Treasuring treasure


The Illustration Friday word this week is ‘Treasure’. It’s a good word. Both noun and verb like all the best words, it encompasses both fiction and fact as well as the material and ephemeral. It’s old fashioned. I can’t remember the last time I used the word which, again, indicates a good choice for the weekly illustration challenge.

My image relates to the treasure of the heart, as if the kiss at the end of a special correspondence is a cross that leads to buried gold of a kind. It’s not the hand-written map that counts or the material treasure, it’s the journey inwards.

I’ve taken a few cues from Robert Louis Stevenson’s wonderful map of Treasure Island where he was kind enough to warn the reader and the protagonists of strong tides and swamps as if they were going to tackle them together. The reality of fictional maps is compelling. A fictional maps says ‘exactly here is where it never happened’ – a beautiful paradox, a false memory by someone else.

The reality of treasure – of greed and of feeling a right to something that is not inherently yours – is actually much less romantic. A recent visit to the beautiful How Stean Gorge in the Yorkshire Dales and a visit to a cave rumoured to be the hoarding place of a famous highwayman Tom Taylor brought this home. Coming out of the darkness, in parts like the darkened ribs of a whale, I read that apparently Taylor had been caught and hung in that very spot where he’d hidden his stolen goods. Taylor’s story is as mythic, when you search for references to it, as Stevenson’s. Truth here is stranger than fiction or actually the same when no one is there to remember it.

Treasure, then, is a word to treasure. Loaded with ambiguity, mystery and story it offers a powerful motivation to dig deeper.

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