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Practicing Resurrection

How am I supposed to practice resurrection? I didn’t know what else to do, so we went fishing. Lake Lafayette was swollen from a flash flood in the early morning hours. My son showed me the rock he stood on the afternoon before—it was at least six inches underwater. It was a rare April day—the vibrant green of the spring still lingered. The sun was nearly summer bright yet still pleasant. I set my chair and ice water in the shade. My oldest quickly and seriously set about fishing. My middle child began slowly doing something with his pole, the logic of which was imperceptible to the naked eye. My daughter ran up and down the fishing finger like a coiled spring unable to relieve its tension. At last, they were all fishing and I sat in the breeze making notes for a writing project. “Why do we ever do anything other than this?” I wondered.

It was idyllic. For ten minutes. Lines were tangled, and children wanted my help whilst simultaneously snatching the poles from my hand. Four poles should have been enough for three children; nonetheless, there was bickering. As far as the actual fishing went, I was not much help. I fished with my father, but I never learned to fish. He would take me out usually in salt water, rigging up my line for me. He would tell me what we were fishing for and how best to set the hook. I could cast well enough and catch fish, but I don’t really know anything, at least not anything particular to time or place.

Does this knowledge matter? Wendell Berry has a few things to say on the subject. In A Place on Earth, Jayber Crow reflects on the relationship between heaven and earth. He imagines a Heavenly City sustained by marriage and friendship.

But he is also the adulterer of his marriage, the servant of opposite houses, faithful to both and unfaithful to both – slipping away from his Heavenly City, to which he has sworn his devotion, to become the lover of all the perishing lights and substances of Port William and of the weather over it and of the water under it. After so long, it seems to him that he is the native and occupant of both places, and passes freely between them, and in serving either serves both.¹

Practice resurrection. This imperative concludes Berry’s poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” I find his words helpful as the somber days of Lent have given way to the joy of Eastertide. As with every season of the Christian year, Eastertide has a particular discipline: rest. But how does one practice rest for fifty days, especially during the home stretch of the school year? I find it clearer to ask, how do you practice resurrection? Fishing is a decent start.

On our second trip fishing, I fished, too. We went to Lake Iamonia nine days after the flood, and the dock was flooded. I wouldn’t let my children wade far in an area known for gator attacks, so we went to a small boat landing near my childhood home. This time, instead of work, I brought snacks, sunscreen, and live worms. We caught nothing. In those nine days, I didn’t learn anything about rigging the pole for bream, but I began to care to learn. I want to know by the look of the water where on the line to place the cork and how much weight to use. I want to know from the sun and the season and the rain when they will bite. I want to know where old-timers buy worms, not from mildewed Walmart coolers. I want to know this world.

It was hot, the kind of hot day that happens every year when you know that spring is over and it is summer. We caught nothing, but it is amazing what you can notice when you’re paying attention. A banded water snake slithered across the top of the water and onto the lily pads. Dragonflies buzzed and I saw a delicate lilac flowering plant in the water that I had never seen before and whose name sadly I do not know. I watched my children. Again, my oldest fished with a competitive determination and this time my middle child attempted to entice the snake onto a worm-heavy hook. My daughter waded out on the boat ramp, running back and forth with a minnow net, ensuring that all fish were duly warned of our presence. As the sun shone down, I did mostly nothing.

Most of the time practicing resurrection involves doing something more than fishing. We do, after all, have a school year to finish. As the remaining weeks of school dwindle, my impulse is to try harder. Instead, I remind myself of what Saint Thomas Aquinas says about virtue: virtue consists in the good rather than the difficult. Thomist philosopher Josef Pieper adds that knowledge does not consist in the effort it requires, “but in grasping existing things and in unveiling reality.”² The resurrection is not something we do, it is something that we receive. So, I ask myself, am I doing things just because they are difficult? Or are we, in our studies, unveiling reality?

When I took on sole proprietorship of my children’s education it fell to me to name and to care. Slowly I have grasped the weight that our home and our homeschool reflect the state of my soul. I want to have a soul that practices resurrection. I want to have a soul that sees through the veil to reality.  I’m not sure how to love a Celestial Tallahassee— the earthly Tallahassee is a bit of a challenge. The abundant beauty of the capital city is shrouded by a culture of political maneuvering and a climate of pervasive moist heat. I do see more than I used to, though. And maybe soon I’ll catch a fish.

¹ Wendell Berry, A Place on Earth: (Revision) (New York: North Point Press, 1983), 69.

² Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture; the Philosophical Act, trans. Alexander Dru (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009), 34.


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