I have a long history of having no idea where I am when I drive. The open road is not my medium. I am far better on the open water. GPS recently changed that but only when I can get all the data input. But recently I have discovered celestial navigation. I can now find my way home from any place in the northern hemisphere using only the stars, an almanac, and a watch. Since most of my friends and family don’t have the courage to let me drive, this will not make a big difference in their lives, but it will in mine.
This all came about because I’m working on the rewrite of my second book The Map of True Places, which will come out in the summer of 2010. The stars are turning out to be important to the story, an image system of sorts, in the same way that lace became an image system in The Lace Reader. I have to say that I didn’t plan it that way, it just sort of happened. I was lost in poetry and literary quotes. But I couldn’t make those work the way I wanted them to. They weren’t adding to the story. So I stepped back and took a look at what I had written and was surprised to find that the stars were everywhere, as was navigation, both historically and metaphorically.
So I’m studying celestial navigation. I’m learning to use a sextant and mathematical tables. By the time I’m finished, I plan to be certified. So, if one of you ever gets stuck with me on a boat in the middle of nowhere without a GPS or Loran, and it’s a clear night, you can count on me to get us home. As long as it’s in the Northern Hemisphere. And there’s an almanac on board. And one of us still wears a watch.