Monday, December 27, 2010

With a Heavy Heart

  It is strange how things happen sometimes... My husband is visiting friends in Tulum Yucatan, my son and I are visiting friends in Florida. This is unusual, I hardly ever travel without my husband, I usually stay home and hold down the fort while my husband and son do things. This time though, I felt the need to recharge and refresh. It has been a long year....So when the invitation to come to Florida for a visit arrived, I decided to break the mold, get a house sitter/pet sitter and go for it!
  Well, Murphy's Law once again found me. As we were preparing to leave the house for our trip, I got a call from my Dad's wife. They have been in Canada visiting her kids and while they were out with friends my dad had a heart attack. There wasn't much information to work on, it was too early to tell what the prognosis would be. Since Daddy was in Canada and I couldn't be with him anyway, I decided to go ahead and travel to Florida to be with friends. The idea of sitting in the house waiting to hear something, without the loving arms of my husband to comfort us, was just too grim. At least if we were with friends, my son and I would have others that care about us with us while we waited. Unfortunately, soon after we arrived at the home of our friends, tragedy struck for them as well. Now we are taking turns propping each other up, speaking words of encouragement and trying to get through.
  The days passed, I called Canada daily, the news was not good. Daddy was in a coma, his brain filled with fluid, his body was shutting down, but we were still hoping for a miracle. In my heart I knew that he was not strong enough to fight his way back... the toll that Agent Orange had taken on his body would make it difficult for him to recover. He spent much of his life as a soldier, a decorated hero, a man who put his life at risk to save others, but age and infirmity are our worst enemies. While it is possible to win a battle, eventually we all lose the war. He died last night.
  Now with a heavy heart, I realize that I am the last of the family I grew up in. There is no one but me who remembers my childhood. I am the only one left to remember the lives of my dear family members, grandparents, brother, mother and now my dad. While all this is true, and I feel small and alone, I know that I am not alone. My heavenly Father has never left me alone, He has blessed me with His palpable presence everyday of my life. He has also blessed me with a loving husband, two great kids and friends that will help me find peace in the days to come.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Really Good News!

Dear Friends,
  Letter writing and mail art are in many ways about sharing little bits of our lives with each other, it is also about community. Well, I am shouting out in joy to my correspondence community to share with you some really good news.
  I have mentioned on this blog that my husband has some life threatening health issues. He is a strong healthy man full of life and irrepressable optomism. He is the healthiest person I know, but he is walking around with a ticking timebomb in his head.We had to return from Costa Rica to have a second round of treatment earlier this year. Once they were inside his head they discovered that although the rogue blood vessels (dural fistula) at the back of his brain were in check, a much more threatening situation in his frontal lobe had developed. We  decided to try a one time radiation treatment to wither the blood supply to the growths in the front of his brain. This was accomplished 3 months ago. Yesterday he had a follow up CT scan and this morning we found out  from the doctors office that it looks like the blood vessels that supply blood to the fistula in the frontal lobe have begun to shrink!!! The doctor is very happy with the progress and it looks like there may be a prevention for a potentially fatal rupture in the front part of his brain.  He still has many other fistula in his brain but the rest of them are in a less critical areas, and easier to reach for treatment. This is the best news we have had in a long time.
  I am very grateful to God for His infinite mercy, for His love and patience with us as we struggled with fear and emotional paralysis. I know that God hears and answers prayer,  I also know that sometimes the answer is no... but then...sometimes it is a resounding yes! I am so happy that Da has been given a new chance at life! One thing I have learned through all of this is that today IS the day you have... hold it precious, savor the time you have with those you love. Squeeze all the good out of every day, so that when you fall into bed exhausted, having truly lived the day, all you have left in you is gratefulness to the One who made it all possible! Shabbat is fast approaching and there is still much to do, so for now with all my heart I say thanks for your prayers, and caring emotional support. Shalom!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Blessing of Mailart Friends

 My mailbox has been sadly collecting dust of late... Life hasn't allowed for much time at my art table and the addage, "you have to send mail to get mail", is very true. At the moment all my mail art supplies are  packed up in totes, sitting out in the barn in preparation for carpet to be laid on Tuesday. So I haven't had access to my paper, rubber cuts or ink pads. I have a couple of letters written that need to be mailed, but they will have to wait until I can get my stuff moved back into the house.
 I do have a few really nice pieces of mailart to share with you from several weeks ago. My mail art friend Ahmet Demir sent me a set of his wonderful envies, I got a really nice surprise from Gregoris Kotsaris in Greece and an add and pass returned home from Samuel Montalvetti in Argentina. I am posting two of the three and will post a scan of the add and pass once I have mailed it to Hester, who blessed me with the floral card that was the base of the add and pass. I want her to see it first. 
This wonderful set of four envies is from Ahmet Demir in Turkey.

The bicycle print is from Gregoris Kotsaris in Greece, a letter and goodies from Hester in Boston, an envie and artistamps from Julian in Chicago,and the envie that Ahmet's set of four came in.

