Hi. I’m Ken Jones and this is a Classic State of Mind, with A Word About Maps …

As I looked into my bathroom mirror this morning, (and combed what few hairs I have left on my head) … a curious thought came to me:

I’m not sure when I discovered it, really. How difficult it is to re-fold a map, I mean. I’ve probably got fifty different maps in my car, or stuck away in junk drawers I never open;

And none of those maps are folded like they were when I first got them.

A map of Washington state. (We went there on vacation, once, when our kids were little. And the kids picked blackberries alongside the road that we enjoyed for breakfast one morning. And we — all five of us — slept in my father-in-law’s van every night, and the kids got scrubbed in rest stop before they went to bed in that van.)

A map of San Francisco’s streets, none of which seem to run parallel to any of the others; (And, have you noticed? On maps, the hills don’t show up? Lombard looks crooked as a dog’s hind leg, but you would never know how steep it is, just by looking at that map.

I’ve got maps of Manhattan, and St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. I’ve got maps of entire states, (some of which I’ve never even been to; just thought I might like to visit.) Maps of buildings and museums, too. And all kinds of interesting sites. Monticello, and Lincoln’s Salem, Illinoia; The Smithsonian (they need more than one map for that.)

And I’ve got maps of the Hawaiian Islands, too. All of them. The Big Island. And all the smaller islands. I’ve only been to Hawaii a couple of times, but I’m set with maps if I ever go back.

But none of my maps are folded like they were when I first got them. Maps are good for showing you where to go, what’s to see, even what’s the best way to get there. But they never include directions on how to re-trace the steps of unfolding, so all the panels and creases are in their original position.

Maybe that’s why I thought about maps as I combed my hair.

Looking into that mirror this morning, I noticed all the wrinkles and creases that have crept into my otherwise impeccable visage. Lines of travel and travail that have unfolded over the years; Countless journeys that have left a roadmap of where I’ve been all my life. Hills I’ve climbed, and valleys I’ve traversed. You might not be able to tell how steep those mountains were,Nor, perhaps, how deep were those valleys, just by looking at the lines in my face, and the wrinkles that compose the roadmap of where I’ve been all my life.

No question: I’m in a different place, now, in my life, than I once was.

A different place now, in fact, than I have ever been.

And no matter how hard I work at it, … I won’t ever get to ‘re-fold’ how life has unfolded for me; I’ll never get ‘back’ to where I once was, never look like I once did.

There’s an old Sunday school song we used to sing when I was a little kid: The first line said, ‘My Lord knows the way through the wilderness. All I’ve got to do is follow.”

The sooner I settle that reality, the sooner I can appreciate life as it is now. Life as it unfolds before me is unknown territory, and I don’t have any roadmap for the future. I would be wise to hum along on that little song every day: My Lord knows the way through the wilderness.

All I’ve got to do is … follow.

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One thought on “Maps

  1. I’m guessing your wife could fold the map perfectly to it’s original position, but would never interfere. It made me smile to think of how some simple tasks become so monumental even when then have no real importance. I had forgotten it was Monday again. I have listened to “why” and have spent some time thinking about single worlds that can take on such powerful meanings. I’ve been working on a project aimed in part at the treatment of lyrics in music, and how music carries carries a language that helps preserve ethnic cultures. In that work I stumbled over the treatment of the word “forever.” It made me think of your simple and brilliant format. Thanks for making my Mondays at the very least, recognizable. I truly appreciate each of them.

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