Messages of hope line our difficult walk

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It is either in Shakespeare, the Book of Wisdom, or the 1970s science fiction television series Space: 1999 that one can find the words: “Hope is better than despair, and creation is better than destruction.”

Lately I’ve been looking forward to my regular walks on the northern stretch of the Brock Trail as a source of hope among the despair of the COVID-19 crisis, and as opportunities for spiritual and mental creation to counter the destruction this situation has done to our psyche.

It’s one of the few legal ways of getting out still available to us, and while I practice all the necessary physical distancing from all the other people and canines I encounter on the trail, it still feels like something of a subversive act.

Not as subversive, however, as the small, humble and bright acts of creation I have found along these walks.

I refer not to Creation in the spiritual sense: The power of the rushing creek or the gentle nudge of the blooming dandelion.


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Rather I mean the very human gift of brighly-coloured rocks lining the trail’s northern stretch, bearing messages such as “Love,” Joy,” “Flow,” “Stay Safe” and “Laugh/Smile/Friends/Family/Pets.”

Positive messages adorn a rock placed on a bridge on the Brock Trail. (RONALD ZAJAC/The Recorder and Times)

I have not, as of this writing, gotten to the bottom of their origin.

All I know is the gentle mystery of wondering where these came from and who put them there, the thought of someone maybe sneaking them onto the trail as an act of subversion against the pervading gloom of these times, is sufficient.

In a twist that would be rejected as ridiculous in a work of fiction, I was told on social media that I missed one of them, a red rock bearing the word “Hope.” So the search for Hope continues, as it were; but at the rate these rocks have been appearing, it’s likely Hope will soon return, in bright red, blue, turquoise or gold.

My early investigative work proved inconclusive.

Incidences of happy rocks have happened in the past. A few years ago, then mayor David Henderson held up such a painted rock to praise the kids at a local elementary school for taking on the project.

But school is out, and online learning is probably keeping teachers and students too busy to resume such an intiative online.

Some social media dragnetting revealed that other, similar rocks were discovered more recently, elsewhere in the north end, and that the GEMS at nearby Bethel Christian Reformed Church might be behind the scheme.

Not really, said Pastor Jack Van de Hoef.


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While the GEMS (which stands for Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) are responsible for the happy rocks left in parks and on sidewalks in the church’s Windsor Drive neighbourhood, they are not the ones leaving them on the trail, said Van de Hoef, who has deposited the GEMS creations himself, and is quite sure the trail was not among his destinations.

“Somebody else put them on the trail, which is great,” he said.

Enquiries of Brock Trail Committee members have also proven inconclusive.

And so I wait for the person or people responsible for these Brock Trail creations to answer my call. It would be a fascinating interview.

In the meantime, I indulge in pleasant thoughts of unknown benefactors quietly depositing brightly-coloured messages of encouragement in this difficult walk we are all undertaking, and realize how important small gestures can be during big troubles.

City hall reporter Ronald Zajac can be reached at