Hello, Readers! I’m away on a combination retreat/vacation, and I’m unable to respond to comments immediately. However, for those of you involved in the Make Summer Camp thing I’m running, it didn’t make sense to let you go days without any encouragement or insight. So, this is one of several posts that I’ve pre-scheduled for your reading pleasure while I’m away. Last week I published the Pontefract map. This week, I hope, the Broken Hill hex map will publish, which lies to the north.
When I think about a map of my own mythic landscape, I tend to think forests. With rare exceptions, I’ve spent most of my life in New England, which is a temperate hardwood forest interspersed with fields and farms and towns. It’s strange—it’s a densely populated landscape here between New York City and Boston, and yet the rolling hills are usually covered with a lush green cover of trees—oaks, maples, some pines and hemlocks, and birches and beeches.
Accordingly, when I think about making maps of my mythic landscape, I have to think about how to represent this on a map. And it’s hard. Forests make themselves known mostly by edges and paths. And that’s what I’ve chosen to represent here. Yet at the same time, forests conceal a number of other features that one usually can’t see until one is almost upon them—ridges and rills, glades, swamps, marshes, streams both languid and torrential depending on season. I also remember a few efforts (not very successful) at rock-climbing at the few places in the state where one can do that; and canoeing and camping by lakes.
And too, when I think about my late childhood, backpacking in the summers and biking around suburban parks in the autumn and spring, I think about rivers and beaches, about picnicking on mountain ledges with views of the valleys below, and the color changes that mark the seasons here. And so this map was a first attempt at practicing how to represent these things in line and color.
Not all of these things made it into the map, of course. That may take some time, anyway. But here, the Broken Hill.
This six-mile sector of wilderness is part of the Great Golden Wood, a boundary region between the western marches and the old lands long overrun that used to be the county of Bad Ford (which lies further to the north and west). The forest is narrowest here, with a long salient of trees extending to the west, and here the Elven Lords of the Great Golden Wood have permitted a trade route to pass through, rather than requiring all merchants to go around.
The Old Track Road comes up from Pontefract, to the One Dolmen Clearing, and thence to the Two Dolmen Clearing. Here the track diverges; the northwestern way is not entirely sanctioned, and the Elven Lords do not promise safe travel for those who take this alleged shortcut; bandits sometimes prey on those on this route, which is poorly maintained as well. The main route bends northeast, and crosses an earthen rampart near the sources of the Argento River, a pond maybe a half-mile to the north and west, near the center of the hex. The Elven Lords insist that no campfires and no camps be made along this stretch of road, on penalty of fines, death or worse. The prohibition is lifted after the next clearing, where an ancient sculpture of a 30-foot long dragon playing with a giant pearl dominates the glade. The path continues for another mile and a half or so before emerging into a relatively clear space along the base of a cliff below a ruined tower, near the old granite quarry.
Somewhat to the east of the the source of the Argento river is an unusual hill, which can be seen on clear days from the top of Pontefract Tower approximately six miles south. Broken Hill was once a large, domed hill, but the summit appears to have collapsed in on itself—and telescopes and monoculars, although not magical viewing instruments, show the remnants of staircases and other constructed spaces within the rim of the hill. In other words, once upon a time the hill was hollow, filled with chambers and halls; and now the collapse of the roof of this structure has revealed that it is not a natural hill at all. The Elven Lords have mounted a guard in the neighborhood, and refuse all investigatory parties from approaching, although those who have come close claim that their is a strange circle of giant stones nearby, with the remnants of a stone-paved road leading toward the Hill.
I worked on this map at the local coffee house, and several people glanced over my shoulder to see what I was doing. Although I might have filled the hex with ideas (including the dragon with a pearl, inspired in part by an objet d’art in the coffee house), the presence of other people reminded me that in a map of mythic places, it’s important to leave room for other people’s stories. That’s especially true in this age of role-playing games and fan-fiction.
And so there are places shown, but not defined… because even in my own mythic interpretation of my own landscape, the world doesn’t belong to me alone.
Insight for You, the Maker
When kids run out of ideas about how to make their machines or STEM projects do what they want them to do, they usually turn to decoration. To paint, and color, and appliqué, and other means of making whatever it is they’re making, their own. Whatever your project may be, think about what it is that makes it uniquely your own. What do you intend to have resonate with others? What is part of your personal mythology or identification with the thing? How are you going to make this work for you? What about for others?