The trouble with maps.

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In life it’s not easy to say where one moment ends and another begins, like chapters in a book where you can pause, mark a page, and jump back in right where you left off. No life’s not like that.

One moment flows into the next and placing endpoints between them seems like a tedious task. To make things even trickier, time itself doesn’t seem to flow at a steady pace. I get the feeling that if it weren’t for clocks we’d find it moving faster in some parts and slower in others, dependent—I think—on how close in proximity our brain is wandering to where our feet are planted. I think happiness has a little something to do with that too.

Even so, moments in time do exist. Usually they can’t be defined, and neither can the impact they’ve had on us, but they’re there, they’ve happened, and they’re happening all around us right now as I’m piecing together these thoughts I’ve scribbled down on various scraps of paper.

Maybe we can’t define those moments with words, but perhaps we can in the smiles we’ve smiled, the tears we’ve cried, and the people we’ve shared them with. It seems to me that what we really are is a collection of all the things we’ve experienced up until now. In that way, perhaps the most beautiful gift someone can give us is their story, the story of the moments that make them up. And if those moments are best defined by the world around us, then maybe that’s what we are after all—the world, everything we’ve touched, and everything that’s touched us, both the good and the bad.

Maybe not. But I do like the sound of that.

There are times in our lives that are the big ones. The weighty ones. The ones that shape all the times to come next. But the funny thing is, those are often the very moments that feel simple and small while they’re happening, passing by quietly and appearing insignificant to an outsider looking in. Sometimes we ourselves don’t even know their significance until after we’ve lived them, when we stop and think about the person we were at the start and realize it’s quite different from the person we are now.

And that’s where I am today translating scribbles into type, somewhere in the midst of those significant moments, unable to say precisely where until the passage of time has given me a bit of perspective and wisdom. In this moment I myself am a  collection of all the things I’ve experienced until now..the things that made my eyes wide, my mind spin, and my heart race. The people too. The ones who stopped me in my tracks, spun me around, and sent me off in a new direction. I am result of the world as I’ve encountered it and who I am now feels quite different from who I was when I began, from the inside looking out at least.

I decided to make a map. A map tracing the path from where I came to where I am.

If I drew this map overlaying the globe you could follow a line from the heart of the USA to the heart of the world, a city defined by its inability to be defined, smack dab in the middle of Asia and Europe, East and West, Ancient and Modern, Peace and Chaos. You could then trace that line across the Bosphorus, down to Israel, and over guarded walls into the refugee camps of Palestine. You could follow it behind the wheel of a beat-up old car to the corners of Lebanon and Syria, and atop the back of a camel to the Bedouin camps of the Arabian Desert in Jordan. You could run your finger from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, up into the clouds circling the misty mountaintop villages of the Black Sea in Turkey, where people live as close as they can to reaching up and touching the stars. Round and round you’d trace this map, across the Aegean to Greece, along the Adriatic to Bosnia, over ups and downs until you’d follow the path right back to where I started.

The only problem is, I’m not where I started at all.

That’s the trouble with maps, you see. What they don’t tell you is that it’s never really possible to go back to the beginning, at least not with all the bits and pieces you had when you began, but maybe with more than which you started.

So I decided that instead of a making a map I’d take a trip down the rabbit hole, to the corners of my brain and the center of my heart to figure out how it’s possible to be standing right where I began yet, at the very same time, in a place that I never could have expected.

It all started with a question, a question that was never really answered. But that question led to another. And then another. And in a way, the path between those questions is my map. It’s not an organized map, by any means, a proper narrative where things fall in order and connect from page to page, beginning to end. Rather, it’s random and weird and incomplete and certainly not entirely pretty. But I guess that’s how any good rabbit hole worth exploring should be—a little bit scribbly.

..to be continued..if I can figure out how the rest of these paper scraps fit together.

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1 Comment

Filed under Home, Perspectives

One response to “The trouble with maps.

  1. Michael Schaefer

    This is so beautiful. You’re doing wonderful things in only a way you could do, Lauren. I’m happy to see this, good luck.

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