Monday, August 29, 2011

One Month of Letters

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive."
--Howard Thurman

Wow, it has already been a month of letters! So far, 46 letters have been sent to people in 12 states and 7 countries. Pennsylvania is the frontrunner for most letters received - Pittsburgh, to be exact. As it should be - it will always be home.

Today I received not one but TWO fantastic letters from distant locations - Colombia and England. The first one was hand-delivered to our door because we had to sign for it - it felt very official. And then it was a bonus, because the other letter was in the mailbox! I must say, it really made my Monday special. Colombia wins the prize for best stamps so far - thanks Maria Victoria!

And I also must mention the beautiful cards that my mother-in-law, Julia Robinson, makes. The card she sent me today had these beautiful layers of paper, one of which was red and gold and sparkly, and a cat with flower print on it and a pearl collar. It makes getting a letter that much more special when the person made the card! (Something to strive for someday :) Those who know me well know I do love to make cards, though the extent of my skills is limited to Mr. Sketch markers).

This does not have to do directly with writing letters, but I feel I must share it anyways: this evening I am brimming with joy, having discovered that NPR is featuring the new yet-to-be-released Blind Pilot Album for free live stream. They are my favorite band of all time (not including the Beatles) and my heart is soaring from just having listened to the album. Thus, I must share this joy with you, dear reader, as this letter project is about spreading joy and love! You can listen to it here:

Blind Pilot makes my heart soar - like the quote above, their music makes me come alive. And I urge you, tonight or whenever you read this, go do something that makes your heart soar! Whatever that is. Find it, and do it, and love it! The world will be better because of it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Saying Goodbye to the P.O. - an article from YES!

Rather than share my own entry today, I'd like to share a story from YES! Magazine on small post offices that are threatened with closure due to the struggling US Postal Service. The article, "Saying Goodbye to the P.O." which talks about the great loss it would be for one small town to close its post office. Having lived in Stanley, Idaho, pop. 99 (as of 2006 - maybe the population has increased since then!), I loved my weekly trips to the post office, where you were sure to at least see another soul, and you might get some news about anything that happened around town (closed roads and wolf sightings, for example). Please click on the above link to read the article.

I'm trying to do my part to keep the USPS in business! One stamp, one letter at a time :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Post Office Friends and Stamps

Writing letters is by no means a new hobby, as I mentioned in my first post. This is something I've been doing pretty much since I could pick up a pencil (or crayon), and something I've done extensively throughout my life. And one nice by-product of sending letters and packages is becoming friends with the people at the post office.

One of my most memorable post office friends is Reiko Funami of the Kita-Ayase post office in Japan. Reiko greeted me every time I came to the post office, which was fairly frequent as I made a habit of sending packages of random hundred-yen goodies to friends back home. She patiently made small-talk with me as I fumbled through my very limited Japanese (though I was at a very basic conversational level, I did develop pretty good post office vocabulary!). She was probably my closest Japanese friend who didn't speak English. While we never hung out outside the post office, I have her address and have written to her since I left Japan - she'll definitely be getting another letter!

The photos above are of the parting gift that Reiko gave me - a set of commemorative stamps for the 50th wedding anniversary of the Emporer and Empress, that have cranes and fans on them. It's really quite beautiful. The day I was leaving I stopped in to say goodbye, and she and another woman who worked at the post office, Ikuyo, gave me the gifts. They were incredibly sweet.

Their gift leads me to another great thing about letter writing - stamps! Stamps are cool. I have these really nice international postage stamps that have pictures of the Grand Tetons on them. I love sending those to friends overseas, as they are one of the most beautiful places in America and its nice sharing that with friends abroad. I really liked the stamp that came on my letter from Lieke in the Netherlands - it's a globe shaped like a heart. The perfect stamp for a letter sent between peace educators!

So far I haven't made any friends at the Solana Beach or Carlsbad post offices, but hopefully that will change over time. I'm pretty new to the area, after all - and I'm definitely making more trips to the post office these days.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Allison Park, PA 15101

Just writing "Allison Park, PA 15101" on an envelope has a calming effect on my heart and brings back a flood of memories, a sense of home. It will always be home, where my roots are, where my childhood was spent, where my dreams were started. My physical connections there have dwindled - my parents are no longer there, many friends have moved away, but writing it on an envelope, I remember.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Simple Abundance

I came home tonight, after teaching a gentle yoga, deep relaxation and meditation class, to a beautiful pile of mail (and only ONE letter from the bank!). It was truly an abundance! (Right photo) While the main objective of My Year of Letters is to give and share, the beautiful thing about giving in general is it really does come back to you ten-fold. Words are a precious gift, a kind gesture, and each letter feels like a treasure, a piece of someone else's heart and soul that they've carefully wrapped in nice paper and sent across far distances.

