18 January 2007
about a year ago, I participated in my first postcard swap. initially, I was all giggly and excited about it. but then I did that thing where I wait until the very last minute to get started. when that happens, the thing that I have put off doing becomes more like work and less like fun.
all my supplies were neatly laid out on the dining room table, right next to the list of names I'd be sending postcards to. I walked past those supplies several times a day-- folded clothes around them, spilled milk from my cereal on them, fought tooth and nail to keep them safe from grubby little hands. still, they went untouched. and worse, they began to mock me.
when I could stand it no longer, I made my first postcard. while the kids were asleep, I spread everything out on the living room floor and got to work. my name was at stake, people. and I really dug christina (the woman who organized the swap and invited me to take part) and couldn't have her thinking less of me. wouldn't you know? once I got going, I couldn't stop. a kind of euphoria set in-- like when you get lost in a project and you lose all sense of time and place. you don't want to stop to eat or sleep, you don't care about the monumental mess you're making. in fact, the bigger the mess, the better. my kindergarten self came bubbling to the surface and I found out she's pretty tired of being all pushed down and smothered by the grown-up self.
then it came time to mail them off. I'll tell you-- I had a difficult time letting them go. my hand would not release that thick stack of postcards, I was physically unable to drop them into the mailbox. all those little miniature pieces of art that I'd spent so much time on, all of them helplessly out there in the hands of any given postal worker? I hadn't thought about that part. they might be subject to rain. or greasy hands. or worse. they might very well be put in a situation where unnecessary manhandling would be involved. why didn't I put them in envelopes? although, wouldn't that have defeated the whole purpose of sending out postcards? oh, the vulnerability! too much. finally, the guy in the car behind me honked extra loud and rude-like and I came to my senses, reluctantly tossed them into the slot and drove away.
as I turned onto dekalb avenue, I thought about all the different places they would be going-- texas, vermont, california, oregon, arkansas, washington, tennessee, maryland, canada, japan. so terribly exciting to be sending them out into the world like that. I remembered the time in fourth grade when we each attached our names and our school address to balloons. on a sunny afternoon (and in dramatic ceremonial fashion), we let them go. so many red balloons floating away, bright like tulips against the turquoise of the sky, strings trailing and spiraling. I remember the humble little white squares of paper that held our neatly printed names, I remember the way they flapped in the wind. I will never forget the sight of it. the idea behind the project was that maybe somebody somewhere would find your balloon and write to you. I never received a letter but that didn't really matter. the real joy was in the moment I decided to open my hand and let the balloon go. the real fun was in the possibility it represented and what it felt like to intentionally put something good out into the world. where would it go? how far would it travel? who would find it? what would they think? I remember watching my red balloon grow smaller and smaller, I watched until it completely disappeared from sight and I wondered about it and I felt good.
so I've decided I have mad love for postcard swaps. even though I've only done one. I've just signed up for another and am planning on organizing one of my own. if you care to join in, leave something in the comments or email me. details will be decided in the coming weeks. or we could all get together and release red balloons into the sky. I'm open, you know.
(more thursday love aka TILT here)