Reflections on Why Maps Matter (by David McCloskey)

Reflections on McCaslin’s Commentary on Cascadia Map: “Why Maps Matter

A lovely meditation… offering an interesting and novel personal “reading” of my new bioregional map from a transcendental perspective.

One might ask at the outset: from what perspective is this map created? And thus, how to attend closely to what the map does, in its own terms?

My intent is to show the natural integrity of the bioregion as a whole.  The goal is to help us discover where we truly are here, together, and show how this world works on many levels together.  And thus, to ground people more deeply in the wider life of the place we call home…. Perhaps we need a guide on “How to Read This Map”!

Susan’s “reading” picks up a subliminal sense of the drama inherent in the graphic image, and reveals an unusual sensitivity to some latent mystical overtones inherent in the map encounter.  Surely something unusual is going on with this map that people intuitively feel, often generating an immediate response—“It’s so beautiful”—that does not require prior belief or ideological assent.  Why else would the good folks at Esri—the leading technical GIS-mapping services company—no sentimentality there!—choose the new Cascadia map as their “Map of the Year”?

So—the interpretive question becomes: well, what  is going on with this map?  What qualities does it exude?

Now, what makes Susan’s “reading” interesting is that it proceeds from a standard Western philosophical perspective (e.g. Idealism/Spirituality, etc.) that was deliberately left behind in the map’s intentionality.  And since we learn so little about what the map specifically shows, it is all the more surprising that this “reading across the grain” offers real insight from a POV opposite to the map itself.

For instance, the commentary notes that one of the key qualities of the map is its “layeredness—geological and ecological features resonating together.”  Then a beautiful line: “For me, David’s map has become an energetic form.”  And that is possible only because I strove very hard to discern, depict, evoke the great dynamics at work in the bioregion on many levels.  It comes thru in the map insofar as its already at play in the place itself!

There are many other important insights herein as well:

Fifth paragraph: “When a person connects vitally to the land….the place opens in an ever-widening series of circles…. Someone so connected may indwell in the land and become inhabited by…. & in this infusion come to feel part of the bioregion.”

Sixth Paragraph: “Moving from a map to embeddedness in a bioregion, continent, and plantetary natural addresses….interconnectedness at successive scales….”

Seventh Paragraph: “ …. take an imaginative leap to becoming present to presence… in the terrain.” And another fine line: “A true map creates a phenomenology of perception” (and vice versa). “A rich map like David’s offers new possibilities of being-in-the-world….”

Real insight!  Which perhaps comes out of the tension between the tacit interpretive frameworks invoked in the opening and closing of this commentary—between Platonic Idealism and Heideggerean “being-in-the-world” (i.e. between Traditional essentialism and modern existential-phenomenology) which are typically incommensurable.  Only an unusually attuned poet and adept thinker

seems capable of joining the two seamlessly….

And so the invitation to poets remains: as in the map,


take on the imagination of the land!

David McCloskey


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