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I’ve always loved maps. It started with a globe at the dining room table. My father had done a lot of traveling out west (from East Aurora, N.Y.) during the 1930s. Grandpa was a photographer and loved to take pictures of historical plaques – not the place itself, mind you, but the plaque commemorating the place. Grandma was a high school science teacher and took my dad through the hills and valleys of the west learning the names and faces of the geographic elements they passed through, while collecting rock and mineral samples on the way.
All of that translated to my dad an excitement for knowing the countries of the world and where they were in relation to each other. By the time I was 10, I knew all of the countries in the Western Hemisphere and their capitals (no test, please). To help me learn, Dad would spin the globe, stop the whirling with his finger and ask me the name of the country – I wasn’t very good with the African names – and now they’ve all changed. I can remember wondering what the world would look like without country lines – just the world, as it is. And then, there was the space program with satellites and rockets and pictures from space and finally the big blue marble with no country lines — just blues, greens, whites and browns flowing together in a collage of continents, oceans, lakes and rivers. Awesome!
Which brings me back to maps – in this case, Google maps. I don’t have GPS in my car or internet capability on my cell phone to tell me how to get where, but I can go to www.Google.com, click on “maps” and literally have the whole world at my fingertips. When I’m feeling nostalgic, I put Ray Brook, N.Y., into the search box, zoom in a bit and “roam” the trails on my former husband’s timbered land. Or, I can follow the path I’d take by canoe from Kiwassa Lake to Pine Pond. Right there under my cursor is the sand beach I’ve sunned on. And when homesickness for what-was and never-can-be-again overwhelms me, I enter the address of the house I grew up in, pull the little orange man down onto the virtual street and gaze at the gray and white Victorian house that was home from 1952 until my Mother’s death in 1994.
The three-story house doesn’t seem as tall as when I lived there and the side yard looks much narrower. But the spruce tree I spent hours crafting an imaginary life in is still there. I always wondered, in case of an emergency, if it would be possible to jump out my bedroom window, grab a long needly branch and float down to the yard! So many memories of bicycles and roller skates, snow forts and deep red autumn leaves. I can almost see the dog in the backyard.
And it all started with a globe!
Heidi Hunt is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. She has been on the editorial staff since 2001 when Ogden Publications acquired the magazine. Heidi especially enjoys interacting with readers and answering the myriad of questions they throw her way. You can also follow Heidi on Google+.
Photo by Fotolia