“Rather than ‘totalizing’ and ‘unifying,’ such histories seek narratives ‘in which many voices speak, many, often contradictory, histories are told, and many ideologies cross, coexist, and collide.’ The deep map, then presents the multiple histories of a place, the intercalated stories of natural and human history as traced through eons and generations.” Susan Naramore Maher, Deep Mapping History: Wallace Stegner’s Wolf Willow and William Least Heat-Moon’s Prairyerth: A Deep Map)
Humans have a natural inclination to organize, categorize, and classify. I certainly do. I like when things can be explained logically and fit together neatly. Map making does this. A map tries to condense a lot of information about a place in one document with logical rules to help us decipher it. William Least Heat-Moon attempted a different approach to understanding and documenting Chase County, Kansas, deep mapping. As Maher says, he let go of trying to “totalize,” “unify,” or find a cohesive overarching thesis or thread to his findings. He still needed a way to organize his research, so he decided to overlay a grid over Chase County and go through it square by square. He need some organization to break in and begin his exploration. The grid method was imperfect, and he ran into problems with it, but it was a foothold on which to grab on and begin. It reminds me of CLUI’s project to find the various centers of the US. Some of the parameters may be arbitrary, but by starting with a straightforward question and exploration, many more complex, messy, and overlapping narratives arise.