Mapping the High Road to Taos

High Road to Taos, by Christopher DougheryHand drawn maps are in my personal top ten list of travel artifacts. Maybe my top five.

I was recently introduced to The Hand Drawn Map Association — a cartographic marginalia paradise — by friend and former colleague Chris Casquilho.

The Hand Drawn Map Association (HDMA) is an ongoing archive of user submitted maps and other interesting diagrams created by hand.

Casquilho also put me on to an interesting sounding book, Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas, by Denis Wood.

Denis Wood has created an atlas unlike any other. Surveying Boylan Heights, his small neighborhood in North Carolina, he subverts the traditional notions of mapmaking to discover new ways of seeing both this place in particular and the nature of place itself. Each map attunes the eye to the invisible, the overlooked, and the seemingly insignificant. From radio waves permeating the air to the location of Halloween pumpkins on porches, Wood searches for the revelatory details in what has never been mapped or may not even be mappable. In his pursuit of a "poetics of cartography," the experience of place is primary, useless knowledge is exalted, and representation strives toward resonance. Our perception of maps and how to read them changes as we regard their beauty, marvel at their poetry, and begin to see the neighborhoods we live in anew. Everything Sings weaves a multi-layered story about one neighborhood as well as about the endeavor of truly knowing the places which we call home. (Siglio Press)

Thank you, Chris Casquilho. Thank you, Hand Drawn Map Association.Thank you, Denis Wood. I'm slipping and sliding down the poetics of cartography rabbit hole!

And what better example of this creative world of hand drawn maps to represent my newest crush than Christopher Doughery "High Road to Taos". I know the destinations well and the route even better. I'm forever introducing friends and strangers to this high desert wander and some of the joys along the way like Madrid (where I brought our friend in December) and Tesuque (where my bride dreams of building a home) and Chimayo (a norther NM town as complex and troubled as it is miniscule and glorious).

So thank you also, Christopher Doughery.

During a summer trip through northern New Mexico, I wanted to chart our daily progress up from Albuquerque through the High Road to Taos, west to Los Alamos and finally north and west of Taos. I wanted to increase the scale of the High Road leg so I could note features of the small villages (graffiti in Cordova, the Ortega family-weaving since 1729 in Chimayo, San Jose de Gracia Church in Trampas, and Sugar Nymph's Cafe in Picoris). These villages are amazingly beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Not having the time to measure exact distances, I used the yellow box to signal changing scales. ~ Christopher Doughery (Hand Drawn Map Association)

A hand drawn map of a favorite land complete with marginalia. Win. Win. Win.

There's one more person I'd like to thank. Ira Glass. For so many things, I'm grateful to this All American Storyteller with a weird voice and an even weirder cadence. Glass wrote the introduction to Wood's Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas. )Yes, I've looped back to Denis Wood again. You lost? Need a map?) The following is an excerpt, much abridged, of some of Glass's distilled observations. Sorry, Ira, for the butchery. Reader, consider this a mashup, a remix, a derivative that may not accurately represent what Glass actually meant to say. It represents what I "hear", and inevitably we hear what we want to hear...

When I encountered these maps of Boylan Heights years ago, what I first loved was how impractical they were... These maps are completely unnecessary. The world didn't ask for them. They aid no navigation or civic-minded purpose. They're just for pleasure. They laugh at the stupid Google map I consult five times a day on my phone. They laugh at what a square that map is. At its small-mindedness... Their mission is more novelistic... What they chart isn't Boylan Heights exactly but Wood's feelings about Boylan Heights, his curiosity about it, and his sense of wonder at all the things about the place that are overlooked and unnamed... [They] elbow their way into the world in defiance... to take a form that's not intended for feeling or mystery and make it breathe with human life. ~ Ira Glass (Introduction to Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas)

Yes, hand drawn maps are definitely in my top five list of travel artifacts. What about you?