The Meaning of a Line

On the surface, Mason & Dixon is partially a buddy comedy and partially a dual character study. But at heart, it's the story of a line.

The basics (from wikipedia (where else?)): From 1763-1767, Mason (an astronomer) and Dixon (a surveyor) used celestial measurements to form an accurate, east-to-west, 233-mile-long line between Pennsylvania and Maryland, and a north-to-south, 83 mile-long line between Maryland and Delaware. The boundary was to settle a border dispute between the colonies and crown. It would also become a key demarcation line in struggle over slavery in the states.

 Along this line, M&D created "the Visto." An arrow-straight, astronomically precise line of cleared trees and milestones. Basically a perfect, clear line, due west, through the wilderness.

Of course, there was some complicated math to be done at the corner, leaving a technical no-man's-land called "The Wedge." All of this is real. (The wedge is now officially part of Delaware.)

Now, the true focus of the book is the physical and psychological effect of the line. Drawing a line creates a boundary were there was none. It creates two distinct groups where there was only one. It labels those above the line "Northerners" and those below "Southerners." It creates a road, easily passable, where there was no safe passage before.

It also has spookier aspects. It serves as a channel for flow: of good and evil energies, of commerce, of ideas. Upon coming to the line, all things are drawn along its length.

Also consider, it is a 233 mile long line, marked with piles of stones each mile, inscribed on the face of a spinning planet. Thus it is a giant, rotating antenna, sending or receiving - what exactly?

The precision, the flow, the labeling and defining, the connecting, the separating, the sha.

The lesson being: To draw a line is to change the world. (?)

The US-Canadian border is not just a line on a map. There is literally a 20-foot wide swath of cleared trees running for the full 5000 plus miles.


Long Haul

The book is a doorstop but I'm almost done...193 43 pages to go. I wanted to finish by the end of November. Possible, but unlikely.

List-style plot updates:

* Feng Shui on a Continental Scale
* Wolf Jesus
* Captain Zhang
* Mason and the Time Loop
* Tenebrae and Ethelmer: Kissing Cousins?
* Strange Sounds in the Forest
* Church in the Cave
* George Washington
* Ben Franklin
* The Electric Eel
* etc.