"An Island is Anything Surrounded by Difference..."
Author Rebecca Solnit published “An Island Is Anything Surrounded By Difference: Thoughts on Maps and History” on the website of the The Bill Lane Center for the American West, where she was a visiting researcher in the Winter and Spring of 2013, exploring Stanford's newly acquired collection of historic maps that curiously depict California as an island off the West coast of North America.
In the article, Solnit states, “I had long thought that we asked the wrong question of these maps, which are usually discussed as though the most salient point is that they are wrong. To me, in other crucial ways they are right, in ways that raise resonant questions about what California is and what islands are. To me an island is anything surrounded by difference, which is why we also talk about heat islands or cultural islands, and California—a densely populated landscape of great biological diversity and richness surrounded by ocean, desert and mountains, beyond which lie starker realms—is all kinds of island, or archipelago.” The materials in the Glen McLaughlin Map Collection date from the 1600s to the 1860s, and are now viewable online.