Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mappity Maps

I read maps like I read cookbooks: for fun. For some of you both of these habits will be even more evidence for the necessity of that "unfollow button" I've so courteously supplied on here somewhere. (look in the left margin)

The foodies among you can nod sagely about the experience of reading through a new cookbook and daydreaming about serving up Beef Bourguignon with homemade bread sticks or maybe a homemade braided French Roll--not to mention the pleasure of indulging in the fantasy of having four spare hours or so on any given day to devote to one dish. There really are people who do these sorts of things and I admit I am such a one as these.

But I am talking about a rarer bird: the mappie. Yes, there are a few mappies out there, and yes, they do subscribe to National Geographic, but not for the articles or photos--for the centerfolds!

Mappies are the happy few among us who toss the magazine aside and sit down to ogle their lovely map inserts. "Cool," you might hear from the mappie if you happen to be the unfortunate spouse of one, "I wonder if this is the trench they were talking about with those worms that breathe sulfur? Look how deep it is!" There will be an attempt to clarify how deep the trench is and how steep via further discussion about contour lines. The spouse, who actually read the National Geographic article, will likely attempt a clarification about the facts of marine life and that the "worms" in question were not actually sulfur breathing but were, in fact, non-photosynthesis dependent. Both attempts will meet with that well worn look that clearly asks, "Why are you sidetracking this conversation?"

One of my guilty pleasures in life is reading the maps on the walls of my son's ENT. I have not gone so far as to rejoice in ear infections, but I have never minded the wait. The doctor has got the entire US coastline represented in various maps around the waiting and exam rooms. How cool is that? Providentially my son had an appointment at the same time a friend was living in Saint Kitts. I was able to estimate a sailing route there from both the Florida Keys and the port at Norfolk before we were called back to another exam room.

Like the foodie plans meals, the mappie plans routes. This mappie recently had the pleasure of pointing out that Bethlehem is within 5 miles of Jerusalem during an on-line conversation about the Nativity (a fact I happen to know because I'd recently read a map of the area). That conversation was not nearly as exciting as the further study of the area's maps and a pleasurable interlude with Middle Eastern maps in general that it engendered. Did you know that Google Maps shows public restrooms and gas stations in Nazareth? Or that there is a Latin Quarter where you'll find the Church of the Annunciation? (Attention Mappies: that's a link to the actual map! Have fun! See you in a few hours!)

That link alone will be worth more than the entire blog post to the average mappie, and since they are now eyeball deep in Israeli maps, we can carry on this discussion without them. They'll be back, though. I have the temptation of more map links at the end of the post, so we'll need to be quick about it if we want to say anything derogatory.

Yes, maps to the mappie are like cookbooks to the foodie or LSD to the hippie. They open up a whole new world of possibilities. The veil of the ordinary is lifted temporarily and the imagination becomes the driver of the intellect. Mountain ranges become scalable to the middle aged and out of shape. Oceans depths fathomable to the air breather and thalassophobic. Travel is possible to the single income family of seven!

Well, at least possible for the mappie. No one else is interested, really.

Until now!

I have great pleasure to announce the development of another mappie in the family. Although his interest may be temporary, my son has begun to study maps! We have a map of the world on our living room wall--yes, for me, it is like a Van Gogh--and lately he can be found standing on the couch with his nose to the wall studying it. What gives me great hope is that yesterday he drew his first map! It was of his room, and guess what? He drew a picture of it first and then mapped it and then proceeded to explain to me the differences between the two!

I couldn't have been happier. Not only am I proud of him, I may finally have someone to read my atlas with! And maybe, one day, when someone asks him where his Maga lives, he will point Northeast before saying, "In Virginia." Just like Mom!

Some favorite Maps of Mine:

This just in from @amethystsees! Collections of maps! I'll be blogging again in a few months!


  1. I confess to liking maps (especially topographic ones) more than I ought (but clearly not as much as you). Thanks for the cool links. I was musing the other day at how google maps are both cool (because they exist) and disappointing (because they sometimes make it too easy, and all the Earth looks the same).

  2. There you have hit on the paradox of Google Maps. By being free and easy, they make the map habit cheaper and...cheaper.