Every now and then a piece of writing strikes a deep chord of familiarity and delivers connections to the ethereal thin places we acknowledge as our own. The following excerpt by Robert Macfarlane is one of these:
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, September/October 2013
In the beginning was the map. Robert Louis Stevenson drew it in the summer of 1881 to entertain his 12-year-old stepson while on a rainy family holiday in Scotland. It depicts a rough-coasted island of woods, peaks, swamps and coves. A few place-names speak of adventure and disaster: Spyglass Hill, White Rock, The Graves. The penmanship is deft—at the island’s southern end is an intricate compass rose, and the sketch of a galleon at full sail. There are warnings to mariners: “Strong Tides”, “Foul Ground”. And in the heart of the island is a blood-red cross, by which is scrawled “Bulk of treasure here”.
Stevenson’s map was drawn to set a child dreaming, but it worked most powerfully upon its grown-up author, inspiring Stevenson to write his great pirate novel “Treasure Island” (1883). Poring over the map, he began to populate his landscape with characters (Long John Silver, Captain Flint), and to thicken it with plot. Up from that flat page sprang one of the most compellingly realised of all imaginary places. Countless children have made landfall upon its blonde beaches, moved cautiously through its grey woods and seen sunlight flash hard upon the wild stone spires of its crags. Once visited, the island inhabits you.
See the complete essay entitled, The Island that Inhabits You.