Saturday, June 15, 2013

Here and There: Cartography.

I recently began reading a book about maps and the influence of cartography on society throughout history. It sounds weighty, but honestly, it is a fascinating and humorously engaging read.

One of the things it has made me think about is the fact that far from the fixed and firm directional tools many maps are today, original maps were much more about relationships. Where is one landmass in relationship to another, where are the edges, where does the wind begin, and where are the monsters. And the people drawing these maps were not the travelers themselves, but those who heard their stories: those who lived in port cities, those who had the means and the tools to draw, those who had the sort of mind that could envision a world far beyond their own experience...those who wondered and dreamed, who were trying to make sense of things. I'm not sure even that accuracy was an aim, at first. It was more about getting something down that might help frame an adventurous, possibly dangerous, exotic and wondrous, whole.

I can't help but think about the awe of first realizing that there is more. And then being able to see it! At least, on papyrus. All of a sudden here could change and there became a possibility. Was that comforting for people? Scary? Inconceivable, heretical, mystical, preposterous?


What a powerful thing that realization can be, though... Even though there is quite possibly unknown, unfamiliar, and not necessarily better or even all that different. For me, knowing about the existence of there is freeing, curiosity piquing, and even, oddly, confirming of my presence in the here. I know of there and yet my being is not there..therefore I am here. For now. Because there is more.

Some of my awareness of this comes from lots of hands on experience beginning at a young age. I have never lived in any one place for more than four sequential years over the course of my life. In my adult life I have also had different opportunities to travel to lands beyond the borders of my known landmass.

Thinking about Eratosthenes who calculated the circumference of the earth with surprising accuracy and limited movement and the maps that are still in existence dating from the 4th century BC China, makes me think about other ways I have come to know of the cartography of relationships. Stories are certainly one of those ways.

Books are welcome maps to new places, new people, new experience...and they allow me to engage my memories and my dreams, my experience and my hopes, my wonders and my marvels. With a flip of the page, I can be there in the book and over there in my mind and here in body. Stories tell me of others who have walked a similar path or chosen differently or might fill in details from someone else's map and help me understand something in a whole new way...find new connections or relationships or forge ahead choosing the way by which fewer have travelled to make my own observations.

Love is another map that teaches me, informs me, and frees me, by relationships. Those times when I have wondered how on earth I will navigate my way through something, love has been the consistent directional. Love has invited me to turn toward the unknown and walk onward. I have trusted in love when it asked me to leave a here because there needed me too and I have been saved by love when here was not good and the way to there unclear.

Hm...this makes me think about the expression You can't get there from here. As someone with a less than crisp edged sense of direction, I can completely understand that position. It has happened to me many a time. But, I also muse on that and wonder if it doesn't make a big difference what map it is that is being used. And, too, the relationship of there to here.

I remember looking at conventional maps as a child and longing to interpret the lines, numbers, symbols...longing to understand. Now, I find myself saying instead, please, walk with me and show me the way. Help me see with a heart of relationship, help me dream of connections and understanding, help me when I wander too far, help me know more of the whole.


1 comment:

Helen said...

I always love your reflections, Kim. The pictures brought back many memories of my years as a child at the Academy.