Our VSM correspondent, Hope Tucker, sent this photo of the new love stamps in the cutest post office in America. If you aren’t within driving distance of Middlebury, Vermont you can buy them at USPS.com. Illustrated by Jose Ortega, they’re very summery and beautiful!
There’s a fascinating article on the cover of today’s New York Times about how the drug, Suboxone, is smuggled into prisons by being affixed to mail sent to inmates, often disguised in children’s drawings and postage stamps. I have been reading about “Jail Mail” and the restrictions on how prisoners communicate with the outside world. While I have the luxury to write about the joys of paper mail, the 2 million-ish men and women in America’s prisons have restricted access to digital communication. They are still using paper mail as their primary medium. This article about Suboxone fills in some of the background information to questions I had like, “Why can’t you send prisoners postage stamps?”
Envelope-less mail is handed to an inmate. Photo by Craig Dilger of the New York Times.
Last month I went to my son’s class and led a mail making activity. Each kid picked a name of one of their classmates out of an envelope and made mail for that person. Since they don’t write too much yet, I asked them to think about what their person liked and draw a picture for them. I also gave them some stickers to use. The ridiculously cute girl who picked my son’s name drew him the most amazing picture of Spiderman. When the drawings were complete, we helped them put their offerings in envelopes, apply a postage stamp and a sticker with a mailing address on it. On the back of the envelope they applied a return address sticker and wrote their name. Then they mailed their letters in a mail box near the school. The kids seemed to really love doing the project. They were in it!
And thanks to Rai Ariz, who took pictures of her daughter Viva opening her letter at home, I have proof that one kid also loved receiving her mail! Thanks Rai and Viva!
I have been having alot of chats lately with people about my paper mail mission and what seems to come up in every conversation is a divide between what we like in theory and what we actually do. People love the idea of sending and receiving mail but never get around to actually sending any. Some people have just plain given up on receiving any paper mail beyond catalogs, bills, and junk. And if they actually get it together to write mail and find a stamp, then the mail languishes in their bag for days before they remember to drop it in a mailbox. I can totally relate to all of these statements. This blog has been an excellent catalyst for me to send mail weekly. And the beautiful byproduct of sending is that I receive real paper mail! Regularly!
The communication rituals of email and Facebook have affected how I experience paper mail. Sometimes I think someone has already received my postcard, simply because I wrote it, when in fact it is still sitting on my desk. Email composition and delivery are one in the same. They both happen with a keyboard and mouse. But paper mail composition and delivery are two separate acts, both requiring equal levels of commitment to the project.
Some suggestions to encourage paper mail production:
1. Buy your stamps online at USPS.com.
2. Make a list of people who you would like to send mail. For maximum efficiency, this list could also include mailing addresses, birthdays or other significant dates.
3. Have a stash of postcards, greeting cards, stationary at the ready.
4. If you really want to send paper mail but never remember that you want to send paper mail, write/type that shit in your calendar! I just saw “Mail Rebecca’s birthday card” in my calendar. After I write this, I am going to mail Rebecca’s birthday card.
5. Have a place in your house for outgoing mail. I have a clip on my front door (that I sometimes walk right past).
6. Keep your mail in your hand until you get to the mailbox. Don’t put it in your bag.
7. Say hello to your mail carrier. The gesture will be appreciated more than any email sending telecommunication system’s capacity.
8. Viva Snail Mail!
This past weekend I hosted an art event for kids called Make Mail! Almost as soon as I set up my table at our local, annual flea market kids came up and got started with paper, art supplies, colored envelopes, blank postcards, and postage. After their mail making was complete they dropped their creations in the tiny mailbox that I made out of my new computer box. Thanks to Nico for that inspiration. I have a newfound appreciation for smartphones after watching several parents look up mailing addresses on them. I loved seeing those portable communication devices used to assist paper mail production! The whole day was super fun and I can’t wait to host another.
This Mother’s Day post goes out to 2 moms, mine and Violet the hawk.
Not only is my mom, Patricia Wild, so good to me but she is also such an excellent grandmother. Last week she sent my son a 5 part postcard story about a hawk sighting in her yard. Each installment was on a different bird postcard and arrived over the course of a week. The bird mail was fun for my son to receive- he was so happy when a new card arrived and more of the hawk story was revealed. There was even a reference to Violet and Bobby, two hawks that Grandma knows we have been watching on the NYU Hawk cam for the past month as they tend to their nest of eggs. Thanks Mom, for all you do to keep up the long distance love ties with my kids and me. Its working. We love you.
The other mom that I’d like to give a shout out to is that hawk, Violet. On Friday one of her eggs hatched and a fluffy little hawk baby could be seen in the nest! Well I saw it but by the time my son came to look, Violet had settled down again and the baby was not visible. My son literally nodded off on my lap waiting to catch a glimpse of the baby bird. In the still of my room I watched Violet sit, the only movement were her feathers in the breeze. The nest cam reveals a potent visual chronicle of the long hours, vigilance, and boredom of parenthood. Violet, mazol tov on your new baby, and please know, from one mother to another, its worth it.
P.S. I hope the humans find a way to ease your talon injury.
My family and I recently went on a fabulous vacation to Philadelphia. We had a great time and among the gems in that city is a gallery on Arch Street called Space 1026, which was having an exhibit of Charles Schulz’s love letters. Yeah, the Peanuts guy. His letters were written in the early 1970’s to a Philadelphia native named Tracy and he was so into her that he longed to bleep her nose and reminisce about a hug at a bookstore. It was such a benign collection of asexual writing and drawings that my childhood image of Peanuts and their creator has remained intact.