So I’m a lover of snail mail. Always have been. As a child I was a reader (still am today… a voracious one) and would read everything. In fact, I still do this. If I’m sitting somewhere and there are words, I will pick up whatever they’re on and read them. We have a small library where I grew up and my mom and I would go at least once a week for me to swap out my books starting from about first grade (when you could get a library card) but as the library was small and my appetite for books huge, my mom would take me to two other nearby libraries where we could use our cards. Those trips would happen on random rainy Saturdays every few months and I would time my reading accordingly. One week in school we were reading something that included a story of pen pals and I was entranced. You could write letters to a stranger and they would write back? Say what? The next time we headed to one of the larger libraries we found a book that included different pen pal services (this was the early 80’s – no internet). You would write to the service and they would match you with someone in another country. I wrote my letter, they sent me a form to fill out and shortly thereafter I received the name and address of my pen pal. His name was Sylvain Martinage and he lived in Froissy, France. I wrote my letters in English, he wrote his in French and my older sister would translate until she went to college and I would seek out all sorts of different people. Sylvain and I wrote for years, probably through high school, but it’s been a long time since our last exchange (although every once in a while I try, albeit unsuccessfully, to find him online.
My girlfriends and I sent each other snail mail in high school and I was probably the first of my friends to have a Christmas Card mailing list (I started in college). A friend I met during a summer pre-college experience and I wrote throughout our senior year of high school, college, and into our mid twenties.
I love putting pen to paper and sending off messages – there is something nice about the slow process of getting to know you via postal mail. The way topics take on far less immediacy and you focus more on core things… like a story from your childhood or tales of a favorite vacation. Life moves almost too quickly to keep up on the day to day via snail mail so instead it’s a slow burn. About a year or so ago I was going through some stuff on a personal level between a series of wretched experiences with exchange student #3, my recognition that my job was likely going to kill me, and a severe yearning to move back to Vermont. During this time I also realized that as much as I was writing and love the process, I really missed being creative. But who the hell did creative stuff anymore? Well, crafters. People who can scrapbook, draw. Those knitting/crocheting types. I’m not one of those. Any of them. A friend of mine I met through NaNo mentioned that people did NaNo swaps – they send a package that arrives to their partner about mid-month, when the going is getting really tough and there isn’t a light at either end of the tunnel. I did one and included a letter and a letter was included in mine and suddenly I was like, “I wonder if people still penpal.” I started by finding a swapping site and noticed that yes, indeed, there was a section for letter writing along with some on envelope/mail art. And I started being creative again. I’ve gained one penpal who lives in Oregon and with whom I have a relationship that is strictly via post. I have never looked her up online, don’t know if she’s on facebook or twitter, have no clue what her phone number is or anything else. We write letters that are sent in adorned envelopes. And I love it. I picture her a certain way, was surprised to find out she’s not British by birth, and enjoy the recipes she sends and tales of her day to day as a mom to two littles. Her envelopes are beautiful and her letters are typed and of a perfect length to sit with a cup of coffee and read a time or two before thinking about what I’ll share in my next.
While I’ve written to some others, she is the one that really sticks. I’m not sure why but we seem to have a rhythm, although one that I callously disrupted with my move and inability to get my writing room unpacked. I sent her something last week and hope to hear from her and get back on track.
Letter writing is such a great medium although I understand why it doesn’t work for most. I find my emails with friends are often filled with the details of the day and seem to include some sort of drama. They, even when well written, are hasty and immediate and words aren’t weighed nearly as carefully as when I write to S. I type my letters to her… but in a meticulous way… as if crafting a piece of short fiction.
Each week when there is mail to share, I will post here with pictures of any envelopes I’ve made or received, larger mail-related projects and anything else mail-related that is on my mind. For now, a few peeks at things I’ve made and sent… these are from the beginning.
I haven’t been good about taking pics of all the ones I have been sending but now that I plan on sharing here I will certainly do more. I sent two pieces of Halloween mail art, both of which were freehand drawings on kraft paper envelopes. Don’t judge…
As far as awesome pieces of mail art I’ve received I’m posting two favorites (I will start taking and blurring photos as things come in and go out… it’s tedious to do it all right now)… one from my regular penpal and the other from the Halloween swap that had me sending these two out (I haven’t gotten my other one yet which means I might have mail art to post next week).
So, there you have it. My snail mail obsession laid out for all to see. I don’t have a huge number of hobbies but snail mail is definitely one. The other is GeoCaching but we’ll save that for another day when I have nothing else to write about. See you tomorrow!