He comes down next to me, and when I hold out my hand, he takes it. Our fingers lace together. And in that feeling, that perfect feeling of our hands and fingers pressed together, I want to tell him everything. I want to tell him about Josh, and his sister, Emily. I want to tell him about tall, crazy Gert. I want to tell him about bridges and funerals, and most of all, maps. More than anything else, I want to tell him about myself. I want to tell him that I know what things look like from above now. There's so much I want to tell him, because I know he'll understand.
Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.
Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.
I speak to maps. And sometimes they something back to me. This is not as strange as it sounds, nor is it an unheard of thing. Before maps, the world was limitless. It was maps that gave it shape and made it seem like territory, like something that could be possessed, not just laid waste and plundered. Maps made places on the edges of the imagination seem graspable and placable.
It was ... disconcerting to examine your charts before a proposed flight only to find that in many cases the bulk of the terrain over which you had to fly was bluntly marked: 'UNSURVEYED.'It was as if the mapmakers had said, 'We are aware that between this spot and that one, there are several hundred thousands of acres, but until make a forced landing there, we won't know whether it is mud, desert, or jungle -- and the chances are we won't know then!
It seemed that the printers of the African maps had a slightly malicious habit of including, in large letters, the names of towns, junctions, and villages which, while most of them did exist in fact, as a group of thatched huts may exist or a water hole, they were usually so inconsequential as completely to escape discovery from the cockpit.