I also had a moment of "ask and you shall receive." Since embarking on this project, I've been scouring the stores nearby for nice stationary/ery - to no avail. Even though I live near a Staples and several gift stores that sell stationery-like products, none of them seem to sell stationery that is both beautiful and useful (and better yet, eco-friendly). Stationery, like fashion, should be aesthetically pleasing and functional. If you have beautiful stationary that doesn't have room to write on, it's still nice to send - but nicer if you can include your thoughts and words. Not to mention, what I have found seems to be terribly overpriced. I found myself longing for my days in Japan where 100 yen (roughly $1 USD) could get you a cute and hilarious stationery set of nonsensical English phrases ("I am Cool Bone Guy - Girls are Gutlessnesses In Such Me" comes to mind). And I've been longing for some nice stationery to compliment what I already have, as I'm burning through it fast these days.

Ask, and you shall receive. Today, I got a beautiful package from one Mrs. Sarah Cauley, who I have had the joy and pleasure of knowing most of my life. She has been following the blog and wanted to send me some stationery that spoke to my personality. And if I were paper, I would definitely be the paper she sent! One set appears to be made of recycled maps, and for anyone who knows me, not only do I travel extensively but I'm also somewhat obsessed with maps (see top photo). Our living room is also known as the "situation room", as we have essentially wallpapered one of the walls in vintage maps and maps from different places where we've been. The other set seems to be made not only of really nice recycled paper, but the envelopes are made of OLD DICTIONARY PAGES! How cool is that? It also has a very pleasing texture which is a bonus in stationery selection - extra points for having something that is pleasing to write on, that you can actually feel as you write. I must say I'm really excited to send a letter in one of those (which hopefully won't confuse the postperson too much with the definitions on the envelope). Thank you, Mrs. C! :)

Another thing I'd like to share about the art of writing letters, which perhaps I've mentioned before, is that you find out (and share) much different things than you do in email or on facebook or on a blog. People write about different things, and it's really interesting and wonderful. Letters also feel like secrets - just between the two of you, something special and sacred. And if you write me a letter or give me your address, I will write to you, and maybe you can find out for yourself :)

(Yes, I like to punctuate with smily faces, both in email and the written form ;)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Exponential Joy

This letter writing project has become a source of exponential joy! Even more so than I imagined when I conceived of the project. My joy of writing the letter seems to increase at each step of the way:

1. I write the letter, with mindfulness and intention. Sometimes I include an inspirational quote from one of my favorites like Rumi, Rilke or Einstein. I feel happy as I write the letter.

2. I put the letter in the mailbox. I always feel a little excited when I do this. I wonder if I'm the only person who puts letters in my apartment mailbox. I wonder if the mailman likes my Nancy Drew stationery, or if he notices (I bet he does).

3. Several days later, someone receives a letter, and I always get an email or message or some form of communication in which they tell me how happy the letter made them feel.

4. Knowing that they are happy, I immediately feel happier!

5. Possibly, they pick up a pen to write back, and the cycle continues for them....

....and on and on and on!

Actually, there are even stages BEFORE writing the letter. Sometimes I have to request an address - and even just the request for someone's address starts the cycle of joy!

1. I request an address, sometimes getting in touch with someone I haven't been in touch with for a while.

2. They respond enthusiastically, and express excitement about getting a letter.

3. I feel excited about sending the letter, and proceed with steps 1-5 above.

So far, the project is going beyond it's intended effects - meeting them, and exceeding them. I feel like it's only the tip of the iceberg....

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mapping My Letters

Since I'm sending letters all over the world, I thought it would be fun to map them! You can find the map here:
I used approximate locations and did not include names; rather, I listed the date the letter was sent. So far, I've sent letters to people in the US (7 states), Canada, Colombia, the Netherlands, England, and Austria.
I'm going to need to start branching out! Letters without borders....:)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This week's stationery - Karma Cards


This week's stationary - or is it stationery? My husband, who is from England, just alerted me to the fact that the thing you write letters on is spelled with an -ery and not an -ary. I'm not sure if this is one of those American things, where we just spell it differently, or if I'm actually spelling it wrong. If anyone knows, please let me know.

In any case, this week's stationary/ery is from my local yoga studio and is called Karma Cards - the card with an afterlife! It's no joke. The lovely little HELLO! cover has a perforated edge so can be reused as a postcard! Ideally the person will send it to someone else, and the joy of receiving a note in the mail keeps on giving. I have really been enjoying sending these out this week.

And about my photos - I'm sorry they aren't very good, but I'm taking them with my webcam because my camera doesn't work. Bear with me! I'm new to this :)