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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Geography and Me

Like lots of "Michigander" kids born and raised in a giant mitten, I became a visual learner at a young age.

When I first became familiar with the globe, I was amazed that it was mostly blue and the land forms took on shapes like clouds in the summer sky. (Click on "land forms" for a map if you doubt me.) Australia was the alert head of a Terrier keeping a watchful eye on Madagascar, which was right beside a gigantic flashlight, the continent of Africa. Long before I learned of South Africa, I knew it as “where the batteries went in,” and regardless of whatever we all should know of Somalia, to me it will forever be a thumb switch—right there next to the big Eskimo boot (AKA the Arabian Peninsula) kicking Iran to the east (not to be confused with Italy, which I suppose everyone remembers as a wrinkly lady’s boot kicking Sicily between Morocco and Spain—Goooooooooooooal!)

Much further west, I imagined South America to be a melting ice cream cone with a scoop of Venezuela-Columbia-Peru on top like a chunk of Neapolitan about to drop off and fall down to Antarctica. (Ecuador had been the cherry on top before the scoop slid off center.) Chile (though it was phonetically ironic) was a thick melting drip running down the west side of Argentina, the cone.

I’d had an ice-cream cone like this once and knew that a skillful lick of the drip from the bottom up toward the falling scoop would put it right back onto Brazil where it belonged.

I’m not sure how many other kids learned geography this way, but I suspect the numbers were higher in places like Michigan where people often describe where they live or where they’re going by pointing to parts of their hand. For instance, I was born in Port Huron, the east bend of the thumb, but now I live by Muskegon, the west side of the little finger’s first knuckle. Such talk is common in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. I’m not sure if “Yupers” do it. ( For you non-Michiganders…Yupers are folks in the U.P., Upper Peninsula.)

I’ll bet this visual geography is more common than we know. Maybe kids in Chile say things like, “I was born up north at the soggy brim of the cone, but now I live way down in the drip.”

Okay. Maybe not, but it works in Michigan.


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