Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Topography Of Time

Source: The Agile Rabbit Book of Historical and Curious Maps 
by Pepin van Roojen © 2005

Maps are frequently used as metaphor.  They are useful tools for finding our way, in the literal and symbolic senses.  Maps tell as much about the perspective of the mapmaker as the land charted, by the information revealed.  As Peter Turchi says in his book, Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, “To ask for a map is to say, ‘Tell me a story.’ “
I’ve been thinking about layers of time.  The recorded history of Beaver Creek is a mere blink of the eye in the greater scheme of things.  Most written source documents occurred within the last 150 years.  Yet the evidence of those and earlier stories can still be found in languages that use other kinds of marks than the alphabet I am used to, leave other kinds of traces, if I only could translate them.  The stories I know about a place affect how I look at the landscape.  
I found that when the moment was right, by concentrating on some external object, an arrowhead...for example,...I was able to perceive something more than a simple mental picture of what some past event was like.  I not only could see the event or the place in my mind’s eye, but would also hear it, smell the woodfires; and sometimes, for just a flash...I would actually be there, or so it seemed. 
             -----John Hanson Mitchell, Ceremonial Time: Fifteen Thousand Years on One Square Mile (1984)
In a sense all time is happening all the time.  Bits of these strata bleed through to other eras.  They are evident in the geologic events that formed the shape of the land (the carving effects of glaciers, shell fossils of former sea beds, obsidian of past volcanic eruptions, for example).  Here on the Central Oregon Coast, buried and preserved tree trunks have been discovered that are revealed and covered by ever moving beach sand.  They point to where the forest edge once was.  Plant and soil analysis tells how long the land has been wet.
In more recent history, there are still remnants of pioneer-era fence posts at the edges of the marsh, where the waters were drained out enough to allow pasture land for farm animals.  A line of small conifer trees and shrubs across one edge of the marsh delineates the site of a railroad trestle used in logging.  Charred snags from historic wildfires transformed into nurse trees sprouting new seedlings.  Traces of past reconstituted into the forms we see today.  
“Maps are a way of organizing wonder.”  
     -----Peter Steinhart, “Names on a Map” (1986)
Posted by jackie.

1 comment:

Lisa Christin Gravråk said...

Hi Jackie, Lisa here, Ellen's daughter from Norway. I would just like to say that I think it's very nice to actually read and learn about your life in America. And I just have to tell you that I read your blog to mom everytime there is something new that pops up. Because Mom is'nt that good in english, and she makes me read and translate everything you guys have written. I'm soon to be 18 years old, and the future is coming at me in full speed. All my plans is laid out, and I've desided to go to America some time before it's too late. The fact that I've got family in america is so interesting, because my favourite subject at school is actually english. And I get dissapointed if I don't get better grades than expected. So I really hope I can learn alot out of your blog, and that we can stay in touch. Love Lisa.