Maps, like wild and green-eyed Irish redheads, are irresistible. They have a magnetic ability to draw me closer to them…to look, to touch and to stand in awe at what they can reveal to you. There are a zillion kinds of maps. This space and my time does not allow me to tally them for you. Nautical charts with numbers and bearings scattered all over (along with the always beautiful compass rose), the odd spatial effect you get when you stare at a shaded topographic map and the artistry of a geologic maps color coded to the rocks age and stratum are just three humble examples that dwell in the world of maps.
I collect maps, maps of all kinds. I have city street guides of European cities, star charts, watershed maps…I could go on. Mostly, though, I like topographic maps that describe the three dimensional land on a flat sheet of paper. I venture into the wild areas for hiking and kayaking and without a topo I am lost, and not just metaphorically. Anyone who wanders more than 200 yards away from their car in places like the Adirondack Mountains deserves to be given the bill for the helicopter search.
I love maps but lately I’ve been thinking that I love them too well and too much. I have no more room to store them, rolled or folded. Every corner in my office has or will be the home for a map. Maps and books are taking over my small creative space. Like pods from the Mother Ship, they must reproduce when I’m not looking, because when I awake the next morning, more of them need to be filed away. Maybe this is akin to some kind of addiction…there is the new map on my shelf but I don’t remember buying it.
I get atlases so I can have many maps between two covers. The trouble with that is that the new atlases are so large, so heavy, that if you fell asleep with one on your chest, it’s mass would cause you to cease breathing and you would die. I don’t want that to happen. After all, how would it look in the obit page of the local daily: the ambulance crew found his body beneath a 72 pound copy of the National Geographic Atlas of the World.
So when I turn away from my maps, I pick up my Gibson guitar and strum “The Ballad of Gerardus Mercator.” And when my fretting fingers get sore, I’ll pick up my walking cane and wander around outside. I might take that path I just noticed the other day.
I just hope I don’t make a wrong turn because I left my map at home.