Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Life in Six Drawers

by Sara Wheeler - 
The happiest moment of my life presented itself one cool February afternoon in the Transantarctic Mountains, many years ago. I was hiking up a valley. Fearful of losing my bearings, I stopped to fish a USGS map from my pack and spread it on the ice. Tracing my route by topographical landmarks (including an especially pointy mountain glaciologists had baptized the Doesn’tmatterhorn), my finger came to a straight line drawn with a ruler and marked “Limit of Compilation.” Beyond that, the sheet was blank. I had reached the end of the map. 
That moment flashed into my mind when my editor suggested a volume of Selected Writings to ‘celebrate’ (ha!) my fiftieth birthday. I could see the point. While my chief endeavor, in my work, has been books: travel books, biographies, and a lumpy mix of the two, over the decades there have been many hundreds of essays, reviews, and squibs, written along the way for love and for money. So I emptied the six cuttings drawers in my crammed office in north London -- and was amazed at the yellowing clips that tumbled out. One of them told that map story. I was happy to be reminded of it. How long ago it seemed.



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