Fundy National Park: lessons from barnacles

When the kids were little, we would go on every guided walk/hike that was on offer. Ostensibly this was for their education. Truthfully, guided walks are enjoyable for all generations. Led by Park personnel, those walks always ended up being chock full of surprising facts and intriguing observations. You also get to meet and converse with your fellow campers who inevitably are from all over the world. It is always a good practice to take in a couple during your stay if you can manage it because it may transform how you view your natural surroundings. Sometimes an encounter can even transfigure your worldview.

 Fundy National Park is home to a variety of eco-systems and so offers a diverse selection of interpreted walks. Lake Bennet also has a guided canoe trip.  If you can only take in guided walk, do not miss the interpretive beach walk. The stroll will take place at very low tide so you can walk out quite far. Remember to wear your rubber boots! The guides tend to stay close to the tidal pools which look like salt-water puddles to the untrained eye. As you gather round and listen to the guide you begin to see that the Fundy tidal flats are home to an incredible array of creatures. It was once thought that the flats were devoid of life, even sterile. When biologists decided to take a closer look at the beginning of the last century, the diversity of crustaceans, fish, mammals and plants surprised them. The walks introduce you to a smattering of these creatures.

On these walks I love watching the transformation of people’s consciousness. They arrive, sloshing indiscriminately through puddles. By the end of the tour, they gingerly, respectfully pick their way through the mud. It is a delight to watch the wonder of children as they take small sticks, softly nudging tiny crabs into reluctant movement.

When you get a sense of the density of life on the flats, you want to walk lightly. It makes you slightly cringe to hear the crunch-crunch of barnacles meeting the bottom of your rubber boots. I learned on one of these walks that barnacles make a fateful decision. When they are miniscule, shell-less creatures, they swim freely around the ocean until it is time to set up a home for the next part of their life cycle. Then they must choose very wisely. When they finally find a spot, on a rock or under a boat, they excrete a glue that is tougher than any man-made glue on the planet. Attaching themselves to the object, they begin to construct a calcium-rich shell around themselves, complete with front-doors that open when the tide comes in and close when it is out. How horrible, I thought, to have chosen the rocks that people will walk on. Likewise, how sad to have chosen small rocks that get buffeted about by the waves, crushing them in the grind of pebbles and rocks. How fortunate is the barnacle that selected the sheltered side of large, inaccessible rocks. No wonder they are so huge, some approaching an inch in height. If you only ever get to choose once, a barnacle needs to choose well.

 

Barnacles by Chris Spencer (Flickr Commons)

Barnacles by Chris Spencer, Flickr Commons

It occurred to me that we humans are blessed with choice and chances for new beginnings and renewal. Although there are many things in life we do not have control over, there are daily decisions of small and large behaviors that we do get to choose. Today I presided at a funeral of a remarkable, humble woman, Roberta. She was of that generation that Tom Brokaw has referred to as the Greatest Generation. She was born in 1930, just as the horrors of the Great Depression were beginning to be visited upon the most vulnerable. When she was three years old her father left the family leaving her mother to raise her alone at a time when such

Vacation Fundy and other pictures 2010 026

Another friend you may meet on a guided walk at Fundy

 

circumstances not only bore real financial brutality but also social shame. Roberta lived through the Second World War and its aftermath. Throughout all of this hardship , or perhaps because of it, she determined to live a life of love and service to her community. She was devoted to her family, volunteered for a number of community groups, was faithful to her God and her church and was particularly interested in the promotion of the arts and literacy. She often said she was the luckiest person in the world. I found that an astonishing statement when I think of how she would describe the reality of her early years. When I listen to her children tell her life story, I cannot help but think that throughout her life she consistently made daily decisions to love and build up, rather than to resent and tear down. There was no situation, Roberta felt, in which a person could not start over in some way.

In life there are many things we do not get to choose. There are also many times we can pick ourselves up and try another rock.  We are not barnacles. For that we can be thankful.