For a grown man, Dad has an overzealous excitement when it comes to buried treasure. When I was 12 years old we were headed to Pennsylvania for summer vacation. The week before we left Dad showed us with utmost mystery in his tone, a film he had mail ordered. The movie was about a horse named, Treasure, a girl and a golden relic that had been buried somewhere in the continental United States, within the heart of the gold horse was a key. The clues to finding the horse were secretly imbedded in the film. Dad inched closer to us, lowered his voice and pointed a finger …“if you watch closely, listen now, if you watch closely you might just find the clue that everyone else has missed and that clue might be the very clue you need to find the golden horse.” We hung on Dad’s every word, gripping the couch cushions with wide eyes and clenched teeth.
I was a lost kid at that time, discontented with life, I didn’t have a lot of friends and my parents were divorced. My glasses were too big, my bangs were too short and my limbs to lanky. Dad probably could have told me there was a Hershey bar hidden in a trash can and I would have been just as eager to find it. My life needed some meaning beyond myself, and at that moment ‘Treasure’ became the meaning. It didn’t matter that the film was five years old and the treasure had already been dug up. all that mattered at that moment was what it gave me…hope.
We never found that treasure but looking back I can only imagine it helped confirm something inside me.
That golden horse wasn’t the only time we were in search of treasure. There was the time we headed out to Herkimer New York to mine diamonds. We stayed in the campground right across the street in order to maximize our return, I suppose. I remember crossing a little stony brook and looking up to see a mountain of unearthed dreams…hidden by rock, dust and mystery. I could totally work my way through the dirt, I was young and ambitious. I can recall picking away at craggy rocks on the side of canyon walls with intense commitment. The world melted away behind me, all that could be heard for miles were echoes of pick axes tinging against the rock. Even those sounds eventually gave way to my search. The tips of my fingers can still feel the sharp cluster of crystals embedded into the mountain. My heart can still feel the leap just before pulling a gem from a rock, a hidden beauty from the mountainside, brushing the mud from a treasure.
There was also the metal detector, dad would take it out at every beach trip, as the sun began to go down of course, his logic was, and I can hear him say it slowly, squinting his eyes a little placing and his hands on the sides of his hips, “you see what happens is when people leave the beach in the afternoon and they shake out their blankets and towels and clothes, sometimes, just sometimes they forget they took their ring off and set it down on the towel while they applied oil, and they aren’t thinking about that ring or quarter they put down earlier” dad would sweep back and forth with the odd looking apparatus, over the cooling sand, back and forth slowly, back and forth walking with careful steps, pausing periodically to listen. He carried a determined look on his face, his eyebrows knit in silent reflection. When we heard the sound of the beep…beep….beep, beep beep beep, BEEEEEEEEEPP we would all stop. All our eyes would rush to the sound, we would drop to the ground and get ready to dig with visions of jewelry and money dancing in our heads…a ring, a necklace, even a dime was worth the wait. My brother would use the heavy scooper and start scooping and sifting, scooping and sifting, occasionally pushed to the side so Dad could hit it with the detector. The beep would get louder and more solid. He would continue, his knees buried in sand, both hands gripping the metal basket used to dig and sift. Dad would say, “Ok just a minute now, just a minute. Let’s see what we got.” Sometimes we found something sometimes it was nothing, a bottle cap, a can tab or some tinfoil rolled into a ball. Occasionally we would find a quarter or a dime. My dad saved every single valuable thing he ever found with that detector and he keeps it in a jar in his bedroom, sometimes he’ll take it down to show my kids. It’s funny as a child I imagined that jar much bigger, but each time I see it , it’s smaller and smaller with treasures that are less and less of interest and value to me. Mom says, the ‘jar is getting smaller because he’s pawning the treasures.’ I think they are worth more to him in that jar. Each one a memory.
We didn’t need the metal detector to dig clams. But Dad had all the gear.
1 cage bucket with holes for collecting clams, check.
One rusty clamming fork, check.
One hat bearing a clamming license attached to visor, check.
One shovel for digging check. Not sure why there was only one of everything, since there were five of us! I can still smell the sulfur in that thick black sand. I can see those tiny holes dotting the shoreline. The ocean quiet and resting beside us, gently licking our bare toes. The sun setting, the colors fading, the air cooling. We would walk up and down the shore with our eyes glued to the ground. Dad always said, “look down when you’re walking or you might miss a coin someone dropped”, I still do and found a penny just yesterday. We would place our bare feet on either side of the holes and press. If a thin stream of water squirted up that looked like pee you found a clam! It was just as exciting to find a clam as if we found a ring or a dime, it rendered our hunt productive!
The other day as I was sitting on the rocky coastline of Maine watching my children puts around looking for mussels and oysters and other sea life. I felt happy. It was a beautiful day, a breathtaking spot, it was quiet and private and raw. We had sort of stumbled upon this place. I kept saying to my husband ‘what a treasure we have found here’. We had found Wolfs Neck state park in Freeport Maine. A short walk through the woods brings you to a rocky shore where the most beautiful view of the ocean was nestled behind the trees. it was veiled like a secret garden waiting to be discovered by someone who wasn’t busy living.
As I sat there I thought back over the past year that had been laden with difficulties and heavy with stresses beyond my control. The strain and the desperation led to wanting to move ,find a new life, a a different routine. I wanted to escape from the stale existence I felt I was waist deep in. I wanted to find something fresh and start over. I searched daily for a new house, a new plot a new story. I was obsessed with a change and discontent with the same. I wanted to be free; I needed a breakthrough, something to give me a little hope…I needed a treasure. And here I was now so happy and content and thinking; ‘ this is what I needed and I didn’t know it. All year I have been searching and coming up empty handed. I’ve been looking for a reward, and finally here it is. Something hidden from my life but now exposed.’ I thought back to my childhood days searching for buried gold with Dad, rings and money, clams and diamonds and I realized this is who I am. An overzealous treasure hunter with a taste for puzzles, mysteries, ancient ideas, secret codes, hidden valuables, and beauty. It gives meaning to life which can sometimes feel dull. I enjoy the search, the mystery of maybe, just maybe if I turn this key, if I take this path, if I dig in this place, just maybe there is something that no one else has discovered before.
I do it all the time I just never made a connection. I dig into my bible finding all sorts of exciting truths and ideas. I observe people. I try to read their secret intentions and find clues from their past about how and why they are the way they are. I’m always looking for a better way, a solution an answer an easier route. I search desperately for effective ways to work and solve problems. I dream about treasures, houses with secret rooms and hidden stairwells. I search for beauty while I am painting. uncovering a picture hidden within the dust of my existence.
When we left the state park it was 8:00 the sun had set, but the residue of light hung in the open sky. I had to leave this treasure behind. I couldn’t put it in my pocket like I so often do with rocks and shells. I couldn’t even capture it with my camera. I couldn’t buy it, or sell it, but I know where to find it. Whenever I need a reminder that contentment is a treasure worth far more than Herkimer diamonds or golden horses.