  We have now been back in the States six months. During that six months a lot of things have happened, good and bad; one of the good things that has come about is that I have reconnected with my letter writing and mail art friends. Sending and receiving mail has been a life saver for me throughout my life. It takes the edge off of lonliness and reaffirms my faith in the human race. I am so grateful for the friends I have made through the mail, as a whole they have been interesting, generous people with a large view of the world and an open heart. I am glad to say that I can now add blog writers and readers to that list. It is a pleasure to write and know that somewhere out there, people are reading( listening to) what I have to say and particpating in community with me. It is a joy! So for now, I will with a grateful heart, say thanks and blessings to you all.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Newest Artistamp

Well, I am happy to say that I am finally finished with my newest First Day of Issue! They are addressed, stamped and in the mail! If you are on my mailart mailing list you should be getting it in the mail in a couple of days. If you would like me to mail you a First Day of Issue cover of my newest artistamp, please leave a comment or e-mail me at

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Day Out For My Birthday

  My birthday is in early November. Since my husband is very busy with election business this time of year, my birthday celebration is usually postponed until after "canvas", (when the results are officially reported to the State Board of Election). But this year he made a special effort to block out my official birthday and spend the day with me! That was a wonderful gift all by itself, but he had also made plans to take me out for a day of wandering around small towns with my camera, taking photographs.
  I love small towns. I am drawn to things that show the signs of age, not run down and shabby, but just greying around the edges (kind of like me...).   Coca Cola advertisements painted on the sides brick buildings, the paint peeling and faded from age and elements, intricate terra cotta mouldings from days gone by, narrow little alleys with a wrought iron gates at either end, are like candy to my minds eye. Over the years I have gathered up the essence of many a small town main street and kept them safe from further deterioration, photographically that is... I have a collection of Coca Cola wall paintings, (as well as other wall painted advetisements), from wherever we have traveled, all over the world, as well as from many places in the USA.
  On this particular foray we went to Belmont N.C., a lovely little town that gets it's claim to fame from Belmont Abbey, a private college with a campus that is renouned for its beautiful architecture.
On this trip I decided not to go to the campus, but to the mainstreet area of the old downtown. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, with just a bit if nip in the occasional breeze, the skies vivid blue with not a cloud to be seen. This sky would prove to be a perfect backdrop for some of my photographic finds. Since November shadows stretch out long and heavy fairly early in the afternoon, I was worried that I would have difficulty with deep shadows and too much contrast, but as it turned out we were there at the perfect time. Instead of struggling with deep shadows, I had the pleasure of playing with richly saturated color and chiseled edges. What fun! 

  Once home, I had to leave my photos in the camera, waiting until I had a some time to download and file them. Since the guys left yesterday afternoon for a few days of hunting, I was left to myself last night. So, I got the photos downloaded into my computer, filed and I even worked up a couple of post cards to send to family and one for my snail mail friends.

My favorite photo subjects
I know what he's thinking...
I just gotta have one of these...


Just for fun... I would love to add to my collection of photos of soda advertisements painted on building etc, if you have one in your local area, why don't you take a photo of it and send it to me, labeled with your name and the date of the photograph. In return, I will send you one from my collection and post the photos I receive to this blog with a credit. My Snail Mail addy is:
                                                                        Elle Mental
                                                                         POB 535
                                                                       Waxhaw, NC

Until next time I hope to see you in the mail!

A Busy Little Homestead

  The days are shorter, the fall leaf turn in progress and the nip in the air reminds me that I am no longer on my beloved mountain in Costa Rica. Mid October through early November are chaotic at our house. My husband works in the election industry as a consultant (non-political) and we cease seeing him around the house about mid October. His job demands leave little time for him to play his role at home so my son and I take up the slack.

  On our little homestead fall is a busy time, harvesting the last of the garden's produce, preparing the beds for fall planting, smoking peppers and cheese, dehydrating and canning, the kitchen is busy and soon the larders will be full to the brim with goodies to eat all winter. Unfortunately, between my husband being MIA for weeks and the garden/kitchen chores, I have not had time for my personal pursuits. I have a stack of letters waiting to be responded to and an artistamp First Day of Issue to finish, they call to me...
  The guys are out hunting this week so I am here to hold down the fort alone. The garden is mostly planted, the kitchen chores are still in que, but I am at a point where I can take a day or so and turn my attention to "my stuff". Hopefully, I will be mailing out some delinquent letters and finishing up my artistamp project today and tomorrow. One point of work stoppage still seems to be that I can't find a card stock that I like for my FDOI mail out. I guess if I am ever going to get it out I am just going to have to settle on what I can find locally and then work on a better paper source for the future. I am very excited about my little artistamp, I can't wait to see it in final form, stuck to it's First Day of Issue cards and in the mail box to all my snail mail friends. So hopefully very soon, I will see you in the mail!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Poet and the Dream Girl

