In the dead of winter, hands “frozen as popsicles,” they combed the woods of Stage Fort Park. They were on a hunt, a treasure hunt, and if they were right, the treasure — a jewel-encrusted bracelet worth $2,200 — was hidden somewhere very near.
The couple had come a long way to this ancient rock, all the way from Vermont, driven by cryptically poetic riddles and clues that led them first to Gloucester, then —led further by clues like "Ravenswood" and "Half-moon" — to the shores of historic Stage Fort Park, and to steep paths surrounding the great Tablet Rock, in search of a “many trunked maple” in the midst of a thick "oak grove."
Author Sandra Miller, who at the suggestion of her publisher created this treasure hunt to accompany the launch of her award-winning memoir “Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure” still gets excited talking about how the “finders,” Deb Fleischman and Gary Miller, narrowed down their hunt that winter day. But it wouldn't be till July 16, as COVID-19 was finally loosening its grip on traveling, that the couple returned to Stage Fort Park and at last plucked the jeweled prize from within a crevice of ancient rock.
The couple were among hundreds of clue-chasing treasure hunters who, since the book's launch on Sept. 19 had swarmed all over New England in response to Miller's blog posting challenging them to find in her memoir the mission of finding treasure in life.
Treasure hunting came naturally to Miller, who says she’s been “finding things” since she was 5 years old. But back in 2010, she made it official by embarking on a real treasure hunt, the kind that —once you start looking —you'll find by the dozen on popular websites and YouTube channels.
That’s where Miller and a friend found a posting for a hunt that sent them combing the backlots of Brooklyn, New York, for $10,000 in buried gold coins. Driven by the kind of cryptic riddles and clues she herself would later use to send her treasure hunters to Stage Fort Park, Miller and friend searched for two years. And though those gold coins would prove elusive, the hunt itself inspired her to write her memoir.
"Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure," is a personal memoir about family, life, love, aging, death. But its underlying message, says Miller, is "awakening people to the idea that treasure is all around us, if only we look"
"There's something very powerful about searching," says Miller. "It makes you very alert and aware of your environment. It makes you see things you might otherwise not."
A much published writer and resident of Arlington, Miller says that Gloucester was a natural environment for her buried treasure. "We love it," she says of herself and her husband Mark, who were married in Hammond Castle on Aug. 31, 1997, a date which —painted as 08311997 on a small stone at the foot of Tablet Rock— was the final clue that led to the jeweled bracelet.
“There’s something mythic about treasure hunting,” says Miller, whose eight poetic clue-laden riddles sound downright Arthurian. Not surprising considering the fact that when she isn't writing, she's teaching English at the University of Massachusetts.
And if the bracelet looks like something Lancelot might give Guinevere? Well. that's not surprising either. Miller, who says she also loves "the romance" of treasure hunting, designed it herself, with jewels "found along the road of life" she says.
'Trove," a winner of Nautilus Book Awards, National Indies Excellence Awards, and a finalist for the 2019 Indies Book of the Year award is available in paperback at Amazon.com. More information is available at sandraamiller.com.