I have long loved maps and charts. Perhaps it comes from my father’s early exhortations about the four qualities that matter in a woman:
1. get ready fast (check)
2. travel light (check- traveled carry on for 6 weeks in Africa & our honeymoon)
3. be able to read maps and charts and navigate (check)
4. look good after several hard miles to windward (not sure)
Putting aside the very curious assortment of goals that this provided for me, I am sure that my interest in maps comes from my father’s long fascination with them. We have large charts of Buzzards Bay (above) and Boston Harbor in our house. I framed an antique map of Rutland for Matt for a birthday one year, and the vintage Paris metro map that hangs in my parents’ hall is vivid in my imagination (as is the story of my toddler voice sing-songing “Sol-fer-ino!”)
Maps create an illusion of control, of understanding – all of life is understandable as long as we have a map to guide us. When I was in sixth grade my class went on a field trip to practice orienteering. I’ll never forget that day: at each of seven points on a map our team of two had to get a stamp. After point six, my partner and I were in the lead. The very shortest way to #7 and sure victory was across an area labeled ominously “uncrossable marsh.” What do you think I did? Pointed us directly into said swamp. Four hours later we were extracted, needless to say no longer in first position. An early lesson on the compelling value of reading the map and obeying its instructions.
Of course the bigger question is how to navigate the uncharted waters, the unmapped courses. This question, stubbornly unanswerable with logic, continues to challenge me.