His voice is hushed when he answers the phone.
“I’m in Memeem’s duck blind.”
For my entire life my brother has not been known for getting up early. In fact, historically, I don’t call him before noon. Yet my brother is like most men from the small Southern Louisiana town where I grew up, and he loves to hunt. As we whisper our conversation during the call, I can almost see his breath in the cold air as he speaks. I imagine his body crouched, almost laying down, as he silently waits as the dawn breaks through the trees, illuminating the dense forest.
Growing up in Cajun culture, I learned two things: how to hunt and how to cook. Sadly, I wasn’t very interested in either. At eight years old, I inherited a hand-me-down camouflage onesie to wear everyday on hunting weekends. This was long before onesies were popular and considered cool to wear. Long days were spent on our ATV riding through the mud, building shelters, cooking food over a fire, and decapitating snakes and tying them onto the grill for skinning later. I didn’t love what I felt killing an animal, and even more, I could not handle skinning and cleaning them. Deep within my bones I got very little satisfaction from hunting. There was always an underlying fear in the pit of my stomach when I set out for a day in the woods.
I was not born a huntress of the land.
I began to explore what it meant to be a female huntress. The huntress is the woman who is always looking for opportunities to explore the unknown, to use and show her emotional abilities to find purpose and exemplify the meaning of life. Artemis is an ancient example of a huntress; she is described as the goddess of the moon, a virgin, and a huntress. The huntress is associated with unique thinking, intuition, reflection and absorption. For me, I came from a culture that I wanted to find my own connection with hunting. It happened when I began to study that globally women have hunted in the water.
I learned that women living near the ocean were called sea huntresses. For example, the Haenyeo women in the Pacific Islands harvest through various seasons of production and restoration. It wouldn’t be until I explored the ocean floor with spearfishing that I came to enjoy hunting. The freedom of the snorkel allowed me to breathe with ease as my eyes scanned the underworld. The hum of God’s womb in my ears as I searched for conch, lobster, and fish. I felt the excitement of hunting pump through my blood. My dad put a speargun in my hand, I felt at home hunting.
Men could hunt the land, but this woman wanted to hunt the sea.
Sadly, my mother never taught me how to be a huntress. All of her energy was used surviving PTSD from an abusive marriage. My dad took to heart that he had three girls who didn’t love holding a gun, so he taught us to hunt the sea. The ocean became a place where my father and I could connect. What men must have felt when they woke up early to go hunting, I felt as I slipped on my snorkel and slid into the crystal blue water. There was a world awaiting me, a living kingdom waiting to be explored. I identified myself as a spearfisher and prided myself on having enough of a “man’s sport” that I could keep up conversations with men about hunting.
I felt at home as a huntress of the sea until I got pregnant.
At the moment my entire being went into “building a life” mode, I could not bear to have anything to do with death. Pregnant and sitting in a bay window, I stared at a doe eating my aunt’s beloved garden. They kept the gun nearby for these very occasions, but I could not move. I would not kill something while I was actively creating life. There are seasons in hunting so that we give animals time to replenish. There are seasons in farming when the land needs to replenish nutrients. There are seasons to the year so that the world can continue to flourish. My female body was teaching me that there are seasons that I must honor.
I began to find and understand the huntress within myself.
The huntress in me began to mature into someone who knows the balance of life and death. When it comes to creating life, it takes everything in me. My body naturally knows how to create, and it realizes that all-encompassing cycle of life and death. My reproductive years consisted of six pregnancies: one stillbirth, three live births, and two miscarriages. Life was so expensive to me, death was not an option during these seasons.
Through seasons of adolescing, reproduction, and menopause, I realize I am still learning about my inner huntress. In the days, months, and years that pass, I find myself having to explore the new spaces that come with growth and aging. There are many different seasons for humans: waiting, risking, sleeping, and learning are just a few. Each of us has an inner huntress within us. Mine surpassed spearfishing, even though that is my favorite sport. The huntress in me awakens when I am in a new land that must be learned and explored, whether at the bathroom mirror that reflects wrinkles and graying hair or in a new town where I must push myself to build community again. The huntress emerges and an excitement begins to bubble under the surface.
May we all find the huntress within.
Christy Bauman, LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voice. She offers meaning-making and storywork consulting. She is the author and producer of three works: Theology of the Womb, A Brave Lament, and Documentary: A Brave Lament. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, and adjunct professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality, and theology. Christy is co-director of Christian Counseling Center for Sexual Health and Trauma with her husband Andrew. They live in Seattle with their three kids: Wilder, Selah, and River.