I’ve decided to indulge in my love of maps

I’ve decided to pursue a new hobby: Cartography. I’ve always loved maps. As a kid, I used to love Dungeons and Dragons – my favorite part was reading the dungeon modules. I used to sit for hours with graph paper trying to create labyrinths of my own.  This is why Lord of the Rings is far superior to Harry Potter – because the books all have a map.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that any book with a map is superior to any without.  When I went to Paris, I wanted to go through a sort of Les Miserables/Hunchback of Norte Dame tour. I had recently read those books, and Victor Hugo spends a great deal of time describing the city – the city itself is a character in both novels. I was disappointed by folks who told me not to go to the site of the Bastille simply because all that remains is a traffic circle. That wasn’t the point. It produced a frame of reference for some of the events in Hunchback. The Sewer Tour was misleading, since it was sort of a DPW museum, rather than an entryway into the ancient catacombs that Jean Valjean scurried through.  If Parisian planners want to rewrite their history and direct their tourist traffic, that is fine, but I wanted to experience the rich literary history as it was originally imagined, not some DaVinci-Codified version of the city.  And my point? That Les Miserables, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and other classic novels would have been far superior literary works if they had had maps included.

A map provides an overview of your travails. It creates context for your wanderings. I like exploring. I like finding my own routes and expanding my ability to get around. And I like circular routes. I hate backtracking.

Some of my favorite memories include riding my bike through the cleared land of large scale residential developments, looking for things to climb or newly accessible natural features. I still enjoy a good hike, especially when there is some sort of trail blazing involved. Each year, I try to expand my knowledge of the Catskills as a camping destination to insure that I experience something new, and that my companions get a memorable experience. A great hike gives you a view that can’t be experienced without having made the climb.  Becoming knowledgeable of the lay of the land is what a map maker does.

It’s a romantic avocation. It’s essential to such history making undertakings as exploration and building. Planning development and designing cities. Changing international borders. Mapping out the terrain of new planets – someone will need to do it when we get there, and I want that to be my role. 

It’s an essential skill that can be done with primitive tools. I however intend to enroll in a GIS certification program in order to learn the not so primitive tools that are used today.


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