I love coconut water, don't you? For my dosha (pitta) any my lifestyle (active), the large quantities of minerals, anti-fungal properties, and hydration the fluid found in young coconuts suits me to a T. (Does anyone know what Suits me to a T means?)
I get my water out of fresh, handily peeled coconuts found in the grocery store or out of a can. My favorite is Amy and Brian's Coconut juice. I just like the flavor best, I guess. The ease of getting coconut water is very delightful, especially since no coconuts actually grow where I live. On vacation, however, I found myself on a deserted Moloka'i beach. Imagine huge, crashing Polynesian waves. Ragged cliffs. Turquoise water. Palm trees. Hot sand. Imagine extreme boredom, if you will. Turns out there is nothing to DO in paradise when you are on vacation. So we decided that we would try to open a coconut. Without a knife. Without a machete. Without any idea about which coconuts were good to drink from. It was awesome.
If you've ever watched a one-year old try to figure out how to put a star-shaped block through a star-shaped hole and thought smugly to yourself how easy it is, I am telling you it is because you have forgotten what it's like to figure something out for the first time.
When you think of a coconut, you probably imagine the part that, when cut in half, makes a nice top for a hula dancer, right? That brown, fuzzy part is actually INSIDE of a thick, fibrous husk made of titanium. I can't tell you exactly what it must have looked like, but I can only imagine it was a little reminiscent of the scene from the movie 2001 where the primates frustratedly thumped rocks against the ground.
- There was banging the coconut onto the sharp edge of a rock.
- There was lots of squatting and bending and twisting.
- Then there was placing the coconut on a rock and bashing it with a second rock from above.
- Then there was hurtling the coconut against the rock...over and over again.
- Then there was all of these things done, again, only with curse words.
- Then there was sitting (and I'll deny it later, but there was also some whining), in a sweaty, unrefreshed pile...watching the husband do it.
Finally, an hour later, the husk was peel-able, as long as you had one person to step on it an one person to yank on the skin. Then, with sore shoulders and heaving chests we tipped it over to find...nothing. Some sticky inside residue and some moldy coconut meat. I was tired, BUT, I picked myself up and walked back over to the coconuts. After all, I am the gatherer, right? This time, instead of just grabbing a fruit, I used my senses to tell me which would be the best. I shook and smelled and compared the fruits, much like selecting a cantaloupe in a store. I didn't KNOW which one would be good, but I just went with my intuition. The second attempt went a lot faster (only 25 minutes this time!). We had learned from the first pass and knew which techniques helped (bashing between two rocks and using a small rock like a knife) and which didn't (whining about how hoooooooot it was). Selecting the coconut based on things I knew about other fruit (hearing a lot of fluid slosh around and smelling the ends for fragrance) gave us a full cup of coconut juice when it finally opened, and after further cracking, gave us each a slab of fresh, nutritious coconut meat. I was stuffed from eating and drinking half of a one-coconut bounty. We were tired, but also very "in the moment." This is what the whole thing felt like:
As we make our way through the Hunter Gathering Fitness article over the next month, I'd like to point out something. As more people are moving towards the natural movement movement (tee hee) there seems to be the desire to drag the old paradigm with us. What kinds of exercise did people use to do? Should I do more flexibility? More cardio? More strength? The answer is, these categories of movement don't really exist. Biology does not develop in a vacuum. If anthropologists see a heap of coconut shells, they don't jump to the conclusion that opening them had similar benefits to a movement program. It is very hard to consider "eating fruit" a conditioning program when you have never done more than gone and picked yours off of a shelf.
My recent experience in being physically exhausted by executing one survival task also shows me how much more my body is capable of -- and I already have lots of traditionally-defined strength, endurance, and mobility. There is a huge physiological difference, though, between being able to run 10 miles and do 10 pull ups and 30 push ups and being able to open a coconut. An entirely different pattern of muscle use that comes with a unique and novel skill acquisition. I can't wait to watch this baby-to-be learn stuff every day. It's going to be SO AWESOME!