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.

Chillin’ with The Dude

15 September 2020 – The smoke haze has lessened somewhat, and I visit Dude Chilling Park, first time out of the house in two days.

Two days ago, I did go out on my balcony, but only long enough to take this photo.

Never mind no mountains visible, almost no city visible either: that blue-tinged building mid-photo, just one and a half blocks away, is the limit of clarity. All this because of winds swirling north from those terrible wild fires along the American west coast. The morning of that photo, Vancouver’s air quality was second-worst in the world, behind Portland. Not only Old Wrinklies like me, everybody was being urged to stay indoors, with closed windows.

Then, suddenly, this afternoon, visibility improves. It’s not great, and I know the level of particulates is still dangerous, but I go for a walk. Over to see The Dude.

Understand this: this neighbourhood green space is really, officially, Guelph Park. Not Dude Chilling Park. Got that? Guelph Park.

And this sign …

is not an official Parks sign. It is public art.

Which is fitting, because the whole Dude Chilling thing is the result of another piece of public art. This one.

Well, to be tediously precise, it is the result of this sculpture’s predecessor, by the same artist. Michael Dennis created the original work in cedar, which after many years had deteriorated badly. He replaced it with this new version in bronze. The official name for either version is Reclining Figure, but the popular name was immediately, and remains, The Dude.

Of course. Just look at it — a dude leanin’ back, and chillin’. As a prank, somebody started an online petition to dump the boring old Guelph Park name in favour of Dude Chilling Park. Good prank, good fun, and tons of people signed the petition. Which did not amuse the Board of Parks. Then somebody installed a home-made Dude Chilling Park sign in the ┬ápark. Which still-unamused officials removed.

Things went on like that for a while, Fun vs Unamused, with a new public petition gathering some 1,500 signatures pleading that the fun sign/name be restored. Until I looked it up just now, I believed officialdom had yielded, and the park now had two official names. But no! Even better than that. Somebody donated this perfect imitation of a Parks sign … and the Board allowed it to be installed, as a work of art.

Not as an official name for the park. As a second work of art.

Well, I love this. Somehow nobody loses face and everybody wins and the good times roll and The Dude chills on.

Thing is, now with COVID, I swear people are seeking comfort from the embrace of his body language. They sit right up there with him. Like this.

 

I move down toward the tennis court fence, to check out its current crop of public art. This is one of the display walls favoured by our local (I think local) Yarn Artist, and the display sometimes changes.

One creation never leaves: this now-weathered yarn version of the park’s unofficial name.

 

This creation is somewhat newer — it features our beloved Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, beside the first phrase of her simple mantra for dealing with the virus.

“Be kind,” says the yarn. My mind fills in the rest: Be calm, Be safe.

I’m leaving the park, read a Megaphone magazine notice tacked to a post — and there is the mantra once again.

Dr. Henry and The Dude. We can do this.

 

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "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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