Your Map, Your Life

The first time I got on an airplane, I took an atlas with me.  I had studied geography in school (does anyone do that anymore?) and didn’t want to miss any of the details.

The Map of the Idea I Had Last Week. Ink, acyrlic gold ink on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald.

We rose above the clouds–magic! The clouds looked solid enough to bounce on. The clouds cleared away and I looked down–and was horrified. Everything was the same color. Rivers were not blue, there were no state lines, and while I knew each state wasn’t going to be the color of the atlas, I did think it would look a lot more like a map.

From that day forward, I was in love with maps. This was long before GoogleEarth, so cartographers were still drawing on paper, creating a reality that we all believed.

I began to make my own maps. Of my house. Of my neighborhood. And then I began to make imaginary maps, of places I had never seen and had never been. Seeing that there were no lines on the earth gave me the freedom to leave the cartographer idea behind and make up new ideas.

Lately, I’ve been creating imaginary maps. Sometimes they have lines and descriptions, names that describe my emotions (Sea of Doubt, Scattered Thought Islands, Outlet Inlet). Sometimes they are blank. Because each time we see our lives, we see them in different context, with different emotions and information. There are no lines. There are no markers on most of our lives.

Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.   —Alan Alda

-Quinn McDonald is still on the road of discovery. Sometimes she has a map, sometimes she makes it up as she goes along.

15 thoughts on “Your Map, Your Life

  1. Pingback: My Heroes: Quinn McDonald « Valkoinen poni

  2. Have you found your way over to Wide World of Maps yet? It’s a wonderful store for map lovers! I used to work across the street from the main one and spent many lunch hours there!

  3. Love, love, love this post! Maps are fascinating; the being able to see more than you can see from the ground—I can feel like a bird flying above…and how wonderful to create your own maps, your own places!!! The quote included in this post is a keeper, too.

  4. so many of us have fascination with maps. I often wonder why that is. Perhaps it is just the idea that somebody has taken our 3-D world and compressed it flat. Perhaps it is the idea of other places, other worlds, other realities, that intrigue us.

  5. I like maps too. I’ve worked on various kinds of mapping software, which turns out to have really interesting problems that you never suspect until you get deeply into it.

    Maps are inherently paradoxical. Most computer maps are assemblies of “blocks” — by making the middle area of a block better, you increase the problems you have matching the edges, and vice versa. Every map is wrong, in part because it’s an approximation, and it’s also right — for exactly the same reason.

    Speaking of Google Earth, the development team has a blog with some fascinating info:

    And speaking of airlines, there are a couple of carriers (American is one I think) that project a live progress map on the screen/entertainment system on some flights. It’s not a very good map, but it’s usually better than the film choices! (Prediction: at some point soon that map will be replaced by Google Earth or one of other similar services, and passengers will be able to really interact with it.)

    • Love that blog map–I didn’t know google earth did all that. Most maps of the earth don’t show the landmasses in the right way, either. And each continents globe always show their continent in front when a map is projected.

  6. I really love the quote from Alan Alda. I think I am going to put it uo on my wall! Maps idea very interesting too. I often feel there are worlds, universes and galaxies inside, as vast and limitless as those outside ourselves.

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