I enjoy sending mail. I know this may be a bit out-dated in our digital age where it is easy to send an email or text, but in my opinion it isn’t the same. There is something lovely about the materiality of choosing (or making) a card, putting pen to paper, and taking the time to post the letter or card. I enjoy each step and I think I come by this naturally since my grandmother also enjoyed sending cards.
When my sister started having children I wanted to include them in my life and share my interests. I have been sending my nieces and nephew postcards since they were babies. I began with the idea I would send them images from museums or galleries I visited, to share in my love of art. But as the kids get older I have expanded what I send to them. Unfortunately, my sister didn’t keep the postcards from the beginning but a few years ago I got each of the kids a binder that they could put the postcards (see below, thanks Steve for the snaps). Whenever I go up to visit we like to pull the binder out and read the different cards and I get a chance to hear the answers to the questions I posed them on the back (I like to ask them about what is on the front of the postcard). The postcards have become a part of our shared history and I cherish our interactions with them.
Besides my postcards to my nieces and nephew, my main push for sending snail-mail is at Christmas. In good years (when I have the time), I enjoy making my own cards, but other years I have to buy my cards. Last year, I painted a wee postcard as way of a thank-you to the Gowing’s (see below) to go with another painting I made for them years ago (I slipped this into the outgoing Christmas card).
One other form of snail-mail, that I cannot skip is the old-fashioned thank-you note or card. I lived in South Korea for two years and while I was there I taught English. In May, there is a holiday where students bring gifts to their teachers. For each of the gifts I received, I sent thank-you cards back to the parents in both English and Hangul (my teaching partner translated my English into Hangul for those parents who couldn’t read English). This small gesture was kindly received and the following year I swear my gifts were more generous (I tend to think this was due to the cards and not my teaching). Growing up we were never required to send thank-you notes and I can’t remember why I thought this was something that I should do but it felt good. In my experience it is hard to say thank you in a meaningful way and for me sending a card is a tangible way to do so.
I keep a stash of thank-you cards on hand and collect birthday cards when I come across really striking ones (I have a soft spot for letterpress). My stash also includes tons of postcards as those are easy to collect. As well, I keep stamps on hand so I can easily pop off a letter any time of the day. My address book is also an important aspect in this whole process. I use a Moleskin address book, which I organize alphabetically by first name since people get married more often than they tend to change their first names. I write the name in pen and the address in pencil to make it easier to change addresses. Easy peasy – although at Christmas time I tend to send out a slew of emails to my more nomadic friends to check to see if I have their most recent address because nothing is worse than a returned piece of mail.
Sending snail-mail is another aspect of my attempt to slow down and engage with those I love. Nothing beats getting a letter in the mail.