The Mapmaker

Whilst recently walking some of the coastline of Connemara I was struck by the changes that had occurred to the landscape after the big storms of late December /early January. Roads that had been there a few weeks perviously were gone, others had holes that made driving them very dodgy. Beaches had acquired different shapes. Rock and boulders that had been in one area last time I walked the beaches were now in a totally different arrangement. There was a visible sense that something had been changed by the storm. I was thinking that if someone had been sent to map out the west coastline in early December and another was sent in early January they would have two different maps to record. Some things had changed utterly.

I began to reflect on maps and mapping and remembering all the different maps I have seen of Ireland over the centuries. Some of the very old ones seem such a strange image of the island as we know it now. And even these days I keep needing to buy an up to date map yearly as we have radically changed the road system. Many times I have followed an old map and found myself driving on roads not recorded on the map in my hand! It has led to many a driving adventure 🙂

One of the most interesting terms I have come across in the Sensorimotor Developmental Training Course I am participating in this year is “The Mapmaker”.  I was quite blown away when I came across it recently as it coincided with my reflections on our changing landscape. The idea is that we make “maps” of our experiences when very young in life in order to make sense of the environment we are born into. and then we live our lives out of those maps. They are the internal landscape of our lives with the roads, mountains, valleys, rivers,seas and oceans of our experiences mapped on them. It got me curious about the maps we all live out of and wondering just how up to date they really are?

I was thinking of some of  the seemingly unsurmountable mountain ranges in my map ,that I did actually manage to climb them yet I act sometimes as if  they were still recorded as “unsurmountable”. Roads that belonged to my childhood sometimes have the look of a three laned highway  instead of a well worn track that leads to the same dead end no matter how many times I try to convince myself it will be different this time. How often I do not see that the boulders of my internal coastline have been washed away in one of the many storms and I keep  needlessly looking for  them or mourning their loss or not seeing the new possibilities their absence can afford me.

I believe Life is always offering us the opportunities whether wanted or not to continually update the maps of our lives. Death and birth are two very strong opportunities for map changes as are new job opportunities, retirement, travel, new friends, losses, ageing, accidents, illness etc.

Life offers us the opportunities to update our psychological map from being a child to being an adult. We do get moments to see the maps we have been living out of and to notice what needs updating. I believe this updating can happen with good support. If you think, the map if Ireland could only be updated with the use of new techonology -it has supported a more up to date view of the world.

Gabrielle always spoke of the 5 Rhythms in terms of maps of different landscapes with endless possibilities of investigation. I sense within each workshop , class or ongoing group I have taught that we are on an adventure of continual discovery, learning more and more about the maps of our lives and the potential to update them regularly. To enjoy seeing the landscapes we inhabit and to take the chance to travel to new more unfamiliar ones with each dance we participate in: opening to a different lakeside view, to a different angle of a mountain, to a quiet stream on a sunny day, to the wind sweeping away  the old debris stored in the corner of the back yard, to the warmth of the sun as you swim in a new ocean,endless possibilities for change.

My aspiration for my work this year and especially the Ongoing course Embodied Presence is that we will have supportive opportunities to see with true self compassion the  internal maps we have been working out of  and begin to strengthen  a more balanced updated map of our worlds.  For example, those of us that have the “not enough” map ruling our world we will find the changes in the landscape that support “being enough” map to come to the fore. I hope we can learn to look with kindness and fondness at the old map – like the way we can look at the old maps of Ireland-, appreciating that that was the best map at that time in life and it has also been changed by life and we may need to bring ourselves up to date.

I’d like to end with this lovely poem I came across in my “mapmaking search”.

The Mapmakers

This day has found something 
almost forgotten,
faded maps in my father’s attic, 
covered with years and dust.
His steady hand drew these maps, 
places he knew, places he had lived 
and those he imagined, 
but the only land he was unable to map
had its own remorseful measure.Nothing seems as compelling now 
as to trace their lines and symbols,
to circumscribe the compass rose 
with searching fingers, north to east, 
south to west and back to north once more.He had feet that adored the earth, 
self-taught hands that sifted soil and planted seeds 
that took deep root and grew straight and strong, 
but my young head was always lost in the stars,
in tortured awe of Armstrong and Aldrin, 
of Eagles landing on windless, tranquil seas 
and footprints into the unknown.
We were as alien to each other
as the planets orbiting those distant suns
that I had loved and named, one by one.
He was unable to chart my terrain 
or my choice of paths, 
though I know he must have tried.The distance between us
was often too great to hold in the hand;
maps failed us, but, oh– how they remind me 
of the same journey we took on different roads!
Ever-widening explorations of life and love
beginning from origins unknown, they oddly
discovered they same destination within the heart.
Now, I must gather up his light and shadow,
the disciplined workings of his practical mind,
his precisely drawn earth and let the stars 
grow farther, still. They are not yet mine, 
but I find myself wishing on them 
with all that I am.The sun finally falls for certain,
reminding me where I am. 
To the east, autumn flows cold 
from the cup of a crescent moon, 
and with a nostalgia of movement,
I pull on my father’s well-worn jacket 
and walk out into the newly born night. 
By nature, I look up and those far away suns 
are there, patiently waiting
to be mapped by my own hand.
I am undone without regret as love demands
of all good daughters and sons at the passing
and though my sky still keeps its place,
between the stars and earth 
and a father and child, 
there suddenly seems 
as if there is no distance 
at all.

© Melinda Kemp Lyerly.