[This fragment is available in an audio version.]
Recently I’ve had the joy and privilege of time spent walking in the Pacific Northwest forest, on a small island where we engage in Cottage Life.. Walking in the forest provides a fine opportunity to think, although the raw beauty of the forest pouring in through your eyes and ears will regularly interrupt. While forest-walking, I thought about pictures, modern mapping technology, strangers’ identities, and The Green Knight movie.
Snapping · I have a problem: It’s hard to photograph the forest. Out of sheer embarrassment I won’t share the number of times a combination of light and space and color has brought the camera to my eye. Because almost every such effort, on later consideration, ends up looking like a snapshot of some trees. I occasionally get the light and color but the special space eludes almost always.
Challenge accepted, OK? If that rainforest thinks it can hide its beauty from my camera, it’s got another think coming. With any luck I should have a couple more decades of life to work on the problem.
Mapping · There’s a problem walking in these woods. The trail network is a bit complicated and generally speaking, the trail forks look like the other trail forks. This makes it hard to re-create an excellent walk with a length known in advance, for example when you’re showing off the island to a first-time visitor who might not be up for a challenging two-hour scramble.
So I decided to map them. I surveyed the (many!) Android apps designed for this purpose. It seems that AllTrails is the most popular, but I found its learning curve onerous. So I installed Gaia GPS and Lauren installed Wikiloc, and we set out. They both worked pretty well. I think that if you’re signed into Gaia, this map should show my recently-marked trails. But I’m not sure I actually understand the publishing process yet.
Having created a Gaia GPS account and used the app/site briefly, I was charmed to get an email from them advertising that they were hiring and anyone interested in some combination of cartography, mobile apps, and server-side tech should get in touch. If I were younger I might.
The movie was our first such outing since Covid started. We even took a public-transit train to get there. I masked on the train but, since the film’s been out for a while and isn’t a big hit, there were only six people in the theater, widely separated, so I went bare-faced. It was frankly a thrill to go out and do adult things.
As for the movie, meh. The middle section, with Gawain wandering the wilderness seeking the Green Chapel, was very good. But I thought the ending, completely different from the one in the poem, was not an improvement.
And while the location shooting was very beautiful, the sound design was awful, with obtrusive heavy-handed Foley; for example, Gawain‘s horse plods slowly down a muddy forest path, and with each pace a huge “thud!” explodes from the theater speakers.
I think the problem is that the movie didn’t take itself seriously enough, as witness the hokey episode titles and the really dorky final line of dialogue assigned to the Green Knight.
I hope someone tries again and does it better, because the underlying poem is a fine piece of work.
Identity · We were walking one of those trails and my eye was captured by a flash of rectangular white in the undergrowth. It turned out to be a BC Services Card, which combines the functions of driver’s license and healthcare access. I’d sure be upset if I dropped mine on a forest trail — I’ve never had to replace one but I imagine the bureaucratic snarl is pretty awful.
Fortunately, the card displays, along with the holder’s full, name, gender, and birth-date, their mailing address. So it was easy enough to put it in an envelope and drop it in a post-box.
But I was unsatisfied, because if it was my card I’d want to know right away that it’d been found. So I went to look up the holder, a woman who had a dirt-common surname but moderately unusual first and middle names; I thought given an email address or social-media handle, I could set her mind at rest.
Google: No luck. Facebook: No luck. LinkedIn: No luck. The phone company’s “white pages” site (if you don’t know what white pages are, that’s perfectly OK): Yes, correct first-name/last-name combo in the right suburb. I called it and got a fax machine. Uh…
Anyhow, she got the card and I got an online thank-you via LinkedIn. But, first of all, I was surprised that with this much information, I was still unable to find any online evidence of this person’s existence. Weird, right?
No, maybe I’m weird. Given a random slice of a thousand or so people across the population, how many of them should one expect to be able to turn up online? How far has the Internet penetrated, really, into the fabric of society?
I don’t know, but I’d like to. I’m the last person to ask because I live online and the space of people who don’t is pretty well closed to me.
Thanks for listening · And if there’s a forest anywhere near you, count yourself fortunate and go take a walk in it. You won’t regret it.