Sunday, March 28, 2010

my husband is a cartographer

I think I might be the only person in the world who gets into bed next to someone reading an atlas. I find novels relaxing, or perhaps a spot of poetry before goodnights, but not Tadhgh. Nope. He is- well- he's a cartographer. When I first met Tadhgh I had no idea what that was. "OOOHHhhhhh....." I eventually realised: "you make cool!"

"Well, not really", is his standard reply. Tadhgh also thought working with maps would be "cool" back when he started studying Geomatics. Surely map making involved adventure, risk taking and sailing through dangerous, unchartered waters. But it wasn't long before ideas of wild seas and impenatrable terrain were replaced by a clicking mouse, a quiet office and too many hours in front of the computer screen. Tadhgh loves maps: the possibilities and the information, but the realities of map creation aren't quite like they would have been in the 18th century.

Maps intrigue many of us (I mean, I don't take them to bed with me, but they are pretty amazing.) So much information fits on such a little page...and WE ARE STANDING ON THE BIG VERSION! Woah. It answers so many questions about the space we inhabit, while also opening up conversations about that very space. Maps have a part to play in a variety of spheres, from the political, the geographical, the historical, the metaphorical...

Years ago I was driving with friends to a rehearsal in an outer suburb of Adelaide, over an hour from where I lived at the time. We pulled up at some traffic lights and looked over to the next car to see my brother and one of his friends sitting in the car next to us. Never surprised to learn about the antics of my brother and his friends, we heard that they were heading to- "end of map"- the last page of the Adelaide street directory in the northern direction. What would they find there? What happened after "the end"? These guys are truly the Burke and Wills of our age. Turns out that when they got to the northern edge of the UBD and stopped the car, there was a mobile phone lying on the ground. Weird. But good for my mum because she used that phone for a couple of years. I love that these guys went on this adventure. It illustrates to me that we are all exploring the prescribed boundaries of our world, blending the metaphor and the physical in our own delightfully strange ways. (I think they did south and east 'end of maps' at later times too)

Cheryl Lawrie wrote a blog post a while ago that explores some of these ideas in a style that goes more for the poetic and less for the absurd. She writes of the space beyond the map;

as it turns out
every map has an artificial edge
prescribed by those
who define its scope
who draw the thick black line,
however arbitrarily,
around the edges of the world.

Beautifully said.

Thanks Tadhgh, for increasing my appreciation of mapping life. I look forward to learning more...