Towards a New Cartography 7: Islands as a Model of Mapping

There’s a little bit of modern science that speaks for randomness, and an exquisite branch of mathematics that calculates it, and yet, as red osier dogwood points out, it’s not right.

Rowan makes much the same calculation.

Sumac? Not random.

Elm? Blooming a bit early? Not random.

Actually, if it’s not random, then blooming early is not particularly random, either. OK, what about salsify…

… does that look random? Or brown-eyed Susan?

Not random, sorry. Or snowmelt on moss?

Nope. Or moss?

Hardly. Or just a simple snowdrift?

Does that look random to you? Does this?

Or this pattern of sun, wind and shadow, repeated billions of times across the North American west?

I think randomness is a signature of a particular type of intelligence, raised in a particular kind of environment; for it, the natural world is random.

It isn’t.

It isn’t at all. It’s just that mathematics is not the right tool for mapping these things. They are actually the maps. Compare the order above with a truly random act below…

Sagebrush Leaves Broken Off at -19 Celsius by a Swinging Gate

And just map your world with some living lake ice instead.


A map with no other connectivity between nodes than simultaneous appearance and mutual, independent thickening in a shared environment is still a map. You read it by putting yourself in the place of the shared environment. Or slowly developing multiple environments.

I think we call that time, which is sometimes manifest as duration. And interruption. And even rejoined duration.

Kind of a map of islands, really.

And flocking.

Transportation would look different on a world mapped like that. Society would look different. No more of this nonsense, at any rate, with its constriction into rows and the resulting mechanization of labour, or even its elimination.

Lines would cease to be dominant. Openings would take on more significance.

Intersections with no streets between them!



4 replies »

  1. Thanks for these photos and comments. When I look at the bits and pieces and wholes and conglomerates of things and relationships, I know they are saying something to me, but I am not wise enough to have more than a glimmer of their meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.