Writing In Public celebrates the art and intelligence of essays, online and in print.

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Sometimes I am just the maker of an unfinished map

Sometimes I am just the maker of an unfinished map

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Vanessa Winship @ DeepSleep/

Michelle Valois ponders the maps we create each day @ TriQuarterly Review.
The map I am making is obsolete, a nautical map from 1573, faded, tea-stained yellow, discolored in places by what looks like the heat of too-close candle flame. The paper is moth wing. The ink sea mist and foam. In the places where names of cities should be I trace coats of arms. Kingdoms replace countries. Sea monsters and the end of the world are as real as the Tropic of Cancer.Such polyvalent maps are typical of the 16th century, the period of great European discovery.Sometimes I am a hungry sailor poring over lost latitudes and the merciless blue of endless sea, wave upon wave, crash upon crash. All tumult. No land. No crow flies this far out.Sometimes I am a compass rose flowering in the north; my petals bloom in geometric precision. I am ornamental but necessary.Sometimes I am the rhumb lines, connecting all things. I am like the work of spiders, but when intersected, I create rectangles and squares, hard shapes, nothing as soft as a web. Still, everything is united by my sharp lines: compass rose to compass rose, tropic to tropic, the equator to land masses north and south, to all that was known of the world in 1573.Sometimes I am just the maker of an unfinished map.read more 

Things don’t happen in the dark

Killing a human being called the mother tongue