Northbound Neurosis

10 Mar

Every once in a while I’m reminded that The Well-Educated Mind sets out to give us a complete education, not simply one in classic literature.  Today’s lesson:  Geography.

When Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were read to me as I sat on the ragged carpet of my one-room schoolhouse almost three decades ago, I was apparently still a tad bit geographically challenged.  Unfortunately, at that time I already had my very keen (some might say obsessive) sense of direction.

Here’s what it amounts to:  I need to know what direction I’m facing at all times.  Not everyone has this very special gift affliction.  Those of you who understand of what I speak please raise your north hand,  And if you could not care less whether your minivan dashboard says N or SSW read on to better understand the complexities brought on by inner magnetism.

Most of the time it’s not a problem because our internal arrow points north and adjusts for turns and curves.  But sometimes angles fool us.  Sometimes the sun is behind clouds.  Sometimes you land at an airport with wonky runways.  And do you know the worst offender?  Water, which rarely runs in straight lines, can send our self-contained compass into a tail-spin.

And that is where it gets complicated.  If I don’t know what direction I’m facing, then my body sets it’s own cardinal directions.  And if they are incorrect they will remain incorrect at that particular location for the rest of my life.

And although it seems unlikely, this apparently applies to fiction as well as the real world.  As a child I imagined St. Petersburg to be on the east side of the Mississippi.  When Huck started talking about crossing over from the Missouri to the Illinois side I nearly flipped my proverbial lid.  It was all backwards.  Tom and Huck had been living their entire lives in mirror image.

Recognizing his wife’s dilemma, my beloved hauled out our old complimentary State Farm atlas, and had me stare at it for a looooong time so I could get the big picture (feel free to assume this is why I’ve been so absent from the blog lately.)  I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to bring Huck and Jim safely downstream to the south, but I’m afraid their smalltown home will always have its dock on the wrong bank of the Mississippi.

Wait a minute.  The river has a really drastic curve there.  Were they really on the south side?  Gah!!!  This is too much for me to handle.  Hold on, doesn’t that look like a big island up there where Missouri is on the right, and a little bit of Illinois is up and to the left?  Maybe they really were on the east side of the river?

Just as I thought.  I was right all along.

What’s that?  St. Petersburg, Missouri is not actually Twain’s fictional location?  That’s actually Hannibal?  And the river runs pretty much cattywampus there?

Excuse me while I strap on my Garmin and go for a little walk down our perpendicular street glancing over my right shoulder at the sunset until the geese fly directly at me and over my head.


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