Daniel Huffman and John Nelson have launched A Cartographer’s Story, a website that collects personal essays from mapmakers.
While our community has a rich culture of sharing project walkthroughs and clever tricks, our colleagues also need to hear about the personal and emotional relationships we have with our maps. We invest ourselves in creating works that are meant to stir the hearts and imaginations of others—and in return our works invest in us. What are your stories? How has mapping moved you or changed you? Did it encourage you through a tough time? Teach you something about yourself? Represent a significant relationship in your life?
I was three years old when this map was released. When I was at Moore Elementary (home of the fighting Armadillos!) in the late 1980s, and early 1990s, I specifically remembered this map because it was huge! The Natural Heritage Map of Texas is 4-feet by 4-feet, and it hung in the school cafeteria, to the left of the stage where so many school assemblies had occurred. The map is colorful, big and filled with animals. To be honest, at the time, the animals are what drew my attention, but the map always stuck in my mind because it was the first large wall map I had ever seen. More than anything, though, there was an ocelot in my face, and in the face of every other elementary student in the building who walked up to look at this map. At the time, I thought an ocelot was kind of like a mix between a house cat and a lion or a tiger, and a lion or tiger was really cool. I was hooked! I would always look at the ocelot, as well as the other animals, and the map, and think about what it all meant.
Oftentimes in Japan, I had no idea where I was going. The moments when I did felt like a perfect alignment of puzzle pieces that made the in-betweens worth it. I imagined myself like those ancient cartographers, trying to make sense of the jumble of crepes and onigiri, shrines and skyscrapers, neon and origami. I made my own maps, rewriting them over the ones I had hastily constructed on the flight over. I began to understand how mapping a place, even sketchily, can feel like owning a piece of it.