Air, Ash, And Paper
2012, by Richard H. Gross
Something not a lot of people know: I use to draw a lot of maps. I got pretty good at it, I guess. I was always inspired by the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. It’s a very relaxing pastime, drawing maps. It’s one of those things there’s just not much real call for, kind of like writing haiku or being an amateur historian; people might from time to time (albeit rarely) act impressed when you announce that you draw maps, and then they make eyes at each other when you’re not looking, never really understanding that the enjoyment of the pursuit is an end in itself. That’s why most people don’t know that I use to draw maps.
Some maps are good to get to a place you’ve never been, but these aren’t the best maps because they are useful one time and then lose their usefulness. These are the basest, most common maps. These are the sort of maps that are downloaded daily, printed in reams, used and immediately discarded. Some maps are good to see a place that you might never go. These maps are more useful, because they take you to places that you could never otherwise see. These are maps of exotic places upon which you can follow distant coastlines and pick out likely towns in which to stay on trips that you will never book. Some of the best maps are of places that never were, but should have been – much like the maps in Mr. Tolkien’s books. These maps are very useful, because they take you to a place to which you most definitely want to go, but cannot. These are the maps that whisper in a language that few bother to hear and even fewer fully understand.
But the greatest maps of all are the maps back to the places that you once knew but that have since become distant. These are the maps of places where once you walked, but in the endless press of years have become only vague, fond memories. These are the maps that are written on air, ash and paper.