The Mapmaker's War. . . I am currently submerged in this wonderful book by Ronlyn Dominique
Often it can be the first line or few paragraphs of a book that really draws me in. . . this one went beyond pulling me in with the following early narrative. . .
With meticulous care, you planned your provisions, though not your
Adventure wasn’t in the hunger to come but in the quest of
what to follow. You packed your pouch | nuts and fruit, soft bread and
hard cheese | along with parchment and ink, cloth scraps and straight
You mapped the hidden worlds when you were still young enough to see them.
Spiderwebs and honeycombs taught the wisdom of symmetry. To you,
everything before your eyes was built upon invisible lines and angles.
The very spot where you stood only a point among many. A girl is not
always in her place, you thought. A girl can be many places at once. And
so you were. When you settled upon a space in the forest or meadow, you
made a grid on the earth with small steps and tiny flags until there
were row upon row of even little squares. You took your seat within the
grid. You moved from square to square, noting what stood still and what
passed by. All day long you observed and measured, sketched and colored.
That which was off the edges appeared on the parchment as well. There
were mysterious realms of bees and ants and creatures never seen before,
with tiny castles and bright gardens.
In my previous post, Paracosm, I spoke about the beginnings of my imaginative childhood worlds and how they have been with me all through my life, even when I tried to put them aside. . .
This book took me immediately back to those days and the themes within it, mostly mythic and universal, truly touched a part of my soul that recognized it instantly as kin.
I feel like this is my charge again, among the worlds that others often neglect and, in some cases, never see. There is work to be done and many uncharted places to visit here. . .
Mapmaking is much more than pen to paper
It is about perspective and acute observation
It's about seeing with something more than our eyes
It's a visual poetry
When we look at early maps, what do you see? Do you see the world as you now know it NOT to be and think, "Oh, they had it so wrong then!" or do you simply surrender to the wonder and beauty of it, of the time and place and the impossible motivation that made people create them?
How we see maps tells a lot about us too. . .
What a good mapmaker sees, or what a mapmaker reads are more than pinpoints and land plots.
There is nothing finite about a map and the good ones seem to have no beginning and no end.
Like the art of writing kanji, each line begins off the page and then, on the other end, the motion and movement which are always present, carries the brush off the into space.
It is not a series of points. . but the motion of a living, breathing entity.
It does not end.
And so, again, I hammer home the point (to myself) that where we come from, the formative parts of our imagination, the maps we made, have no end.
If we try to constrain it to a page
A part of our history
A finite set of coordinates
It is incomplete.
Maps of all kinds change too
There is a second story I love and often return to that has this same effect on me. You can, of course, read this one too but you can also HEAR it read on the podcast, Selected Shorts, if you are inspired enough to dig for it online.
It's called "The Mappist" by Barry Lopez
Of course, the pattern here, for my own purposes, is telling.
I am always returning to the mapmaker within
The charts and excursions of my youth.
Nothing stays the same and that is why we should, I believe, revisit and remap those spaces too. . .
it's why I intend to do so for the remainder of my days . . . my motion in a lifetime that also began off the page, appeared, and will one day exit into space again.
And through it all, I will remember this line from "The Mappist", to help keep my sense of placeas I go
“don’t make the mistake of thinking you, or I or anyone, knows how the world is meant to work. The world is a miracle, unfolding in the pitch dark. We’re lighting
candles. Those maps- they are my candles. And I can’t extinguish them
Make your maps. dive into YOUR landscapes, and most of all tell and retell your stories as your miracle unfolds.