Friday, August 9, 2013

"How can you have boundaries if you fly?"

On a recent cross-country flight I was lucky enough to have a clear day and thus a beautiful view. I snapped photos with the kind of obsessive fervor that only a too-early morning and the knowledge that I should be writing can elicit. The more I looked at the landscape below me, the more I found myself grasping to identify the topographical features that would result in such strange shapes. I especially marveled at my ignorance when we flew over areas where I had lived (and hiked and driven around and explored) for many years. This made me think, in turn, about how familiar the Mercator Projection map looks to me, even though it bears little resemblance to the actual earth or landscape (see my earlier post, "Tales of Land and Sea"). It is the appearance of the land itself from above that surprises me. I was reminded of The Once and Future King, when little Arthur/Wart, transformed into a bird, is confused by the lack of boundaries on the land he sees from above (chapter 18 of The Sword in the Stone). In what way, then, do maps represent the land they depict? To what extent are they meant to? Will programs like Google Maps and Google Earth change how we imagine the world? What does a birds-eye view teach us that being on the ground cannot (and vice versa)? I don't yet have answers to these questions, but I would love to hear your thoughts as I begin to consider them.

Here are a few of the photographs I took from the air:  

Patchwork Landscape
Filled with beautiful swirls
And surprising colors
Landing, the shapes reorganize into something more familiar ...
Only to be obscured by fog



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