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Mental Mapping


An Excursus

[look it up; I had to]

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” — Herman Melville

Dr Bob believed the creation of Agincourt was good therapy. He said I “lit up” each time I relate some new facet of the concoction—or do I mean concatenation? In hindsight, perhaps this was not the best use of my limited time with him. But he also warned me to call as soon as I began packing and and made arrangements with United Van Lines for the move.

There are occasions when my digressions into one tangled thread or another of Agincourt history, or of its current events, induces a look of concern on my friend’s faces. Do they wonder, I wonder, if I’ve finally started to lose it; whether Hercule Poirot’s “little grey cells” have begun their inevitable transubstantiation to cottage cheese. For the time being, I seem to have reasonable command of my faculties, so put your mind at rest. [I will admit, however, that “executive function” continues to be my weak suit.]

The digression du jour is a component of the project that I’ve put off too long: crafting a map of Fennimore County. Iowa already has ninety-nine, so one more shouldn’t upset anyone; they’ll scarcely notice if I’m careful about it.

There are a surprising number of articles but especially books about imaginary places; it gives aid and comfort to someone preoccupied with doing precisely that. But I don’t need any such reassurance; the creative process itself provides all the confirmation I require.


Whether accident or design, Iowa eventually accumulated ninety-nine counties. And with them, there came to be ninety-nine county seats, each in nineteenth century terminology known as a “county capitol”: the nation has a capitol, as does the state, and so in nested, nineteenth century logic does the next level of governance, the county. Ah, but because Agincourt required a status which might provide assured economic prosperity, it had to become a county seat. Hence, the creation of Fennimore county, Iowa’s 100th.

Shoehorning a new county—each averaging about thirty-two miles square—into an existing matrix has been no easy exercise in cartographic distortion. My first thought to dissect a highway map was folly, either to fit Fennimore entirely or to repurpose portions of four adjacent counties. A wholesale violation of space-time was required, and so it has evolved into something approaching origami and likely to be my entry in the Rourke Art Museum’s 60th “Midwestern Invitational”.

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”James Joyce, Ulysses

[Technically this is post #1237.]

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