Thursday, September 28, 2006

Maps and Dreams

Maps and Dreams. There is a book carrying that title by a man named Hugh Brody. He spent many years living and working with various native people in arctic and sub-arctic regions of Alaska and western Canada. An anthropological study, it reads like a novel as Brody's gift with explanation coupled with the beauty of the simple and harmonious life led by peoples in the high latitudes provide the kind of clarity rendered by a brutally cold January day that dawns calm, quiet, and sharp. However, his selection of a title is what intrigued me when I first read the book and what continues to drift through my head like the memory of a fond childhood friend. Adventurers love maps and use them to create dreams. Then, as the dreams are being fulfilled by the fruition of days, weeks, even years of planning, it is maps that make the adventure possible.

When I have ventured into some remote reaches of Canadian lake country, I have spent many free moments pouring over the topo maps and canoe route maps of the local area. I am fascinated by running my index finger from point to point working up a visualization of the suspected terrain, vegetation, and watercourse. I remember last summer, after returning from a week in the Adirondacks paddling some lakes and the Raquette River with my son, Gabe, spending hours retracing our route with the help of the Adirondack Canoe Country map that we purchased just before embarking in Saranac Lake. When we saw the old blue Nissan pick-up waiting in the parking lot, having been shuttled by the people at St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, the map atop my pack resting at my feet - where it had been for the past five days - was the first thing that I pulled from the canoe and carefully stashed away for the drive home. The map now hangs from the wall down in the basement with our route marked by pen.

I will never tire of the wanderlust that maps induce. I'm a traveling man and have always been on the move, either literally or in the planning, dreaming and scheming pockets of my mind. I have driven (or been driven) across the United States eleven times, spent four months sailing the Carribean, visited Mexico, Canada, and several countries in Europe. My journeys can all be traced on maps and it is the act of looking at the maps that stirs, in a nostaligic way, the fond memories of great adventures with great people.

Brody put the two concepts together with perfection - to dream is to immerse oneself in maps and the journey is not complete without the companionship of a trusted map. Already I am planning my next big adventure.

The satellite photo at the top of today's entry shows the mile of river I have been paddling each day. Look carefully at its detail and fill in the uncertainties with the stories I have shared and will continue to share through the final days of autumn.

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