Thursday, May 19, 2011
On Hand Drawn Maps
Yesterday a package arrived. My dear student, Carina, sent me a birthday gift. A volume of hand drawn maps, published by the Hand Drawn Maps Association (handmaps.org). Well, I don't think Carina knew this, but I have long been interested in hand drawn maps - as I am in diaries and journals and anything where we reveal a bit of ourselves, a kind of road map to our inner selves.
In fact just ending today is the wonderful maps of diaries at the Morgan Library. I went to this exhibit several times. I just loved to read Nathaniel Hawthorne's first scribble about an idea of an adultrous woman with the letter A pinned to her dress. Or Tennessee Williams, filled with fear and doubts, even as both Streetcar and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof were being performed on Broadway.
I love the inner workings of the artists or the travelers mind. Where are we going? How will we get there? Personally I hate GPS. I never want to actually know, let alone have someone tell me, how to get somewhere. I'd rather get lost a thousand times than let someone, or some thing, show me the way.
We don't learn by other people maps. We only learn from our own.
A few years ago I had a dream. I dreamt that I could fly all over the world. And I could never get lost. Because my belly button provided navigational redial. All I had to do was push it and it would enable me to fly home.
I feel that in many ways the artist and the traveler are both dreamers. We fly through the world either literally or through the imagination. Yet somehow we know how to get home.
When my cousin, Marianne, and I were small, we spoke in a language of our own. We had a kind of place too that we vaguely referred to as Ishkabibel. A few years ago for her birthday I drew her the map as I saw it. My grandmother's old metal elephant that served as a doorstopper, the narrow confines of the world we traveled in from Chicago where she lived to the suburbs where she came to visit me. The language we spoke (Burble), the unknown, unchartered territories.
This was the only map I knew - or needed - for a very long time.