Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stevenson said that Treasure Island started as a map, that he was drawing one day, filling in names and measurements and notations on a map, taken with the spirit of the map itself, and realized on looking at it that what he had was actually a book. And then that first map was lost, and he had to make another, but by then the story was written and the map had to be made to fit it rather than the other way around. And that second one was never Treasure Island to Stevenson, not in the way the first one was, even though it's the map that has been the adventure to generations of people since.

I bought calendars this weekend, for my apartment and my office, although everyone I know looks at me like I've just told them about inventing this great thing called the wheel when I mention it. I suppose that computers and telephones are supposed to have taken over these functions for me, but I love calendars almost as completely as I love maps. Calendars are maps, really, maps of each day of each month laid out in an orderly way, hung on the wall with my handwriting marking the spot. I know that if I follow what my calendar tells me to do--Saturdays here, dinners with people there, shows and brunches and doctor appointments in other places--I will come out of the month with some idea of where I have been.

And that's part of what's so magical about maps of all sorts, honestly, that they manage to place tangible points on which we can fix our memories. Maps give us both bigger and smaller views of everything we can and can't see, and if perspective ends at the tip of each of our noses at the very least maps let us remember that there are still other views beyond that. Other oceans and towns and tiny tiny galaxies. They point us to where we want to go because maps are smarter than we are and know those things even when we don't, and they're always waiting to tell us.

Books are the same thing, of course, with tiny maps hidden in the spaces between all the letters and words. Maps to the vistas inside ourselves that we wouldn't have otherwise realized were there, maps to the tiny ladders between our brains and the brain of the author and the brains of everyone else everywhere, too.

The map that I think I'm missing is the one to where the adventure has been all along.

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