Out beyond the edge of the map

The map appears to us more real than the land.
D.H. Lawrence

We all see the world a little differently and, in ways both large and small, who we are is reflected in everything we do. Still, much of the world — and even sometimes the people in it — can seem to have been reduced to the generic, a sea of templates, a sea that manages to seem magnificently vast, and somehow achingly vacant both. But that’s only because I’m looking at the map again. Not the world map hanging on the wall, not a map of my city, not any map of a place. Here I mean the map of what you’re allowed to do, and who you’re allowed to be. We all have this map in some way or another, mine might look similar to yours or it might look completely different.

Our map reflects the culture into which we were born, the house in which we were raised, it is surrounded, hemmed in, given life and limits by history, both our own personal history, but also history stretching back to the ancients, history we never saw and barely know but which corrals us all the same. Its ridges and valleys represent the highs and lows of our lives; its contours show where we have risen and fallen, gained and lost; the map is coloured with the love we have received, as our love colours the maps of others; and above all, the map can only show us what we already know.

That’s the map I’ve been looking at again. Looked at one way, mine looks nothing like it did six years ago, before I left England. Back then my map was so small it made me want to die — that feels a world away now. But as I look at the map again now, back in England for the first time since, that old feeling that what I seek is not yet on the map, on my map, has come back to me.

I dream of a community, and I’ve left the woman I love because I feel in my heart that there are still things beyond the edge of the map that I have to find before I can be worthy of that community, of that dream.

I like what I discover in myself when I meet people who are reaching the limits of the template, out beyond the edge of the map is where people really find their voice, where the act of expression truly meets with the medium of that expression and the two grow together.

Some people step into that liminal zone of creativity with pencils and pens, others with clay, wood, oils, watercolours, pots and pans, light and time, you name it and someone’s probably out there, putting in the work with whatever arrangement of atoms makes the biggest bang for them.

For me, at this point in my life, my mediums are simply walking and talking. Walking is deeply generative for me, I can both lose and find myself in a walk. I don’t like the return journey, not yet anyway, I don’t like walking back to where I started. I’m happy for a walk to pause, but I hate for it to end. That’s why the next walk I’m planning reaches out so far. But it’s talking that really makes the difference, shows me all the things I could see no other way, those things that other people see.

It might take me years to walk from here to India, I might not even make it, but I’ll be out beyond the edges of my own map again — walking the walk, and talking the talk — and that’s where I belong.