Frances the Fish Creator
I’ve never particularly identified as an environmentalist. Sure, I enjoy my share of hiking or strolling the beach. I like to garden, recycle when I can, I’ll even cut back on my water usage when I think of it. But if you ask me to give you words that would describe who I am “conservationist” or “wildlife advocate” wouldn’t top the list and until recently they more than likely would not have even crossed my mind.
Like most writers, I write about what I myself most need to learn. During a time of disconnection and despair, I wrote a short script about a little frightened fish that travels from fresh water to the sea in search of a bigger life. An unexpected investigation about the pervasive fish unfolded as I discovered the many challenges wild salmon face in their journey upstream; from the disturbingly warm waters to ravenous sea lice, insurmountable dams, hungry predators and the list goes on and on. Frances and her friends were born, struggling to make the journey of their lives to spawn the next generation and to feed our ecosystem along the way.
Frances is by all accounts far braver and stronger than I am. She understands that none of us gets anywhere by swimming around in our comfort zone, that courage doesn’t tend to look for the stagnant. She believes in her role in the circle of life, and the importance of sacrifice for the good of the next generation. Frances learns to trust her lateral line (the deep small voice within) to guide her where she needs to go, just as the beloved Dory of the Finding Nemo film franchise reminds us to just keep swimming.
While I confess there are intricacies about the environmental crisis I find challenging to comprehend, there are some things I can certainly grasp. I can empathize with people who have had to watch the fish expected to feed their families and communities die before their eyes due to unspeakably warm waters. I know that driving truckloads of fish from one river to another just so that they can survive can’t be the way it’s supposed to be. How can buying farmed salmon from Chile, many of which spread disease and sea lice when there are American fishermen working hard to catch fish in our local waters make any sense?
When I think about the sacrifice that salmon are making for their next generation, it’s hard not to think about what we can do for ours. Who doesn’t want a child to experience the joy of seeing a baby otter for the first time, swimming in healthy water, or experiencing the wonder of biodiversity? Who wouldn’t want our kids to believe in the broadest most powerful vision they can imagine for themselves? Don’t we hope for them to have confidence in their capacity to take care of the most vulnerable members of our ecosystem and our planet? If we can’t leave this earth a more vibrant place then when we came to it, then what was it all really for anyway?
Frances the Fish is a story about the plight and life cycle of wild salmon but more than that it is an allegory for perseverance and of hope. Just as animated films like Shrek may underscore the power of self acceptance, or Inside Out that of vulnerability, or Zootopia about the pursuit of egalitarian ideals and harm of prejudice, Frances reminds us to have faith. Even if we don’t identify as environmental leaders we can all advocate for the sustainability and health of the home in which we live and the communities to which we belong. We are after all a part of the ecosystem, not above it. And while we’re here, why not take the opportunity to protect what we have, inspire each other and make the world as we know it, a better place.