Travel Magazine

Commentary by Marie Akerman on the Poem "Map" by Julie Cadwallader-Staub

By Carolinearnoldtravel @CarolineSArnold

We recently attended a family reunion and Art's aunt proudly shared the essay that her granddaughter, Marie Akerman, had written for the History of Cartography Project, No. 20, a commentary on "Map" by Julie Cadwallader-Staub. It is a delightful essay and brought back memories of the many maps in my life. The poem that inspired the essay was written by Julie Cadwallader-Straub, who lives in Burlington, Vermont. She included “Map” in her first published collection of poetry, Face to Face (DreamSeeker Books, 2010); it is also featured on her website, and Garrison Keillor read it on National Public Radio, in The Writer’s Almanac for 23 March 2011 (
Here is the beginning of Marie's commentary:
Like Julie Cadwallader-Staub I, too, have grown up surrounded by maps. When I was a kid my family crowded into our car each summer, my sister and I buried in the backseat with luggage and several unwieldy road maps. My dad led us on exhausting trips across the web of highways that link Chicago, my hometown, to every other place on the continent. Although my dad was the one who toiled lovingly over the itineraries, my mom was no passive bystander on the road. She was the navigator, pointing out when my dad had strayed from the bold line of red marker that highlighted our route—“Jim! That was the exit!” At the time I didn’t realize the significance of these well-worn pieces of paper, but as I have gotten older I have come to appreciate my dad’s collection of personalized road maps. They record a childhood’s worth of family trips; they are memories of summers and days that I can no longer remember on my own. ..... Read the rest of this wonderful essay written by Marie Akerman at the History of Cartography Project.
Like Marie, I have many memories of maps, and like Julie-Cadwallader-Staub, I grew up in Minneapolis. (Her poem recalls childhood trips with her family in Minnesota as she visits her aging father.)  When I was a child, my family made annual summer trips from our home in Minneapolis to visit our relatives in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and once, all the way to California. This was before the days of freeways and I remember poring over the maps as we drove, calculating the total distance by adding up the distances between towns, dividing it by our speed (which was difficult because it constantly varied) and trying to estimate our time of arrival.  After I grew up and got married, some of our trips took us to Chicago where we visited my husband's relatives, which included  Marie and her family.  On one of those trips I remember using a Triptych from AAA, a kind of map flip-book that broke down each section of the trip into a page size segment.  Today, as we travel, my husband likes to use his GPS to get us to our destination, but I still prefer a paper map. Like Julie, I like to imagine us as a tiny dot following those black lines across the paper.  At any moment in time, I want to "see" where we are on the map. 
I hope you will follow the links to read Julie Cadwallader-Staub's poem and Marie's full essay.   No. 20. “Map,” by Julie Cadwallader-Staub,Commentary by Marie Akerman was first published 2012 as a limited edition broadsheet by the History of Cartography Project, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 550 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706-1404, U.S.A. Akerman is daughter of geographer Luann Hamilton and map historian James Akerman, of Chicago. She recently graduated from Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, where she majored English.

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