Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On being lost

I'm writing an article at the moment on the joys of getting lost which means I am happily spending hours exploring maps and thinking how people navigate round themselves. The Strange Maps blog from which the map above, and the description right at the bottom of this post, comes from is particularly good for frittering away time.

And I'm also enjoying re-reading Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Here's one of the many quotes from that book I've copied out:

The question then is how to get lost. Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery.

Beautiful. I want more and more to enjoy a life of discovery.

And here's the description of the map illustrated here:

“The American Geographical Society Library has acquired an extremely rare and unusual map, The Man of Commerce, published in 1889 in Superior, Wisconsin. The highly detailed 31” x 50” map/chart conflates human anatomy with the American transportation system, in an apparent attempt to promote Superior as a transportation hub.”

“Its metaphor makes West Superior ‘the center of cardiac or heart circulation’; the railways become major arteries; and New York is ‘the umbilicus through which this man of commerce was developed’. “

“The explanatory notes conclude: ‘It is an interesting fact that in no other portion of the known world can any such analogy be found between the natural and artificial channels of commerce and circulatory and digestive apparatus of man’. “

“Only one other copy of this map is known to exist. The map’s cartographer was A.F. McKay; the publisher (probably) Land & River Improvement Co.; and the printer Rand, McNally and Co.”


Douglas Bruton said...

I get lost lots... in my writing... steer myself up a blind alley and have to retrace my steps back to somewhere that feels like a place to be going.

Sometimes, I get lost in the words and find myself in a place that is quite wonderful and different and new. Unexpected, too. That can be really good.

In real life I only like to get lost if I know I can find myself not-lost again at some point. Like walking the back alleys of Venice, off the beaten track, where few tourists step and cats look at you with disdain from the warm sills of windows where they sit. You can be lost there, crossing brick bridges to nowhere and back again. And finally, by accident really, you can be on the Rialto again, or entering St Marks Square, or somewhere you recognise at least. Anything more lost than this is not for me a voyage of discovery, but a panic attack.

Great to think about this.


Printemps said...

Sarah, I enjoyed reading this...and I am sure you will love it when you get lost in Paris- vie perdue lol and many do get lost in Paris and It has been pleasure meeting them under the bridge, in the island and out of Paris and marching like the German Soldiers at the end of the blocked alley...lol...Getting lost is not a bad idea at all especially in Paris!

Fiona Robyn said...

It's a great book. She wrote a good one about walking too.

jem said...

Ooo, I've wanted to read that book for ages. I feel like I once got lost a long time ago, and then I found my way, but now I think it's high time I got lost again, if only to see where I end up.

Have you seen this book - http://www.amazon.co.uk/You-are-Here-Geographies-Imagination/dp/1568984308/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240229102&sr=8-2

I've got it, but haven't read it yet, but it looks great!