Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A CARTOGRAPHER'S SPRAWL

The world as it is often seems too large to know. The endless depths of each ocean; a languid sprawl of rainforests; those arrogant mountain peaks, straining to scrape the sky’s blue-streaked wide bottom – each of these spans is a trap, a dead end’s final wall. Even the length of my room hides untold floorboard wood puzzles. If I can’t even guess how one brick of this house somehow mingles with mortar, what hope can I have to decipher the globe as it is?

Nevertheless, I scheme. I invent alternatives. I concoct scenarios, imaginary escapades whose fruition is doubtful, and so I blame the world as it is for their unlikely rate of success. Put it this way: I envision a day, not long from right now, when I will begin my strange quest to make all Earth my own. If life as it’s lived consists only of footsteps, left turns and backroads, quick strides and slow shuffles, then, given time and its minions, I might trod upon all the streets and byways that lead from this room to out there.

It’s simple, as most complex plans truly are. I leave my front door, knapsack on back, water bottle in hand. One foot lifts itself up, and the other soon follows suit. Repeat. Again. Repeat. Again. You’re with me, I know. It’s nothing alien to our human instincts. All travel consists of one motion, xeroxed. That being true, what remains consists solely of intent and time, in equal good measure. We have a limited number of hours to use; the routes that we choose thus must follow such limits. If we lived all of this life on red Mars or Uranus, or on one of those planets where each day wastes hour upon hour before night finds its groove, our travels would surely consist of less forms of small grief. Here, with the ground that we have, and the daylight that we lack, we must select where we go, to limit our fallout.

Even so, my mad endeavor’s true roots have a core of discernment. How can one decide that this place over here is truly worthy of us? There’s a vanity at play in each interlude of pure wander. We expect the location to give us ourselves in some way, a reflection of hope, some excitement or thrill. Something, at least. It does not exist for itself, but as our natural mirror or twin. “It was a fabulous place!” means it got our rocks off. The earth, by itself, exists for that sly tingle – signaling: some sex might be near. We visit those waterfalls or small towns so that our palate or crotch might find a form of sweet touch.

Yet: What if we sought not fulfillment but presence? Nothing exotic; nothing startling. Just, the planet. Every road and dirt path somehow leads to each other, and I believe, without proof, that one could tread upon all of these paths that exist, if patience became our pure goal. All the paths, ultimately. It would take most of my life, but if I started quite soon, I might just pull it off. Rip the rails right from the ground and have the tracks be my feet.

You see: I want to see every street that exists in each country, the works. I would not linger; I might not even pause for one second’s small span. Only glimpse as I cruised. Time only wields certain weapons, and one must not waste their blunt force. Would I use Google Maps? Not at all. Turn it off. Shut her down. I’d instead ask the locals to tell me where each unpaved road ends and transforms into blacktop. Take a snapshot of each sign, the street names my new buds. Start here in east Asia, and walk my way counter- clockwise.

In fifty years time, I’ll slowly step into the court that holds my true childhood home, not seen since nineteen, and now my last resting place. In my backpack, a hundred notebooks or more will be filled with street names, the world cataloged and contained. Everything will have been seen by myself, underscored and processed. In a way, at that end, the world will at last have become all my own. Of course, I won’t recollect the underfoot of every swamp or quicksand that I dodged in my travels, but when I knock on my old door, I hope to hear that the footsteps approaching from inside have a familiar soft echo.

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