For someone always bewildered and exasperated by road maps that purport to lead me successfully from point A to point B, I am, conversely, enthralled by geographic maps.
When I was young and the National Geographic magazine arrived at my house, my first action was to detach the map always tucked in the back, unfold it on the floor, smooth it out, and embark upon virtual travel tracing the borders, rivers, mountains, oceans, and deserts of places that only moments before had been unfamiliar and disconnected to my small world.
In my home office, there’s an impressive, bound copy of the Oxford New Concise World Atlas, a gift from my husband after I spilled a mug of coffee on my previous atlas, miring much of the world under a depressing, dull brown stain.
But the subsequent one proved much more interesting, with in-depth attention to world statistics, physical dimensions of countries and continents, charts showing earth in relationship to the rest of the universe, and much more.
Included also are magnificent photographs of some of Earth’s most extraordinary physical formations: the Himalayas above Nepal, the curious vertical Jurassic strata of Ludworth Cove in Southern England, San Andreas Fault, Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano, Alaska’s Juneau Glacier, icebergs floating past the Antarctic Peninsula.
At work, I keep a battered, old paperback atlas, its corners curled from frequent consultation. And there’s a map taped to the back of a closet door; it’s of a vertical slice of the world where my father never tired of tracing for me with his finger the route he flew in World War II, transporting bombs from North Africa up past the coasts of Spain and Portugal, thanking God for the rest of his life that he never had to drop one himself.