It is not down on any map; true places never are.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick “True Places Never Are”

“Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down on any map; true places never are.” And so begins chapter twelve of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which provides basic biographical information about the great South Sea harpooner, Queequeg. At the end of the short chapter is also the critical moment in which Ishmael and Queequeg find that they have the same design, “to go to sea again,” and agree to travel together.

In the chapter, we find that Queequeg is the son of the island chief, his uncle a priest, and, generally, “excellent blood in his veins – royal stuff.” But ever since he was a boy, he wished to see the world and “learn among the Christians” so that he could, upon his return, make his people happier and better than they were. But, of course, Queequeg quickly found that Christians could be infinitely more wicked and miserable than his own people. And he committed to dying a pagan.

In the chapter, Melville is continuing his ongoing critique of western society and also, obviously, furthering the plot of the novel. But beyond that, he also gives us that beautiful quote that we started with, the one that graces our t-shirt, “It is not down on any map; true places never are.” And in the biography of Queequeg, the meaning of the quote lurks. For it is not the specific island that Queequeg hails from that matters, but his own memories of the place and the meaning he takes from it.

So, our t-shirt celebrates those true places that we hold in our hearts, those places that defy name. Some of them are lost to time, unable to be recaptured except in memory. Others are, fortunately, locations that we can still travel to physically and find the same beauty, wonder, and satisfaction that we have before. And still others are places that are transient; they can only be recaptured given the right circumstances, perhaps with some choice friends and family or a perfect combination of time and weather. Whatever that place is, it is a part of your soul and can only be known by those who have truly experienced it. Celebrate those true places and what they mean to you with this design.