Monday, February 22, 2010

Passion, Perfection, Madness, Obsession: Postcards

I love this typewriter. I spent my life searching for a type of perfection, the art that comes from love of the creation. It is a relentless drive, and a madness: the kind which had William Morris create his own type-font for a single book for his press, then after a couple hundred copies, he threw the steel type-font into the Thames. And I have the book he made.

When I first saw hand written notes in late Middle English, I knew how to read them, because I had used the same type of quill. Written with pen, with quill, used blotting sheets, used drying sand, written with a half dozen ancient typewriters. The form makes a difference. Writing by hand taught me how people like Melville and Hawthorne could edit while doing handwritten work. The whole process slows you down and extends your writing. The ending of each sentence is up to the review of the work in your mind as you choose the next word while writing the current word.

So what? I bought the 11th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica and read it because a specific author wrote like a path through the dark forest by living in a hut on a California Mountain and only reading the 11th edition. I wanted to know what that felt like, what that author saw. The form itself, the love of the form, the place, the mental and physical space at creation all make a difference.

So here is the postcard project. In order to spend all the time, effort and the pain involved, I need to love you to make you a postcard. It is a postcard I hope you love because I love you, I try to know the real you so I can, so I must make what I love most of all, and then give it away. I love you and so I love your hobbies, your interests, your joys. I envy every single postcard I send out, like these. And so I use only a fraction of what postcards I get. For every postcard book I buy I will only use at most 30% of the cards, at the least, 1 or 2, buying the book for a single person. Why? Because it is the ‘right’ postcard: the one showing women rolling up their sleeves.
Because of my disease, I don’t have time, I just have ‘before’ (the stroke) and ‘now’ and ‘what I know’. Postcards are what I know. My disease, my limitations, my determination to find what pleases you influences form, just as using a quill did.

I don’t know when we gave nicknames to things, or called certain stamps names like 'The librarian', 'Velveteen', Dracula', 'The Dreamer' and decided who we were to give them to or not. This one is called ‘The Amazon’ and we give it to women who are, as a friend calls me, ‘a firecracker….so sometimes someone gets a singe.” It is from the top company, Stamp Oasis, which makes Stamps that are of such high quality they stamp perfectly for as long as I have been doing this. Stamp Oasis is one of five rubber stamp companies we use, three of those are out of business, one out of business for 16 years. But the Amazon, like ‘The Seated Kimono” is the absolute best, and I don’t want to put out anything that isn’t the best. The stamp ‘The Seated Kimono’ took me, took us a couple months to master. Cheryl got it first. We still have three stamps we haven’t mastered, but we will. Why? Because it will make a better postcard.

Did you know that the Hawaii Lei is made of a moss and flowers, a plant that never touches the ground, that is what makes the original Hawaiian Lei so soft. I learned that, I loved the image and I gave it away. If you like mushrooms, then so do I, I will search for any mushroom for you to enjoy. If you need sun, I will try to find seas of the world to bring beaches to your winter, or springs to your autumn. And if you happen to like horses, and a few do, then whenever I am given, blessed with or find postcards on wild horses, wild ponies, then I will send them out for you right away.
Sometimes I save a postcard I love for as long as I can remember until YOU requested a postcard. When you got your postcard first time, I didn’t send the postcard that happened to be sitting there or just came in, I sent the postcard closest to what I could understand you wanted, would amuse you, would make you feel special. Matching takes time, it takes talking, because we have to remember what you like and don’t, if you responded or didn’t, we look things up, and then the postcard.

At Xmas, I couldn’t find a way to make to find even BETTER postcards, but I could make special postage stamps. So that is what I did, I bought postage stamps with us on them (see me on the picture below?), four pictures so far. They cost more than regular stamps and take three weeks to come, but for some postcards, it takes three months to come, so that is nothing. It is a madness, to follow the credo ‘we do not judge, we give’ – I am part of the dream factory, trying to help people see and find a postcard that is a dream articulated, a dream encouraged before they even knew it existed. Sure, I probably fail most of the time, but I hope I am getting better at it. It can’t just be any type of stickers, or stamps, there is a getting in the mind, in trying to know how they will receive it, how they will view it.

Is it enough, the thirty to thirty five postcards I did this week, the 90+ weeks before and all the weeks in between? No. Because it isn’t perfect, and it isn’t always there in time. But the process, of confirming addresses, of finding the right postcard, of marking it for a person, of putting on the label for the post office, the return address. Then there is the putting out the stamps, and the stickers, and starting, trying to have a good balance, some times more stamps, sometimes more stickers. The inking comes next and the effort of stamping, the whole communal aspect of it, the discussion of what is the right stamp for the right spot, for the right person.

Three years ago, I started using a wheelchair. I know it won’t go on forever, but it is here now. And I know that some of my best times were falling in love with a postcard I was going to give away. Here is the Disability postcard, up top, a woman about to be hung: the caption on the other side, “What have I done to deserve this?” – a question that comes in the night, in the day, in the quiet. “What have I done to deserve this?” – to have this really horrid disease, and to be consciously aware, even if I don’t have the collective memory of all of it, to be aware each moment of the losses each day, the pain, the things needed to do to survive. But ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ – to have people sending in really, really cool postcards, and postage stamps, and stickers. I have friends, and those I love, who I met I know not when, who requested a card and stayed to become a good friend. I want to make them happy when they are sad, so I sit here in one place but I have a vision of the lives of so many, people I will never meet. How am I so lucky?

And why would I offer anything less than the best? Why would I want to do anything but make you happy? And to send an articulation of what gives you joy. And that means what makes you happy makes me happy. I wanted to know your passion. I wanted to fire your passion.
I do it for you. But I do it for me. I gave my word. I see a possible world of creation in each card, a possible world of reactions. I push beyond what my disease will allow for me to be healthy, or conscious to achieve that. My disease is destroying parts of my brain forever, parts of my body forever. And I am awake during it all, sort of like three years of being at the dentist. It allows me to focus so much I stop breathing, or breath irregularily, it helps me push until the electrical impulses to my heart start to falter. Recently, my sis picked the last postcards out of my hands as I lay on the floor, I said, in a creaky voice, ‘I finished them. I finished them.’ Then, after packing to take them to the post office, she hugged me, reaching down to me on the floor.

I had a plan, only it wasn’t a five or ten year plan it was a fifty year plan, but it turns out that plans are just that. Postcards can burn or get rained on, and people get sick. I have looked back more recently than I have in my whole life, but I have, as always continued going forward. I won’t be able to be here to make sure all of my friends have the dreams they want, the jobs, the freedom, the security they want. I won’t be here to make sure that all my new friends know that I rest on the shoulders of giants. I rest on Them. On You. That initial choice to reach out and believe is the act of courage, and from that leap, so much can grow.
I promised that as long as I lived, I would send postcards. And I do, to those who I have not heard from for years, to anyone at any time, I send the best, because….I gave my word, and so did they. We entered into a sacred compact: that in my hour of darkness they would allow me, who requires so much in order just to breathe one day to the next, to be a giver, a gifter. How could I not strive for perfection. How could I not fall in love?

As long as I live, you will continue to get postcards. I am slower now, and can do fewer and fewer but one day you will open your mailbox and another will be there. We go on.

If you would like a postcard for free, please just write an email and let me know. To anywhere in the world (we still don't have anyone to send to in Antarctica).