We’ve just finished two days of intensive net mending, when the (fishing) nets are hauled ashore and racked, and draped out like massive curtains. And maybe I should say massive dirty curtains who have gone asailing in naughty waters, dragging back ashore in its skirts and folds rotting jellyfish and slurping runaway kelp? But we don’t chastise our runaway curtains, we simply put on our gloves if we’re picking kelp and go to work. We clean the net, but mostly we mend. And also we sneeze from the jellyfish on the web. (And sometimes we chase away deer, who love the salt on the webbing.)
With needles in hand (yes, they are called needles), and scissors and glue around our necks, we sort through the mesh, hands dog paddling, from hole to hole. Some caused by our own enginesa s we fish around the net, some by sea lions who rip through the net like thread, some by rocks caught at the bottom, some by thrashing salmon. The small holes we mend quickly, cutting out the fallen strands, creating new strands and knots. Glueing them after so they hold. For the larger holes, and there are many of these! We cut out all the snapped and shredded mesh then sew a patch in, a patch of new web sewn into the old, so when it is done, it is stronger than ever. The large patches can be fathoms long and can take hours. (We usually have a whale to thank for these!)
This is the first year my youngest sons learned to mend.
We are a full tribe now on the nets, standing for 10 – 12 hours each day. There is much to say about this, what happens when people stand next to each other, beside and among each other, all hands on the nets, all searching, cutting, sewing, stitching the same. This wide open room without walls or ceiling, this space becomes our confessional, our music hall, our story circle. We sing spirituals and saloon songs, we confess, tell jokes, spin stories, debate beauty and sin.
(Josh Krohn, crewman fabuloso!
Our lives are stitched together as we mend the holes between us
(Father and daughter)
This is not a bad way to live. Yes, our hands get cold and cramped. The hours pass slowly, and in four days time, we’ll be at it again, these very same nets passing through our needled hands. If it rains, we’ll still be here. If it blows, fogs, blusters and whips, we’ll still be standing here. But I see something good in this, and in all the patient work we sometimes dread. John Pattison and Chris Smith, in their gorgeous, new worthwhile book, Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus
“The vital question is, what is the primary story that shapes our lives? Careening from one thrilling story to the next like an adrenaline junkie, we may be successful, we may even be doing good in the world, but we will also leave a lot of broken relationships in our wake. The down times, the slow work of spiritual formation, the dailyness of apprenticing ourselves to Jesus, the long-term commitment to particular people and a particular place---all the quotidian details of life will leave us restless and discontented. If, however, we find our identity primarily in the scriptural story, we begin to understand community and place as integral to God’s reconciliation of creation through the continuous incarnation of Christ in the world."
I am guessing that most of you don’t do this same kind of work----but you do other work like it. If we can see the place we are planted, the people we are given, the work that is brought to our hands as all a necessary and bounteous part of our belonging to Christ----and our belonging to this delightfully wild and tactile world, where sea lions blast through nets like thread and jellyfish sting our noses-----
we can find a patient and peculiar joy in that massive whale hole that will take 3 hours to mend,
In the picking of berries for a year's cache of jams,
In the month-long stacking of wood for a winters’ stash of heat.
In whatever you must do that grows your patience long and quiet and thin.
Apprenticed to Christ, right here, right now, through sneezes, broken meshes and rain.
Apprenticed to Christ, now, these words, stitching my world into yours, yours into mine . ..
Do you see your own patient apprenticeship in the work Christ has brought to you?