No one uses maps anymore. Sure, they use GPS on their phone or ask Alexa but, I’m talking about an old school paper map. One you picked up at a rundown gas station in the middle of nowhere. When you were completely lost and had no other option. Or one you found crumpled at the back of the glove compartment while cleaning out your car at the car wash.
Yes, a paper map is utilitarian. It gets us from point A to point B. We use it and then throw it away, never thinking about it again. Likes so many things in society, maps have become obsolete. A victim of technology. But, what if we were to take a closer look.
What is a map? It’s made of paper. It’s folded like a piece of origami. Pieced together like a puzzle. Once you unfold it, you’ll never be able to correctly fold it again. The scent of ink and gasoline permeates the cheap paper.
Maps can also be art. A world map is a patchwork of colors representing land masses and people. Green America, Pink Italy or Vermillion Australia. Dabs of color like a Gaugin landscape. Crisscrossed with lines representing super highways, bridges and railroad tracks. Maps are reminiscent of a Mondrian abstraction.
Taken from another point of view, a map can be an anatomical illustration of a town, state or country. The red or blue roadways on the map remind me of an old illustration of the human circulatory system. And in essence, that’s what it really represents. Roadways, like veins and arteries, are the lifeblood of a country. They carry much-needed fuel throughout the nation. Much like a vein carrying life-giving red blood cells throughout your body.
Maps offer so much more than just information. Spreading a dusty, yellowing map out in front of me, I recall the cross-country trip with my family when I was 8 years old. I chuckle, remembering when my I got food poisoning in Utah or when our car broke down at the Hoover Dam. My parents bought us ice cream which melted faster than we could eat it in the Nevada summer heat.