July 5, 2009

An Open Letter to T.S. Spivet, Cartographer

My Dear Master Spivet (May I call you T.S.?),

I simply wanted to thank you for a most memorable journey. It seems that your journey is our journey too; all of ours. On the way from "here" to "there" passing through terra incognita, can be and often is, a frightful journey.

You were a most delightful traveling companion. Your attention to detail is remarkable for one so young. It re-awakened in me a similar attentiveness. For instance, I walked past a wooden gate that was two different colors - not from paint, mind you, but from the effect of the sprinkler system hitting the lower half of the gate causing a variant pattern of weathering. Also, the upper hinge was sound while the lower hinge, subjected to the repeated dousings of the sprinkler was full of rust and in need of replacement. Scoffers are even now scoffing at such minutiae. After all, what difference does it make in the world of appointments and schedules and bills and, and , and, (and always another "and.") Not much really, save this; with eyes open again to wonder the world is no longer a passing blur of sound and light. Indeed T.S., there is meaning in it all, if only we could remember.

Some of the folks you met along the way were pretty unsavory. I didn't care for the language Ricky used. The homeless man in Chicago saddened and angered me. Jibsen was a opportunistic jerk, and the railroad bull could have been a bit more genteel with a 12 year old. But when it's all said and done I think you rightly described our lives. There are plenty of unsavory people and unsavory experiences along the way. They make reaching the destination that much sweeter don't they?

I loved your turn of phrase. So often startling in its simplicity and sometimes arresting in its incisive wisdom. Like, "Outside there was that predawn kind of clarity, whee the momentum of living has not quite captured the day." Exactly! Or, "To tell you the truth, I hardly every used pencils. Pencils are for wussies - for those who question the veracity of their stroke." Ha! I'm a pen user too! I often found myself mumbling some comment in response or chuckling at the marvelous wit or, best of all, rolling the words over and over my tongue again to get the full feel of them. I like a man who has a vocabulary and isn't afraid to use it. Although, at times, it mystified me - either from abject ignorance or my lack of experience (i.e. I've never read pg. 28 of The Godfather but you can be sure I will do so - soon!) You stretched my cerebral capacity while also stretching my heart.

I looked for Layton everywhere. Sometimes I couldn't find him. Was he missing or just well hidden or did you just forget him sometimes? It's like that isn't it? Everywhere and nowhere all at once. And then, completely unexpectedly present; painfully present in his absence. Especially when you carry around the heavy load of responsibility whether it belongs to you or not. Those we lose do weave themselves inexorably into all the maps of our lives.

And maps! I can spend hours with a map. It tells me so much and leaves so much untold. It tells me where and only rarely tells me who. But you take map making to a wh

A map of North America ca. 1566, one of the fi...Image via Wikipedia

ole new level! (Mapping the flight of a bat around your backyard - genius! I was left wondering why the bat took the path it did. I imagined a tasty bug here or an interesting echolocation there. Fascinating.) But still the maps don't tell us what we most need to know do they? That's the whole point isn't it? Finding the things not on the map. Maybe better, finding the one thing not on the map. I'm awfully glad you found that one thing, even though there's simply no way to categorize it and file it away.

T.S., I'm pretty sure I will travel again with you again soon. There was so much I missed along the way. Retracing those steps will be a pleasure with you along for the journey. Thanks again for a memorable journey.

Your traveling companion last week,


(This was my "brain candy" read for the family vacation. Was I in for a wonderful surprise! Larsen has written a wonderful work that spoke deeply and clearly to me. Not only is the book visually engaging with T.S.'s maps and charts but it is emotionally charged as well, not to mention the intelligent and well informed writing (you will learn a bit about everything from geography to hobo symbols.) Take some time and take the trip with T.S. It's a memorable journey. You can also visit the entertaining website that compliments the book at www.tsspivet.com.)

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sojourner said...

Your "review" of this book makes it a tempting read. But alas, when I read on my academic breaks I stay away from cognitive stretching and "brain candy" because my brain gets overwhelmed with research and psychological jargon. During school breaks I usually read easy stuff that I can lay down and come back to months later. I hope your vacation was refreshing!

Lucy Arin said...

And maps! I can spend hours with a map.

And this is yet another reason why you and I manage to communicate despite our vast philosophical differences....my office walls sport a map of New York City, one of Scandinavia, and a huge map of Ohio! Home has many more. I love maps.

Who knew? "Geek" is spoken by both the left and the right. ;-)