pay tribute and respect. It's also kind of asking for permission. It's the kind of ritual I do every time I stand at the edge of sea but mine is nearly wordless, always silent, and recently limited to just wading in chest deep.
I followed Mike and Kainoa while Lucas trailed behind trying desperately to manipulate cameras and flippers and waves all at the same time. We waded out into water: seeing first a sandy blanket below. Then dark mounds take shape in your eyes as rocks. The movement of fish dilates your pupils and a sharper, more detailed perception comes into view. Before you know it you’re swimming out over thick, hilly clusters of jagged rock, coral, spiny sea urchins, and the occasional sea turtle half my size.
We stayed in a group at first, then Mike ventured on to do some real hunting (which was great because he got the fish needed for the dinner). Kainoa began to swim out deeper to find vana. The current pushed me towards sea turtles and I became entranced by their gentle movements in the water. Their graceful half turns. I paddled my flippers towards them to do a water dance. Getting closer I tried to mimic their movements. Learn from the experts. Pretty soon I realized the current had pushed me on the other side of very steep, rocky cliffs filled with spiny urchins with only a shallow distance between the surface. I panicked. I couldn't see the guys. The current was pushing me harder and I had only one direction to head in- over these rocks- as any other way meant further out into the deep, dark, quiet sea.
It was at this moment I realized that sometimes I want to be treated like the girl everybody takes care of. The damsel in distress. The women in my family would be doted on and saved. Yet here I am, lifetime trait of being thrown into the deep end- never let the boys see you sweat so sort it out on your own- finally slapped me in the face.
Eventually I had to nut up and propelled myself hard against the water, over the rocks, my bare stomach sucking in tight to keep from bringing along an urchin or five.
Sometimes I wonder if my addiction is to the feeling of calm I get after doing these often sketchy activities. As I pulled myself out of the water and back onto the shore, that sense of facing my fears and working for it swelled inside. I was ready to drink. To celebrate not being a pussy. But then the guys tell me we're heading onto the rocks to harvest opihi- and it's the most dangerous sport fishing because these little limpets grow on the edges of the rocks, have to be pried off by a butter knife, and if you aren't paying attention the waves will knock you out, drag you in, leaving your lifeless, shredded body to wash up in Tahiti.
So of course, I do it. I follow them- all three of us barefoot on the rocks- to harvest. The feeling of accomplishment comes again. But at this point I'm too tired to even care. And sunburned.
The next morning I follow the same two daredevils as we trek off pavement, trail, and into mud and weed, deep in the jungle. We're gathering fruits like guava, thimbleberry, the invasive strawberry guava, yellow ginger, and awapuhi. There is no path really, except for muddy patches showing the locals come and go here for foraging as they please. Kainoa is barefoot so my shoes come off. The mud and the scent of yellow ginger fill me with a sense of home. Not that we had exotic fragrances like Hawaii in Missouri, but being barefoot and muddy is my happy place. My childhood.
You'll see in the episode as I'm pulling guavas off these high branches I look down and spot something beneath the brush. A bad ass tonto point pocket knife. A tool I'd been wanting for months. In Hawaii you can't leave with shells and such but this man made material in the jungle; it was given to me and Kainoa said I had to take it.
The trek is going great until we have to get down the mountain to the spring to wash off. The only sense of a path is mud slides from yesterday's storm. It's steep. Our option is to hang from strawberry guava tree branches as support. I fall immediately. Another fear of mine is falling. I take my time.
The boys are faster, and further ahead. I can hear their conversations in the distance as my short self tries to reach to branch, shoes in one hand, and then reach for another. Kainoa did offer to carry my shoes multiple times but my female pride got in the way. I keep getting stuck in places, more frustrated, and further behind from the group.
At this point the sound of their voices are gone and I stop. I want to scream out "Wait for me!" I want pull my husband aside and remind him I'm the girl he's supposed to take care of. I want to forget women's lib all together and get carried down this treacherous cliff side like a damsel in distress. As I'm dropping my shoes to the ground in frustration, ready to leave them as a gift for the next person, my arm brushes the knife. I pick it up, unfold the blade, and feel it in my hand.
The jungle presented this to me. This tool that I've been in need of since starting the show, doing these adventures, on my quest to become more self-reliant. As my feet seep down into the mud my happy place envelopes me. "Remember kid, this is the path you chose," I tell myself. I realize my addiction has never been about being scared or to feel that sense of relief because I've accomplished something. It's because I know how short life is. And I want it to be filled exploring all the wild there is to do.
And if I'm gonna pull that off I can't be hollering for the boys to wait up. I have to be self-reliant. I get to be the adventurer. Not the damsel in distress.