Nicholas Carr looks at how maps let us understand spaces previously unseen, starting with the coloring book:
A child takes a crayon from a box and scribbles a yellow circle in the corner of a sheet of paper: this is the sun. She takes another crayon and draws a green squiggle through the center of the page: this is the horizon. Cutting through the horizon she draws two brown lines that come together in a jagged peak: this is a mountain. Next to the mountain, she draws a lopsided black rectangle topped by a red triangle: this is her house. The child gets older, goes to school, and in her classroom she traces on a page, from memory, an outline of the shape of her country. …. Our intellectual maturation as individuals can be traced through the way we draw pictures, or maps, of our surroundings. We begin with primitive, literal renderings of the features of the land we see around us, and we advance to ever more accurate, and more abstract, representations of geographic and topographic space.
In other words:
We progress … from drawing what we see to drawing what we know.
As a child, quieted with admonishments in the way-back, I despised summer road trips. Out of my control they were, as I stared out the striped back window of the red Volvo station wagon, or worse, squeezed between two others, my brother and sister, my eyes glazed over in the smaller car, the blue Fiat, which, unrelated to its color, consistently smelled faintly of a wooly True Blue cigarette.
But before other children were born, when I was an only child, I had the backseat to myself. Road trips found me there, using the entire wooly backseat as my drafting table for giant coloring books and blank paper and hours ahead with crayons. At that time, the contours of my knowing were what I saw out the car window as we rolled down the summer highway. Spaces for coloring all my own.