We Can’t Blame the Maps
Maps. I can sit with a map, even of some place that I have never been and will never go, and lose myself in its features and its odd place names.
I imagine what it would be like to be just there, on that mountain top, or down below it in the broad floodplain of a meandering creek looking back up at the crest. But given a choice, I’ll take a map of a place I know, or have known.
Sit me down with a topo of Grayson Highlands State Park where I have not been for years and the memory of the topography, the contour of lines like the face of an old friend finds a resonance in lived moments there, in just those places between the lines, and I am reliving time anchored to place.
I recently had a version of this passage quoted back to me by an accidental blog reader who stumbled across it in Fragments April 2003. It resonated with him, another arm-chair cartographer-explorer and lover of maps.
And what a great time for those like us to be alive! Never have we had at our fingertips the map resources of today, visioning and visiting far off continents and cosmos from our office chairs.
But wise pilgrim, having been shown the moon, does not keep watching the master’s hand.
It is in the territory that maps show us we should be amazed. Maps should help us to better real-ize landscapes, cultures and the breadth of the context of human history in space and time. Maps give us a grasp of our place in the world, both literally and figuratively.
Have you seen Star Viewer interactive map of the heavens?
Last night from our front porch, using Google Sky Map, I identified Regulus–a tiny twinkling dot, whose light, striking my retina at that instant in the cold dark, left the star 80 million years ago. Can you grasp that!?
Meanwhile, back home, maps help us real-ize how and where mankind impacts perhaps the only Living Planet in those cosmic expanses beyond our influence.
Why not spend some time exploring maps that matter, here and now. They establish the “oh yeah?” facts; it’s up to us to take responsibility for the “so what?” consequences. We’ve never had better maps.
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