On Personal Geography

I love maps. Maps of all kinds. I love the idea that space can be imagined and represented in as many different colors and scales as there are people on this earth. I love the physical sense of being able to touch the spaces you inhabit, to trace with your finger the routes you carve in your daily life, to hold something huge so delicately in your hands. Here are a few of the ones that are especially dear to my heart.

I lived in the East Bay for seven incredibly beautiful years. I crossed this bay hundreds of times, I’m sure, slowly making my way into the outstretched fingers of the peninsulas. I miss it so much, and all the same, I believe I am making new maps now–that the lines are slowly being traced into my personal version of Southern California. I think that we carry our maps with us, in our bodies, but it is also nice to have them in a concrete form. The story of these maps begins on a late autumn night, as I sleepily dragged my heels out of the BART station to my car, holding Eric’s hand. It had been a long day of working on our wedding registry, catching up with my parents, my brother, and his fiancee (now his wife), and eating copious quantities of pupusas. The best kind of day. The best kind of tired. Suddenly, I heard Eric’s voice in my ear, “Baby, do you want a BART map?” And I was jolted awake! Apparently they were changing the 4′ x 5′ station maps, and they’d just tossed the old ones. Eric and I pulled them out of the trash. Such incredible treasures!

We kept two and gave one to my brother and his wife, who now live in Brooklyn. I can imagine that theirs means as much to them as ours do to us, Bay area exiles. In the happiest of news, my parents are coming to visit this weekend, and one of the many positive side effects of their visits is that we hang things on the walls before they get here! So, we’ve just put these maps up–one in the guest bedroom, one in the entry hall, just where I kept it in my little place in Oakland.

I realized as we were hanging these maps that they are in good company, since we have another San Francisco map up in the living room. This one was a gift from my brother. We are a map-giving family, and I like it that way. As we speak, Eric is hanging the little maps of love that I made him for Christmas. I am happy that our space is a space of maps, or, more literally, a space of spaces. You can take the girl out of Bakhtinian chronotopes, but you can’t take the Bakhtinian chronotopes out of the girl!

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