Monday, May 22, 2006

Naked men, women, forests and me


I was being clever, backtracking south from the UBC Botanical gardens to find a trail down to the sea I was told didn’t exist.

I found it. Steep and slippery but I got down OK. Tucked in from the shore was a grey-bearded old soak in a naval hat puffing away on his pipe, stark naked. “Hello,” he said.

The trail was through forest that bordered the shore. One after the other naked men appeared and passed me, never quite looking me in the eye, always looking somewhere else. Some way down a cluster of them gathered on a pocket of clear sand. I looked away this time, keeping eyes on the path.

Why no women on this woodland trail? Why were all the joggers on the trails through Stanley Park also males, pounding away on the tracks, the women joggers keeping to the outer rim by the water’s edge? Is it some hunter-gatherer throwback, men in the forest and women in the clearings, picking sunlit berries? Or is it just that men have hogged the domain and women don’t feel safe? I can quite see why women might not feel at ease scrambling the trail in this Pacific clothing optional zone. But do women like forests the way men seem to?

Young men were sent into the forest with tasks to perform in order to achieve their destiny. I guess Angela Carter went into the woods, and Red Riding Hood and Gretel and Maid Marian, but they don’t seem to quest in the same mythic way.

One woman, Heike from my On Sacred Mountains, came into the forest with me for her first forest time time ever, a nighttime walk up Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka. Her first forest walk, her first mountain, her first nighttime expedition. I guess she felt safe in my company. I’m the sort of man women come and sit next to on trains or in stations. I used to object, in days when I wanted to seem young and dangerous.

On the whole women don’t come up to me in forests though, because they aren’t there. I don’t like the enclosure of forests all that much myself, preferring bands of daylight ahead. Where do women go in nature? Meadows? Would I like it there too?

2 Comments:

Blogger pele said...

I have to agree, I find forests confining, and tolerable only if sufficiently old, and if containing one or more large waterfalls and rushing creeks. In an old growth forest, there seems to be good movement, space and tension between the trees. Due to the high canopy, the ground is not a free-for-all of salal and ferns, but open and traversable.

I notice, too, that in the PNW a lot of women are not nearly as happy and at home as the men are...curious.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Your reading of old growth forest is appealing, pele. I tend to lie the Bambu moments, sunlight shafting down into clearings.

PNW ... is that Pacific North West?

5:01 PM  

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