Friday, October 22

For the Love of Maps

I started liking maps when I was quite young. I can remember poring over gas station road maps before I started school. I liked those phone book city maps, too, and studied them so I could understand where everything was, and learn how to get to the places I wanted go.

Generally speaking, I was a pretty obedient child, but I did turn my map reading into a couple of adventures that sent my parents out searching for me. Once while walking home from kindergarten, I decided to try walking round that enticing circle of road that rings the central buildings on the Wheaton College Campus, rather than cutting straight through the campus like I had been taught. Of course, that took quite a bit longer, and when I was late arriving home, my parents had to take the car out searching for me. Then, when I was 7 and my sister was 5, I convinced her to accompany me clear across Wheaton to visit some friends of ours. I didn't ask first, knowing the answer would be "no". So we wouldn't be discovered, I took a back way I had memorized from the city map rather than the well-travelled route. I can't remember for sure whether we reached our friends house or not, but we did travel in the right direction and quite a distance from home before we were discovered.

All that practice made me a fairly accomplished map reader, so that by the time I was in first grade, I could help my mom navigate the city by running into phone booths to check the maps for directions when we got lost.

When I started reading chapter books, the books I loved most were books with a map for tracing the story--maps of the Hundred Acre Wood, or Archenland, or Middle Earth. If a book didn't have a map, I would sometimes make one that worked. I drew my own imaginary maps, too, of my own imaginary cities and countries and national parks.

I've never stopped loving maps. I think in maps, and when I think of people, I think of them in their place on a map in my head. That's how I catagorize people, I guess, even people who live two blocks over from me. If someone lives halfway round the world, then I think of them in an area of the globe. If I don't know someone's place, I can't put them in that concerete spot that makes them real to me, so they remain a little like a disembodied spirit in my mind.

So, in celebration of maps, here's a map of my place.

Here's a better one.

This is one of my city, green space and all.

How about one of the Yukon River, carrying the run-off from here clear up and out the west coast of Alaska into the Bering Sea? Here's one of the fresh water drainage of Canada. See! All the southern Yukon drainage goes into the Pacific Ocean, but it doesn't do it the short way--100 miles straight out to the coast--but the long way, 1300 miles (don't quote me!) across Alaska to the Bering Sea.

Or maybe you prefer seeing a map charting all the glaciers and ice fields of Canada.

If you've read this far, but your interests are more political than geographical, here's a map showing the results of last summer's federal election. And if you are one who think the current presidential election is still interesting, how about this? (Ha! You thought it was going to be another one of those state-by-state electoral maps, didn't you? ) Hat tip for this one to The Map Room, the weblog of someone who loves maps even more than I do, and has a whole weblog devoted to them.

And as long as you've come this far, why don't you leave a comment and give me a general idea of your place, so I can pinpoint you on the map in my mind? Don't be afraid to become a real person!