Maps“I love maps.” That’s the opening line of day four, week three, of an Advent devotional, Night Visions, by Jan Richardson. Me too.

Yeah, I know, it’s a fair bit beyond the season of Advent, but map metaphors work for me any time of year. And I like the perspective Richardson has on maps as she says, “I like maps for their notion of order, for their presupposition that the lines, directions, and paths they offer will show us the way if properly read. It is a heartening thought that if we study a piece of paper long enough, it will show us the way to our destination.”

Yet with the “advancements” in technology we’ve come to reply more frequently on non-paper Google maps and GPS…not always with great results. Last fall, we plugged a hotel address near the Newark airport into our GPS. As we neared our destination, we began to be lead in circles through a tangle of off ramps, on ramps and freeway interchanges under construction. Feeling hopelessly lost we pulled off the freeway and called the hotel. The cheerful desk clerk asked if we could see a nearby pizzeria. Yes. “Is it on your left or your right?” Our right. “Oh, I know exactly where you are!” We stayed on the phone as she skillfully directed us to the hotel, a feat that would have been impossible without her assistance. Expressing our frustration at the front desk, the still cheerful desk clerk bubbled, This happens all the time. The address listed on the website is actually the intersection of two freeways under reconstruction. The hotel doesn’t really have an address. Neither does the hotel next door.” Let’s just say the words amazed, bemused, incredulous, frustrated, peeved…and relieved…came to mind.

This map-related memory was brought about by Richardson’s musing, “I also think…that we come into the world with a scrap, a shred of some cosmic map in our grasp. It’s lined onto the palms of our hands that emerged with us, fisted, from our mother’s ocean. There are days when I believe that if we touch enough hands, place them side by side, we’ll finally see the map. Across the landscape of our palms, across the terrain of our hands that come in different sizes and colors and have wrinkles or scars and are smooth or leathery with work and are missing fingers or are twisted with illness, across their flesh lie the lines that if we look closely enough are connected and will tell us which way to go.”

My eleven year old grandson Nate is fascinated with the loosening skin he plays with on the back of my age-freckled hands, the skin that takes a moment to sag back in place as we snuggle. His is one of the side by side hands that tells me which way to go. But there have been so many map-lined hands that have “besided” me over the years that Richardson’s writing has invited me to retrace, with memory’s finger, the “lines, directions, and paths” that have been mapped out thus far in my journey.

This 12″x12″ mixed media acrylic collage above was created during a recent art day. The hand image was left behind at an art day the previous weekend and seemed the perfect image after reading Richardson’s “Maps.” The narrow white lines, with many personally significant place names, were cut from a road map atlas as was the large map fragment in the lower right quadrant. A muted heart and key in the upper right corner suggest a future heart-unlocking of the map.

If you were to create a map of your life’s journey, what significant place names would you include? Who all would you include as side by side hands in your journey thus far? Whose hands will help guide your paths in the future?

Looking forward to your side by side comments.

1 comment to Maps

  • at 73 there have been too many side by side hands to mention
    but in the main helpful ones and few that were not
    looking back one can see that the helpful ones
    were concentrated upon and the others abandoned

    many significant place names too
    thinking about that brings me to appreciate the wonderful
    richness i have had in my life
    living spaces
    travel to exciting places
    how blessed i have been and continue to be

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