Did you go to a Women’s March yesterday? They were happening on all 7 continents. I was in North America- New York City to be specific- with family and friends and the route was so packed with people that we had to go rogue and march on side streets. Which were also full of people. Friends were marching in Washington D.C., Chicago, Oakland, Boston, Park City, Portland, Austin, Copenhagen, and Paris. So wonderful.
The positive and unifying energy of these marches is just the beginning of the resistance to an administration that is tone deaf and in many ways hostile to women’s fundamental human rights. And immigrants’ rights. And civil rights. And LGBT rights. And our climate crisis. And so many other issues. So the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington have proposed 10 actions for the first 100 days.
And guys. The first action involves paper mail! Its a make mail about the issues you care about and send it to your senators action!
Make postcards. Get stamps. Host a mail making party. Let’s do this.
Viva Snail Mail!
My sister sent me these photos with this caption:
In 1913 it was legal to mail children. With stamps attached to their clothing, children rode trains to their destinations, accompanied by letter carriers. One newspaper reported it cost fifty-three cents for parents to mail their daughter to her grandparents for a family visit. As news stories and photos popped up around the country, it didn’t take long to get a law on the books making it illegal to send children through the mail.
That may be true but according to Snopes.com these photos are staged. However there is a great children’s book called Mailing May that is apparently based on a true story. Set in 1914, A little girl travels by postal train to visit her grandmother. Much cheaper than buying a regular train ticket!
I just received a package from my sister Hope with the Inverted Jenny stamps as postage.
Her enclosed note reads:
As soon as I saw these re-issued Inverted Jenny stamps at the post office, I knew I had to use them to send you some inverted mail. But how do you invert the mail? Answer: mail the negatives from pictures of people hanging upside down.
I love when there is a relationship between paper mail’s postage and content. And Hope’s concept made me laugh! Inverted on many levels, she even wrote my name upside down on the package! And her card featured a reverse panda, with white rings around its eyes!
I challenge you to buy some Inverted Jenny stamps, and send some inverted mail of your own invention.
Remember the Public Enemy song, “Fight the Power” from way back in 1989, with the line, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps”?
Several of the heroes who appear in sign form in the 1989 music video for that song have since been honored on postage stamps such as Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X. The USPS’s Black Heritage Series has been going strong since 1978, with this year’s contribution honoring Shirley Chisholm.
Two of my heroines are Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee, who both died recently. Since the USPS only features Americans on its stamps who have deceased, its time to nominate Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee for stampdom.
Ultra Violet already has a petition going for Maya Mail. Anyone up for starting one for Ruby?
Last week the artist Travor Paglen sent out a “cosmic message in a bottle” with his fascinating project, The Last Pictures. An archival disc of 100 photographs representing modern human history was attached to the side of the EchoStar XVI Satellite that was launched in to space. This satellite, like all the rest of the satellites we have sent into space, will orbit around the earth indefinitely.
Talk about Snail Mail! Paglen’s message may not be received for billions of years, when and if our space garbage is discovered by… someone.
In the meantime there is an accompanying book for those who want to experience Paglen’s project in the here and now of our warming planet. I can’t help but see this project through the post Sandy lens of the very real effects of climate change. It has begun and I am freaked out!
A new book by Beatles biographer Hunter Davies called “The John Lennon Letters” is filled with the postcards, letters, and notes of an apparently prolific and sometimes cranky correspondent. NPR ran a story this weekend with Davies about the book. Worth a listen and maybe a read?
Here is the book’s foreword:
“Under a cherry tree, there’s no stranger.” a Haiku by Issa and its warmth reminds me of John. John Lennon never minced words in his letters. It quite often came with little wiggly drawings, and you knew he was sending his heart to a friend. In an age when most of us are getting more and more into arm’s length communications, it’s a nice idea to send a piece of his thoughts expressed in his own handwriting to you and the universe.
Hunter, you did good.
Might I suggest Peekskill, New York?
If you’ve got kids, or just like trains and sweets, I recommend Treat Station. Its got a huge model train table, ice cream, pinball, old fashioned candy, and on the back wall, some vintage Peekskill postcards.
VSM and Church of Craft co-hosted a Valentine Making Workshop for adults on Saturday at Lotta Jansdotter’s Work+Space and it was fantastic! Making stuff in the company of excellent people is what I love to do.
And while I have been extremely valentine focused for the past few weeks, February is not just the month of paper love tokens criss-crossing the nation by mail.
Its also Black History Month. I wish we Americans of all ethnic backgrounds were more aware of the lives of African Americans every day of the year. But until that awareness manifests itself, this month is a reminder of the vast range of African American citizens’ experiences. And the experiences recounted by Jourdon Anderson is his 1865 letter to his former slave master took my breath away. What a letter! Please read the whole thing as it takes some fascinating turns from start to finish. It is posted by Letters of Note, which is a site worth bookmarking.
Anderson’s letter is further proof of the importance of letters as historical source material. First person accounts add so much detail and heart.
And we’re back to hearts.
This day symbolically bridges the old and the new, however arbitrary that may be. Spring buds and back to school are much more useful indicators of the new for me. In any case FOUR friends alerted me to Roger Angell’s “Life and Letters” piece in this week’s New Yorker that nostalgically looks back at the importance of paper mail. A lovely companion piece is Pico Iyer’s “The Joy of Quiet” in today’s New York Times, about the future and how we just might adjust our screen time to better serve our selves.
So in with the old, out with the new? Not quite. I stand by my belief that we can make room in our electronic lives for paper mail. We can aspire for balance between the best of then and now. And whatever will be next.
Viva Snail Mail!
Yesterday our mailbox was blessed with 3 pieces of 11-11-11 mail. A good old fashioned letter from my dad, a postcard from me to my son, and a card from my extremely talented friend, Emily Hass. So awesome, despite the postmarks beyond our control.
And my friend Hope Tucker emailed me a photo of the 11-11-11 postcard she received from me! When I make mail for people I imagine them discovering it amidst the junk mail and catalogs in their mailbox. But a photo gives me a glimpse at that arrival.
Viva Snail Mail!