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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fun at the 45th Parallel

The above photo depicts the roadside monument in Perry, Maine marking the 45th parallel. It’s a swell parallel, as parallels go. It marks the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole (not exactly halfway, having to do with the bulge of the earth at the equator, but “almost halfway between the equator and the North Pole” doesn’t sound as nice).

You can also find other markers to this swell parallel in Franklin, Vermont; Richford, Vermont; in Stewartstown, New Hampshire; in Clarksville, New Hampshire, and a whole lot of other places all over the big wide globe. Some of them are small signs, others, like this beauty, which actually looks like it’s showing the equator and not the 45th parallel, are imaginative monuments to something that sort of exists but which we cannot see. Man divides up the earth into quadrants, boundaries, meridians. It is our need for direction, and our need for precision, that makes us paint imaginary lines across the earth, and then celebrate them with a monument to say that they really do exist.

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