Postcard Project 2018

At the beginning of the year, I started a new postcard project. (Reprise: My first postcard project was the haiku project, which is ongoing; last year, I wrote a weekly postcard to our state Senate leader and then added on a high-ranking committee member. The year before that, I sent a weekly postcard to President Obama.)

You never know what to expect from postcard projects. Best not to have expectations, I suppose. I had no expectations from the haiku project except personal satisfaction and meeting a goal (of writing a haiku every day). I’ve gotten much satisfaction, and discipline, structure, and a vast postcard collection to boot.

The political postcard projects brought me mixed satisfaction. The weekly Obama card was going great until I got stuck on a TPP track and couldn’t get off it. I was boring even myself and so I stopped the project. I did hear back from the White House at least twice, though (in that generic we feel your pain way), when I was onto a broader range of things.

The 2017 project with the Minnesota Senate leader started out okay; I thought I was connecting (I Do try to send interesting postcards and not mean ones—funny sometimes, but more often simply local). I heard back a couple times (or maybe only once). But after a few months I wondered if they weren’t going right into the trash. So at the end of 2017, I shifted my political energies in other directions, and decided to bring the postcard project closer to home.

I asked my niece if she might be interested in receiving a weekly postcard. I received an enthusiastic yes, and my new postcard adventure began.

For those who might wonder why the niece, it’s because she of everyone in the family sends me the most mail. Never misses a birthday, sends the thank-you through the snail mail. She seemed the natural choice. We see each other several times a year, at family get-togethers, but not often, and I thought this might be a different kind of way to give her some insights into my life and share some fun postcards.

I have to say, the results have been beyond gratifying. It is unbelievably super fun!

First off, within the first few weeks, she emailed me saying how much she and her husband enjoy sitting and reading the postcards together (!!) and the husband especially wants to know where do I get all these postcards that so reflect what I’m writing in the text? Such a level of interest! Be still my heart!

And I kept writing and writing, and now my “weekly” postcard total to my niece is over 50 (for 2018). I had made it clear from the start that no response was expected. But she did respond, usually via email, and the responses started to get longer. And then we went off on a long snail mail/email exchange (I switched to cards at this point over postcards) discussing things like déjà vu, reincarnation, quantum physics, and the intersection of science and religion.

Is that cool or what?

We’ve also been encouraging each other to write, mostly in the essay/memoir arena. Turns out I suggest my niece write about having a grandfather, father, and brother who are morticians, while she suggests to me writing about growing up in a funeral home. At this confluence, she mentioned a collaboration. Not sure if she’s kidding around, but it sure would be fun to give it a try. I’ve always thought there might be an audience for a story about growing up in a funeral home (note—it was mostly fun). Another point of view from another generation—well, even I want to hear that one.

Total speculation.

What’s not speculation: This postcard project with my niece has been a smashing success, and we’re starting to get to know each other personally (outside our family function roles). I never even remotely expected such a positive outcome from a bunch of postcards. The advantage of no expectations!

Take a chance. Pick a relative you don’t know well. A friend you’ve sort of lost touch with or want to be closer to. Or a politician. Start a postcard project. Be honest. Be funny. Pour out your heart. And do it again the next week, and the next, and do it for a year. Don’t do it for what it will give to your friend or relative. Do it for yourself. Connecting and communicating—it’s kind of an art.

And you never know—you might be surprised at how much fun you have.

Reading Themes Update: July, August, September

Gate, Dolphins, Stitches, Museum, Crosstalk, Irresistible, Oubliette, Kaleidoscope. What do all these books have in common? I read them for the July reading theme of one-word titles—5 were poetry, 2 nonfiction, 1 fiction.

My favorite of the bunch was Stitches, by Anne Lamott. She always kicks me in the pants and gives me a wake-up call or two. Irresistible (The Rise of Addictive Technology), by Adam Alter was a close runner-up. A bit more focused on video games and gaming than I’m interested in, I still pulled a few things out of it and it’s well-referenced (rare).

August’s theme is music. Here are the books I’ve read or have in progress:

  • The Singer’s Gun, Emily St. John Mandel
  • Hallelujah Anyway, Anne Lamott
  • Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz, Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird
  • The Singing, C.K. Williams
  • Salute—to Singing, Aygi Gennady
  • Coming Late to Rachmaninoff, Richard Terrill
  • Lullaby for One Fist, Andrea Werblin

It’s a fun theme that got thrown off a bit by travel at the beginning of the month. Only 8 more days in August, with all these potential musical experiences awaiting me: a trumpet, chime, orchestra, cantata, sonata, ballad, Dvorak, even Grace Notes and Blues Lessons. (I also have Whistling in the Dark, but I thought that might be stretching music a bit much.)

The upcoming theme (September) is animals. This could be a wild ride. Just in poetry I have dog, horse, lion, tiger, snake, butterfly, bee, maggot, slug, box elder bug, Hoodlum Birds, kingfisher, cardinal, and Phoenix. Also fauna and animals (3).

While poetry has a fun span in the animal kingdom, there are also several fiction and nonfiction books that have jumped to the top of my August reading pile:

  • Come, Thou Tortoise, Jessica Grant (2011)*
  • Mr. Fox, Helen Oyeyemi (2012)
  • The Guest Cat, Takashi Hiraide (2015)
  • A Little Yellow Dog, Walter Mosley (not marked)
  • Scratching the Woodchuck, David Kline (2010)
  • Black Elk Speaks, John Neihardt (1989)
  • Animal, Mineral, Radical, B.K. Loren (2013)

*Note: Dates in parentheses above are the dates I purchased the book, not dates of publication. Occasionally I forget to mark a book. See comments below.

The monthly reading theme is a fun way to play with books (and if you happen to be one of those people who have many bookcases filled with books patiently waiting to be read, it’s a way to look at those forgotten books in a new way). I’d already picked the books to highlight here before I took this unintended side road of talking up the fun sides of the reading theme.

The most recent book was purchased 3 years ago. Not bad. In the old days, I mostly read what I had just bought, and if you buy more than you can read (which I did then on a regular basis, and thank god because it’s my retirement reading library), the “old” books pile up pretty quickly. I’m finally starting to make a dent in that backlog.

It has been a hot and humid summer here in Minnesota. Cool weather is on the way, and I am looking forward to it.

Happy reading!