Why I Love Maps

By Susan Brown


When I was a kid, my family took a lot of car trips. While Mom and Dad squabbled in the front about routes, exits and detours, my brother and I had our own road map to consult. With the wide, unwieldy paper crackling between us, we could follow along the planned trip​​ or search out other possibilities.​​ 


And that is​​ why I​​ love​​ maps. Possibilities.


My family believed everyone should know the world, so my bookshelf always held my​​ own school-type atlas.​​ Like​​ a wondering​​ giant,​​ I would​​ lay the book on my desk and​​ slowly,​​ page by page,​​ peer​​ at the​​ landforms, roads and especially the​​ towns and cities – a hundred thousand in this​​ circle…two million in this​​ double circle…less than five hundred​​ in​​ this dot, all connected by black, red, or​​ broken​​ lines.


So many places to go.​​ So many people I had never met.​​ So many busy lives being lived.​​ 


So many possibilities.


As a lonely kid,​​ I used to imagine that in that school or​​ at​​ that​​ park, my best friend in the world​​ waited.​​ In the hundreds of thousands of schools​​ contained within those circles, there might be one kid in each who would want to be my friend. For a kid struggling​​ not to be forgotten by​​ the gang, the potential for friends was dizzyingly wonderful. And I knew I could some day go there and find them.​​ 


I just had to follow the map.


Later when boys entered my ken, I would stare at the​​ city circles​​ and wonder about the thousands upon thousands of boys.​​ Cute boys…or thoughtful boys…or​​ baseball playing boys…or…


Possibilities.​​ Oh my.


The man I did meet lived his childhood​​ in one of those dots​​ about an inch and a half from my​​ double circle.​​ Our life roads converged​​ against all mathematical probability (there are so​​ many​​ people)​​ at a third​​ circle​​ four inches away.​​ And​​ miracle of miracles, he loved maps too.​​ 


Together​​ we poured over​​ routes​​ and destinations​​ with plans to go here or there, see this or that.​​ While we sat in his dorm room​​ one evening,​​ I remember clearly him pointing to​​ Seattle​​ where no one we knew​​ had​​ lived​​ or visited, and saying he would like to live there one day. I’ve​​ occasionally​​ wondered if it was part of​​ his​​ destiny map​​ because​​ Seattle​​ was his final stopping place.


The kind of paper maps that you can open on a table seem to be passé. Most people just call up a route on their phones. Easy. Direct. Practical.​​ Devoid of dreams. No one lingers over​​ the​​ digital​​ dots and winding lines.​​ Take this turn, go 4.6 miles and your destination is on the left. Estimated time with current traffic, 19 minutes.​​ 


And there you are,​​ with no distractions​​ or surprising detours​​ to get in your way.


​​ Sometimes I think our conveniences and entertainments​​ actually​​ rob us of dreams. Not because they aren’t the product of imagination (which we​​ totally​​ need to share) but because they make it unnecessary for​​ us​​ to add in​​ our​​ own half-formed​​ perceptions.​​ With every route, plot, or information meme​​ expertly​​ laid before us, it​​ is​​ usually​​ unnecessary to​​ experience​​ the unexpected,​​ whether it is terrifying or​​ joyous​​ or both.


But there are still us hold-outs. The ones with atlases​​ on the shelves​​ and paper maps stuffed in the glove compartments.​​ My middle daughter’s husband​​ also​​ loves maps – he​​ collects​​ antique ones​​ to decorate their house. And my two grandsons had atlases before they could read.​​ No one is​​ too young to start on dreams and possibilities.​​ 


I​​ so​​ love maps – they are such a grand metaphor for life.​​ 


About The Author

I love to write! And I love to write for teens. Since I was a kid, bored with school, I’ve been making up stories. Eventually I became a journalist, got married, had kids, adopted dogs and started writing books in earnest. Three followed, plus two more co-authored with Anne Stephenson.

I’ll be publishing a half dozen new books in the next year or two, some fantasy and some realistic which I hope will appeal to teen readers – I’ve had quite a few kids read them and gotten a thumbs up! Check out my website at www.susanbrownwrites.com