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posted on 05.27.09

There's just something about an old map.  Maybe it's the beige-brown paper, or elegant black ink, or light hues of orange, red, green and blue.  Maybe it's all of those things. Maps in general, actually, are right up there with cigar boxes and one-line love letters hidden between book pages.

They're tactile, there's a process, the act of unfolding and refolding over perfectly creased edges.  I've never been very good at refolding a map, finding that just-right edge to retrace in the process of focusing in on my coveted section, like folding a newspaper to the article you're reading.

I bought a book once called The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime.  The cover alone sold me; a yellowed background with fleur-de-lis and miniature ships and perfect calligraphy, and the idea of stolen maps was enchanting.  That was about five years ago and I couldn't tell you what the story was about, I never read it, and it might always be on my list of unfinished books, but I will always keep it close, if only to flip through the small pages and pause on the perfectly penned illustrations of shore lines and compasses.  

Most of my work is connected to maps, almost all of my final projects in school were devoted to that theme.  It wasn't something intentional; I guess it's more like a gravitational pull.  I suppose it's all about the idea of making connections.  That's what drives most of us, right?  In one way or another?  And a map is the perfect visualization of that need, that yearning to connect.  They give us perspective, offer almost every possible route, and show the places that intersect each path we chart, the choices we make.

Of course, not all of those paths are clear, or drawn out for us; some of them are hidden, mysteries still to be discovered.  No map is ever finished, or filled to capacity.  Sometimes we are left to paint the waiting spaces, to find the things that have gone astray.  Of the one page I did read in that unfinished book of lost maps, there is a quote that I've carried with me: "It is not down in any map; true places never are." Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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Herman Melville