The Boards, the Fox & the Big Red Fish

24 October 2020 – I’m back on Port Moody’s Shoreline Trail, subject of a very enthusiastic post last March 1st. I’m still enthusiastic, for all the same reasons: it is a charming, diversified trail cupping the eastern end of Burrard Inlet, offering forest, seascape, mud flats, history, signage and wonderful stretches of boardwalk.

I’m amused to see that I’ve photographed the same sinuous curve of boardwalk both times.

(Can you blame me?)

The sea/mountain vistas are as soul-lifting as ever.

But something has changed, something more all-encompassing than the seasonal difference between March and October. Back then, COVID-19 was not yet the context of our lives. Now it is.

Polite signage all along the Trail keeps reminding us of the new requirements that go with this new reality: physical distancing, and one-way traffic. Outward bound on the foot path as usual, but now back on the paved path previously reserved for cyclists.

And — just in case the printed word isn’t enough — we are forced to lock eyes with our highly respected, much-admired provincial health officer. Who among us would flout a directive from Dr. Bonnie Henry?

I follow the boardwalk back into the forest, still on the footpath, enjoying as always the many “nurse logs” (this one proud mother to triplets) …

and also some one-off delights, such as this slender tree, neatly fastened into its bark sheath with a line of fungi buttons.

But then, after a few more kilometres of forest, shoreline and boardwalk, I’m ready to turn back.

And that takes me to the Fox.

Not that fox. I just threw him in — the work of an unidentified mural artist near Fraser & East Broadway — because I like him so much, and think you will too.

No. Changing direction out here on the Shoreline Trail means switching over to join this Fox …

where he trained before dipping his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s on 12 April 1980 — the start of his planned run all the way back to the Pacific.

I’ve always known the broad outline of the Terry Fox story, but now, in pandemic, I think about it differently, react viscerally. When this young man lost his leg to cancer in 1977, he responded by deciding to raise money for cancer research with a cross-country Marathon of Hope. It didn’t end well for him personally — he had to abandon the run in northern Ontario, when they found the cancer had spread to his lungs — but it has continued to work wonders for cancer research. As of April 2020, more than $800 million has been raised by millions of people, in annual Terry Fox runs and other events in more than 25 countries world-wide.

But it’s not just a cancer story, is it? It’s for all of us. It reminds us that while bad things happen, they are part of life, it is then up to us to decide how we will respond.

The thought stays with me, even as I turn onto a side trail that follows a sparkling creek back toward town. It’s back of mind, I’ll grant you, especially when I fall into a game of kick-the-ball with an eager King Charles spaniel, but the theme of resilience, of bouncing forward to rise to the challenge, stays with me.

And then I discover the Big Red Fish.

I’m well up the creek by now, and I see the artwork on Noon’s Fish Hatchery (home to the Port Moody Ecological Society) …

before I notice the cedar house pole being carved in the open shed just opposite.

First I step in, to admire the pole — the colours, the grain, the sinuous lines, everything — and then I step back, to read the signage.

It’s another story of adversity, resilience, and rising to the challenge.

Adapted and survived … Adapted and survived …

I think about wise adaptation on my bus-ride home.

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  1. Yes, adapt and survive. Wise words and very applicable.

  2. Blane Hogue

     /  25 October 2020

    Hi Penny. I found this posting particularly inspiring. The story of the Big Red Fish and how the people carried them in baskets over the damn shows resilience and determination as hey saw their world destroyed.

  3. Great post, I will remember this about adaptation, and I the tree with the fungi looks amazing!

    • yes, adaptation is a pretty valuable skill (& attitude) these days — I’m glad you were also charmed by that line-up of fungi ‘buttons’

  4. You know I love Bonnie but I think I’d be a little turned off if I met a sign like that while I was walking outdoors. It feels a bit intrusive, but if it helps, then all to the good. I like the way you sneaked that fox in it IS wonderful. And kudos to Terry Fox and all who celebrate him! The lesson you took from his story and the way you articulated it is sound wisdom. I know Real Estate people love to say, “Location, location, location” but the more important message for these days might be “Adaptation, adaptation, adaptation.” πŸ™‚

    • Interesting point about the Bonnie sign: I bet it reads differently not just to different people, but quite possibly to the same person on a different day, or in a different mood. I was OK with it, but then at the time I was in a cheerful mood. Completely with you re the importance of adaptation!

    • I bet not only will different people respond to the Dr Bonnie sign differently, but quite possibly the same person on a different day, or in a different mood. I was cheerful that morning, so did not feel nagged…

      • It’s so true, our passing moods influence positively and negatively. I think many people aren’t even aware of that. The sign struck me as a little bit “Big Brother” but you know I’m a huge fan of hers and the message is a good one.

      • I think the intention was to soften the “BB” aspect of the text by including a friendly human face — but maybe, on a given day, I’d rather be lectured by impersonal type than by a human being…

      • Good intentions for sure…and good news today…I’m sure you’re relieved, too. πŸ™‚

      • certainly hopeful news

  5. Mary C

     /  1 November 2020

    i was just thinking about “adapting” this evening before I read this post. I know a few people who are having a difficult time adapting to the changes that 2020 has forced on us. I want to shake them up and open their eyes. Crisis can be opportunity and growth. It’s not a reason to give up. Forward into winter! …. And whatever surprises that rest of the year throws at us.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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