This week I deviated from my usual sanctuary on the Christina River for a night of fishing on the C&D canal. There’s not much in this life more soothing than the repetition of casting and reeling, and hauling home a handful of catfish and perch to fry up for dinner the next evening provides an unparalleled sense of pride. As we sat on the boat drinking beers and laughing at stories and waiting for the fish to bite, I found myself feeling blissful and stress-free. I felt connected with the people around me, connected with the water around me, and I felt more whole than I have in a long time. It amazed me how interacting with nature on such a personal level could fill a void I didn’t even know I had. Perhaps we’re all craving that connection, we’ve just grown too far from nature to even know what we’re missing.
You can imagine my surprise when this feeling manifested itself into a word as I was reading part two of Food Fight. “Aina represents a sacred bond between people and a place that, once broken, threatens to destroy both humans and the world around them.” Never before have I believed a concept to be so true. There is a disconnect between the people of this world and the ground they stand on, and I firmly believe this disconnect exists because we as a society have lost sight of “that which feeds us.” We no longer understand the land as a provider to us; supermarkets and fast food chains have taken on that role. We’ve inserted a middleman between where our food is grown and how we feed ourselves, and because of this distance we’ve lost an understanding and respect for the world we live on. That sacred bond between human and nature has been broken, and has left a gaping hole in the very essence of who we are and has left the world around us crumbling. To understand the emptiness we feel inside we must simply open our eyes to what the world needs from us instead of seeing only what we can take from it. I believe that this is what Aina is meant to express: a harmonious bond.
I felt this bond as I sat on my boat in the late hours of the night, casting and reeling with soothing repetition. Fishing has always been a favorite pastime of mine, but with our recent class discussions and the topics of agribusiness and GMOs and the divide between people and the food that we eat, I found deeper meaning in the activity. I have the capability of feeding myself with the nature that is around me, and the wholeness I feel from doing so is a refreshing change. It makes me believe that people are inherently programmed with the desire to provide for themselves and their families, and by allowing large corporations to take charge of this duty and feed us with food that we don’t even know the origin of, we are denying ourselves a basic human satisfaction. We are removing ourselves from the equation of what is used to nourish our bodies, and to believe that doing so will not break the bonds of Aina, the bonds between humans and the nature that we are unavoidably a part of, is naïve. With obesity levels rising, health problems increasing, and soil quality worsening every year, there is no denying that this broken bond is succeeding in destroying “both humans and the world around them.”
I lay on my back gazing up at the stars from the bow of the boat, listening to the quiet calm around me. There is music playing low, a country ballad of love and tractors and beer, and a choir of crickets serenades us from the shorelines. I feel the boat rocking gently on the still waters, and a cool breeze raises goosebumps on my arms and legs. I close my eyes and drink in the smell of the cool summer night air; it smells like campfires and bay water. If I could live in this moment forever, I would. But I know that it is moments like this that remind us that the bond between nature and humans cannot be broken, and I know that as long as the existence of this bond is not forgotten then there is still a hope of returning to the land from which we came and restoring that bond once more.