Map of Canada – 1963
When the Canadian Oxford Desk Atlas of the World dated 1963 was published, I was six years old. The first map in the book shows the land mass of Canada and the scale is one inch to 300 miles. In this atlas the islands and inlets spattering the west coast of my childhood are, like my memories, unnamed. I know now those islands grew from cataclysms and it makes sense that the route through them – the way home – is dangerous.
The old map illustrates the islands as flecks of green outlined in turquoise blue surrounded by light blue channels. The green ink spreads beyond the blue borders, the printing press as imprecise as my memories. My eye skips along the green specks as though I’m a flat stone side-angle thrown into the salt chuck and I hop island to island to reach the small black dot up north that signifies my hometown.
But it’s not that easy. There are tides to navigate. Some Islands disappear at high tide. At low tide deceptive sand bars emerge and hook the islands to the mainland and give a false sense of permanence. Tide tables fluctuate with the moods of the weather and wind and the ocean floor and the coastline. Safety cannot be guaranteed.
When I was a kid, it seemed exciting that the islands appeared unnamed, as though they’d wait for me to name them, like memories; that when I was ready to examine them they’d appear on the map ready to be read. It turns out the memories have shrunk and some have disappeared with the tides or lost in decades of coastal deluges.
I stare at the map and try to name the flecks that appear and disappear but the scale is too small and I can’t find my way. But I’m going to try.