Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 8th

He stood on the marshy shore, looking into the dazzle of morning light on the lake. He had come down from the north, as though walking toward the spring season as it came up to meet him, the landscape spread out into carpets of scarlet and canary yellow and lavender. It was a hidden journey under the shade of new leaves, all the green brought out by the winter rains that had been driven hard into the earth.

His figure was not imposing, but there was something about the way he held himself, as though he were held only lightly to the earth, and only by some depth of joy, some authority framed, fastened and sealed by love alone, an ancient love, an ardent, personal love of everything that surrounded him, under his feet and above his head and the air he breathed and most of all, the outlines of the exhausted young men coming slowly closer to the shore in their fishing boat, with the creaking of wood and lapping of quiet waters.

They weren’t speaking loudly, but the few things they spoke in that particular short hand that men use when they have worked together for years came clearly across the surface of the water. They were guiding the boat past him, toward the village, toward sleep.

“Boys,” he called, hardly bothering to lift his voice and smiling suddenly, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Have you caught any fish?”

The young men in the boat stirred and turned toward him. The sky above them was turning paler with day, thin clouds turning white streaked across the height of it. The square white sail, though fully extended, was limp in the still air. The sun was streaming past them and sinking into the mists that were still rising from the shallow waters by the shore, shrouding the stranger in diffused light.

“No,” one of them called, their voice short and careless.

“Throw your nets over to the right side and you’ll find some,” the stranger replied easily.

Someone murmured something and another one gave the short, sharp laugh of irony. One or two looked at Peter, who squatted in the back of the boat, his arms resting on one of the long oars, now held still. The early sunlight gleamed on the skin of his back and shoulders, turning it bronze, turning the curls at the nape of his neck red gold.  He shrugged and gestured for them to throw the nets over.

They lifted the coils of empty nets from the flat bottom of the boat, and faced the sunrise, the falling drops catching the light like strings of pearls. They threw the net out with a strong, well-practiced motion, despite the ache in their arms. The net, whirled through the air, blossomed open into liquid light and settled with a plash on the surface of the lake, where it sank slowly into the water.

They began to draw it back in and at once looked at one another in astonishment at the weight of the net. The surface of the water was bubbling up with the movement of the fish that were being pulled up, the light glistening on fins and tails flipping up through, shaking and trembling.

One of the men in the boat stopped working, hope breaking into his face. He looked absurdly young despite his beard; his shadowed brown eyes retained in their depth the clear light of childhood, one that sees everything as though for the first time, both joy and horror striking hard and straight through.

John turned away from the light and toward the shore and the figure that stood there. The radiant mists parted for a moment, curling away, and the young man’s eyes went wide.

Not taking his eyes off the figure on the shore, John reached out and grabbed Peter by the arm, causing Peter to jolt in irritation, all of his attention having been on the straining of the net, trying to figure out a way they were going to lift it into the boat without it breaking.

“It’s the Lord,” John whispered, his low voice resonant.

Peter’s irritation melted away as he spun to look. Without a word, he grabbed up his tunic and pulled it on, his movements rough with impatience. Peter dove into the water, the splash resounding loud.

The boat rocked in the water, sending long ripples out toward the shore and back toward the heart of the lake. The other figures were frozen in shock, a hand or two grasping the side of the boat, as they stood or leaned forward, looking toward the shore. James took up the long handle of abandoned and loosely swinging oar almost without conscious thought. The silence which had been desultory was now reverent, vibrant with anticipation and awe. Their eyes met and looked away, their glances bright and electric, but no one could speak.

Peter was cutting a long, curling line through the dark shallows, the light flashing on his arms as they lifted from the water. They could hear the long, deep breaths he took each time his face lifted from the water. The figure on the shore had walked down to the edge of the water, the ripples lapping across his feet.

Peter stood up from the water, his tunic clinging about him in folds, and began striding through the shallows. The Lord met him while they were still knee deep in water and surrounded by rushes. For one moment they stood face to face, wreathed with the last of the mist that was dissolving under the sun, their figures held perfectly still as though poised before a threshold or a sudden drop. If they were speaking at all, the men in the boat could not hear it.