Elizabeth McKenzie, a Melbourne writer and editor of Tinteán online, finds consolation in every day activities.
‘I’s agoin’ fishin’.
A fiercely determined four–year-old stood at the entrance to the tent, fishing rod clutched in one tight fist and a small but fully functional tackle box in the other.
I struggled out of my cosy sleeping bag into wakefulness and looked at my watch – 6 am. But I could see that bribery, coaxing, remonstrations would be pointless exercises.
My fisherperson was heading for the nearby jetty, whether parents were ready or not. I didn’t know it then but for the next decade and a half my life would be dominated by the demands of ‘going fishing’.
Anyone who lives with a fisherperson knows the score. The freezer is lost to the storage of bait and occasionally to the remnants of a hari-kari school of fish.
Holiday destinations must have is at least one jetty jutting into a lake or a sea stocked with fish, just waiting to be caught. A people-mover vehicle is essential to accommodate, fishing rods, reels, tackle boxes, camping and wet weather gear.
Laundry sinks are insidiously covered in small fish scales or bits of fish guts. There are compensations. Rain 24/14 is not a problem – fisher folk and fish are unaffected by a downpour. And you only have to wander into the nearest Compleat Angler store to solve all birthday/Christmas/sport/academic achievement, presents.
Now the fisherfolk in my life have grown up and assumed adult responsibilities and households of their own (but still go fishing!)
No doubt nostalgia for this way of life is why I enjoy entering cognoscenti conversations with perfect strangers – some of whom don’t speak English but understand me anyway – on picturesque piers around the country, indeed the world.
It probably also explains why one of my favourite Gospel stories is Peter’s way of coping with his post-resurrection restlessness in John 21: 1-9.
It must have been a trying and frustrating time for the disciples as they pondered the recent past and fretted about the future.
Peter, a man of sometimes impetuous, action had obviously reached the end of his tether. ‘I’m going fishing’, he announced. With a palpable sense of relief the others decided to go along too.
It didn’t matter that they caught nothing all night. Just being back in the familiar, ‘zone’ of fisher folk would have been balm to their frazzled bodies and souls.
Although Peter didn’t know it when he cast off from the shore that early morning, his life would be changed forever by this fishing trip.
Over breakfast on the beach, (surely the perfect way to consume fish!) he was given the opportunity to redeem his betrayal of Jesus in the high priest’s courtyard.
Even more importantly his faith in the Risen Lord would be reinforced, the intimacy of their relationship restored. He would be given his future life long mission – to be the Shepherd of his Master’s flock. Not much time for fishing in the future!
Sometimes, in difficult circumstances in our lives, when we are stressed, anxious, ill, we might lack a sense of the presence of Jesus.
Finding consolation in the familiar routine of everyday activities and devotions is a sound strategy.
It may seem trite, but at such times I have a cache of devotional mantras I recite while I’m busy dusting or even cleaning the bathroom. The Rosary, sadly neglected in the good times, can provide a sense of being grounded in the story of redemptive love.
True, when the dust has settled, we can find we have to cast our net into the depths of our souls and face life-changing challenges.
But we can be absolutely sure that whatever is asked of us we’ll be nourished and reassured. We may even be given a whole new mission in life.