I remember clearly the trips my family took when I was a child to Fort Ross, CA. We drove the windy coastal passes to this gorgeous cove just about every month during ab-season.
I remember free-diving with my dad when I was a teenager, at age 14 or so. We would swim out past the break, and I would get sick and dizzy in the rocking of the swell.
We arrived at the kelp forest a ways offshore and prepared to dive, with just our breath keeping us alive underwater, no tanks allowed while ab-diving. We tied up our inner-tubes for our catch to the kelp, marking our position.I prepared to dive. Deep breath in, deep breath out, centering myself and expanding my lungs.
I arched my body from the surface and propelled myself downward with my fins. I would swim down, down, down through clouds of sandy water, the kelp forest revealing rocky brown craggs in piles below me. My eyes darted wildly about, searching to and fro for the glistening, silver abalone perched on the rocks near the ocean bottom. Every second mattered. Every second my lungs squeezed under the pressure of billions of gallons of water above me and the knowledge that I was swimming in the great, wild, ocean, unprotected and exposed. It was exhilarating.
As I dove, I could see only a few feet in front of me at a time; that sandy water revealing inch by inch the next thing, and the next thing, as I dove, searching, breathless, and scared. My head pounded from the ice-cold water as it rushed inside my wetsuit hood.
Then I spied an abalone! There, and there, and over there! My heart raced as I calculated which was the largest and oh, if I could only swim down just a little further, maybe I could reach that big one there! But alas, my lungs could handle it no more and I flipped over and bolted to the surface. I broke that quicksilver lid of the ocean surface and gasped for air. My lungs filled with life again and my head felt light from oxygen deprivation.
After a short rest, I dove down again and this time, I spied a large silvery beast of an abalone. I grabbed my size gage and measured it. It was large, and so I grabbed my ab-iron and slid it forcefully under the suctioned foot of the abalone. With a quick flick of my wrist, I popped the abalone off of the rock and cradled it in my arms like a wide receiver running the football into the end zone. I did a summersault and peddled my fins as quickly as I could to the surface, this time bubbles leaking out of my smiling mouth and my teeth stinging from the freezing water. Victory tasted like salt water that day.
My dad grabbed a few more abalone and I did too, and when we met our limit we swam back to the center of the cove and let the powerful mouth of the ocean push us back up onto the sand, with it's great blue tongues; wave by wave. We dragged our tubes onto the sand and rested from our excursion.
Later that night, after we drove the long and windy coastal passes back to our home in Concord, my dad harvested the abalone from their shells. Us kids would always feel around the squishy stomach for pearls, and sometimes we would find them. My dad pounded out the abalone and fried the sweet steaks in bread crumbs, garlic and butter. We feasted and saved the shells as a reminder of the beautiful provision from the universe and from God above: He provided a family full of love, a feast for kings and queens, and a shiny shell full of rainbows to remember all of these special things.