Here Be Dragons

Posted: November 20, 2008 in best things, Headspace, Journal

urhereCan I just say? It makes no sense to me that Alaska is part of the U.S. I have maps – lots and lots of maps – hung on the walls of my cubicle. I’m talking to Calvin on the phone and letting my eyes wander and I’m looking at how Sarah Palin can see Russia from her front porch. Alaska is NOWHERE NEAR the continental U.S. Why isn’t it just another part of Canada?

These are the kinds of things I wonder about.

(And before you say anything; yes, I know. Oil.)

Borders and boundaries of states and countries fascinate me, especially if they are not obviously determined by a river or mountain range or something equally as definitive. If there is no natural barrier to help define a border, how was it determined? For instance, look at a map of the U.S. Colorado is practically a perfect rectangle – why were the lines drawn where they were? A state like, oh, say, Mississippi, is clearly defined by a river (hi, the Mississippi). North Carolina and Tennessee are separated by the Appalachian Mountains. Michigan’s borders are defined by the Great Lakes (though why does the northern part belong to Michigan and not Wisconsin?).

So! Many! Questions!

You know what else fascinates me? Caves. And tunnels. And old cities buried beneath newer cities. Aquaducts and caverns and hidey-holes. Which is probably why I LOVE Cities of the Underworld. It’s why I want to visit the Edinburgh vaults. It’s why I spent hours as a kid at Fort Williams, looking for the “secret” tunnels said to be hidden there. It’s why I still love to visit Fort Williams, and Fort Knox (the one in Maine, not the money one), and Fort Popham, every time we go back home. It’s why one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up was an archaeologist. It’s why my favorite part while reading The Hobbit as a child, was when Bilbo and Thorin went to the Kingdom Under the Mountain, to get the dwarf treasure back from Smaug the Dragon. And why I was so fascinated with Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series – lots of underground worlds and hidden cities in those books.

I LOVE to go exploring, and it’s been ages and ages since I’ve done so. I think another trip to Kartchner Caverns is in order, until we can move back East to where there are old forts and buildings and histories to explore. Arizona’s just too darned young for my taste.

I like history. I like old places. I like attics and barns. I like buildings that have stood for hundreds of years and tens of generations. I like town halls that have historical archives stashed away in dusty rooms. I like photo archives that show familiar streets and towns as they were a hundred years ago. I like antiques. I LOVE the smell of old books, and old libraries. I like handed-down traditions. I like old cemeteries. I like trails. I like studying maps – modern and not so modern – and seeing how our understanding of the globe has evolved from “Here Be Dragons” to what it is today.

Why the HELL am I a buyer, again?  This whole stream of consciousness was prompted by staring at a MAP.  My subconscious is telling me to get us the hell outta Dodge.  My consciousness knows I won’t be happy until we do.

  1. Kim says:

    If you’re ever in upstate NY, you would love Howe Caverns. We took a tour there and even though it was more than 20 years ago, I still remember almost everything, from the freaky boat ride on the river that was inside a cave (with bats!) to learning the differences between stalagtites and stalagmites. It was so cool.
    I’d always planned on decorating our home “libary” with maps, but there is so little wall space in there, there’s only room for one big one – and the one I chose was Middle Earth. If I could pick a pretend place to go on vacation, that’s where I’d go. Well, first Hogwarts, then there.

  2. I can understand your fondness for that “old book smell”…I kind of like the smell of old socks. Kind of the same….we must be kin.

    The oldest house I have renovated was built in 1810, that sure was interesting. We had a change to but about $500K into this home and this thing fun. We had a chance to restore the living areas and modernize the kitchens and bathrooms while bringing all the electrical, plumbing and HVAC up to code.

  3. Megan says:

    What an appropriate entry for World Philosophy Day!

  4. Lana says:

    I’m one of those people who live in the northen Part of Michigan this part of the state referred to fondly as the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) Most of us “yoopers” relate better to cheeseheads than people from Detroit, Although we to tend to talk like canadians… I Live in Marquette, But if I talk to people online or over the phone and they ask where I am … I generally tell them “the south shore of Lake Superior” since if I say I am from Michigan they generally think right away Lansing or detroit etc…

  5. angelcel says:

    Do you collect antiques at all? If not, it sounds as though you’d get a real buzz out of it. ..Then you’d be a buyer of a different sort, something that gives you some real pleasure. Over the years I’ve picked up little bits of silver for comparatively little and now I’m into graphics. Both give a glimpse into the past and it’s something that you might enjoy (if you don’t already do it). I find there is a certain comfort in having the new *and* the old linked in my home. As for maps, it’s just fascinating looking at old maps to see how borders have changed after wars and disputes, and countries are re-named as new regimes take over. ‘Persia’ for instance sounds romantic – Arabian nights ‘n all that. ‘Iran’ not so much!

  6. crisitunity says:

    I am just as piqued by borders as you are. who decided that West Virginia would have that big point? Why is the Canada border all flat until Maine? Why isn’t California a square too? I love it.

    Also, if you haven’t yet, you should read Neil Gaiman’s book Neverwhere. It takes place almost entirely under London.

  7. dyskinesia says:

    The twin-ship thing here is getting ridiculous:

    It’s why one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up was an archaeologist.


    On our honeymoon, we went to an old armoury, caverns in the middle of nowhere, an old cemetery, and Washington & Lee University to see Robert E. Lee’s tomb and museum. Spent quite a bit of time when we were dating traipsing around Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond (which you would love).

    Oh, and before I moved away, I was going to write a book about cemeteries in my home county.

    Re-dic-o-lus, I tell you!

  8. Laura says:

    Kim – I had a map of Middle Earth when I was a teenager! I wonder whatever happened to it?

    MTAE – Yeah, sock-smell, not so much. Also, sounds like you and Calvin could spend hours talking shop!

    Megan – Huh! Who knew!

    Lana – See, that’s just the kind of inside “local” information that fascinates me!

    Jayne – I like looking at antiques, but not buying them. I’ve spent so long not wanting to clutter up the house or having furniture that I was afraid of getting broken, that I probably won’t change. Maybe one or two pieces, when we move back East and I’m looking to decorate again. Also, I’m hoping my Uncle will part with some of my Grandmother’s stuff…

    Crisitunity – Duly added to my Amazon Wish List!

    Dys – Okay, now we HAVE TO meet in person, because I’m convinced we were separated at birth. I envision a Haley Mills-esque reunion ala “Parent Trap”. Srsly.

  9. Taoist Biker says:

    I forget that you’re about the only other person I know who’s read Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. And with that in mind, I totally second Crisitunity’s recommendation of “Neverwhere.” You will dig it muchly.

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