Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Existential Cartographer

West Bank 3.6mi

My shins felt good and I wanted to run today. I decided to make a short loop of the west bank and run it fast without carrying anything. A 9:43 pace doesn’t seem too brisk, but I think this is the first time I’ve broken a 10:00 pace while using the walk breaks. My legs were a little heavy the whole way, but all in all I felt pretty good, and I was able to keep my heart rate under control. The lower temperature definitely helped.
The other day while working on the house I listened again to an episode of This American Life called “Mapping”. The segment in this show about cartographer Denis Wood provided much of the impetus for my ideas about this project. Wood wrote a book called “The Power Of Maps”, and he has produced an atlas of his Raleigh, North Carolina neighborhood that includes a map of the houses displaying jack-o’-lanterns on Halloween, as well as a map of the light pools cast by the street lights. Wood is interested in the way we form our images of a place through these types of personal and poetic maps.
When we were in college, Mike Baldwin gave me some of the best driving directions I’ve ever gotten. We were going to a party in Zephyrhills and I was going to drive out by myself after work.
Mike tells me to take Highway 301 north from Fowler Avenue and to “just keep driving until you think that you’ve gone too far.” This dark stretch of two-lane highway goes past Flint Creek and Hillsborough River State Park, and soon I’m shooting out through the palmettos and scrub oaks, paralleling the river’s lazy curves, straddling the line. “After a while you’ll start looking around in the dark. The moon will be out and you’ll be watching it through the trees. It’s so beautiful. Turn off your headlights and stick your head out the window. Look up. You’ll be watching the moon and the stars and you’ll have forgotten how far you’ve driven.” I‘m following his instructions exactly. It IS beautiful. I have my head out the window, first looking down at the asphalt screaming by beneath me, then up to the moon flickering behind the thin cypress branches. If I try to focus on the trees they are just a blur. I’m listening to the wind in my ears, the hum of the tires on the road, and the sound of crickets. I can’t remember how long I have been driving. “You’ll have forgotten how far you’ve driven. When you find yourself doing this – TAKE A RIGHT!” I slam on my breaks and look to the right as the small street sign blinks into view. I have arrived.


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