New England historical roads

From USGS Hawley Topo map, 1894 survey

It should have been more obvious, and sooner, that there are two ways through distance and motion, two answers to the wanderlusting want, to be delighted astonished by landscape’s culture, history or scale or novelty. But far in space is seductive, and it’s easy to understand vast in terms of the where one is not. Why not time? Why not when¬†one isn’t? (Not “wasn’t,” since the point is mixing these axes.) Close, Old New England, but far.

A tiny line on a modern map ends inexplicably and one scans along its implied continuation to find another track that seems to originate in mystery. Or there is a silence where one knows, because this land has been used for centuries, where one knows that there were farms, houses, lives, people. Superimpose older maps or maps with a different goal, recovering the layers and now seeing through a tunnel marking the increase and decrease of paths through a place, achieving by extraction from two dimensions useful shades of a third and fourth. The places to go are revealed by a kind of cartographic method of subtraction: that which is left over after erasing the contemporary representations, that’s where to ride and what to look for.

From F.W. Beers, Atlas of Franklin County, 1871