This summer, on one of our date days, my husband took me to the the Carl Sandburg farm in the mountains of North Carolina. The Sandburg estate sits right outside Flat Rock North Carlina, a quaint little spot on the "fall colors" circuit.I have driven passed the brown sign indicating the farm was just ahead many times, but never got a chance to check it out. After hearing my lament of having missed seeing it yet again,  Da made secret plans to steal me away for a day and go explore the farm.
   The farm is lovely, not pretentious as some "historical" sites tend to be. It has been kept pretty much the way Carl and Lilian left it, a working farm and home to a very busy and interesting family. The tour guide for the inside of the house led us through the rooms, showing us the various artifacts and relating stories of their lives. It was interesting, but I was more desirous of seeing the barns and prized dairy goats than where the Sandburgs ate breakfast. Then the tour guide related a story about how the Sandburgs met and that their love story began with the writing of letters. All thoughts of Toggenburgs and Nubians, fell to the wayside...After asking a few questions we found out that there was a book of their love letters and with a flick of the finger, my beloved had found a copy on and purchased it, all from his Blackberry, (sometimes technology isn't such a bad thing...!). Upon its arrival at my door step a few days later, I became enchanted by the story of two poets and idealists who fell in love through the mail.
  Lilian wrote far more prolifically, and many of the letters that Carl wrote in response were not included(available?), but when looked at as a whole, the picture of their love story is clearly illustrated. This quote from one of Carl's letters Lilian and one Lilian's letters to Carl,  (after a brief two day visit while in attendance at a Socialistic Convention just weeks before their wedding), show why it was worth wading through the idealism to get to the real story. From Carl to Lilian, May 4 1908, " You say I have but little idea of your limitations. Yes- isn't what I have for you to fill in your limitations, so far as I can, just as you fill in my limitations, in a thousand thousand ways? You! you wonder-woman! Isn't it because you know where the orator and poet fall short- where the boy fails and gropes for your hand- isn't it because my limitations criss-cross all over yours that all of me cries out for all of you? Oh Paula, (he calls her several names depending on mood and subject) Paula, we are living a Lie--a Lie away from each other--we are made to be near each other--to grope together in the dark--to stand together in the sun- suncrowned, we two, I cry out and cry out for YOU--you are the blundering wonderful girl who knows me, to you my heart goes, blind to what's been and what will be, sayin YOU ARE..."    And  from Lilian to Carl 20 May, 1908: "...The world looks good to us! Such a glad mad sweet world! and whatever crag-born agony may come to us, the world will still look good. We will see the meaning and understand the more for it. You--Heart--so near--You--my boy--my boy--we two boy and girl--one heart--one life. These two mad feverish days together--such days  to look back to and live again! But what will the real life together be--when day lengthen into weeks and weeks into months, and months into years--always together! together! No feverish haste then--but time for the whole garment of love to be snug! Time and time enough in eons together. My LOVE--my Boy--I kiss you--and love you and always it is more, more kisses and never enough! My Boy --Sweet! *both quotes from the book:  The Poet and the Dream Girl: The Love Letters of Lilian Steichen and Carl Sandburg.
  Although the gushing sentiment of these letters isn't common place or "comfortable", in today's more emotionally reserved manner, much can be culled from the idea of building a relationship not founded on physical proximity (or for that matter physical intimacy), but to be founded on intimacy of the mind. To write from the heart, exposing inner-most thoughts to the permanence of ink and paper, to have to wait for the post to deliver the satisfaction of a response, and the exposure of another's heart in return, would do much to cultivate and deepen a relationship. 
  Until next time, I will see you in the mail!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

  Today, I miss my mom, I miss her every day but some days her absence is palpable. She and I were more like best friends than mother and daughter. We would walk down the street sharing secrets and jokes, giggling, and bumping into each other. She was a working mom and a note writer. If she left the house without seeing me, there was a note waiting for me for me when I got up. I usually found an I love you note written on some random slip of paper stuffed in my lunch bag and reminders or to-do lists pinned to my coat or purse. When post-it notes came on the scene, there were colorful sticky notes everywhere. A reminder on the bathroom door about who had bathroom cleanup duty this week, a yellow note stuck to the fridge with a list of leftovers that needed to be eaten, a note stuck to the hampster cage that just said "stinky", point taken....
  Mom also sent cards. She had a stack of cards for every occasion, stamps and her overstuffed address book with her where ever she was. She didn't write letters, she was too busy for that, but she sent off cards to people on a daily basis. It would be just a few words to let you know that she was thinking about you, maybe a comic strip or photo to make you laugh, and  of course, her signature smiley face.
  Birthday cards with money in them came to me every year, even when I was an adult with children of my own. It wasn't a lot of money, usually $5 with a sticky note that said "spoil yourself". It was such a treat that I always tucked it away and kept it seperate from the other cash in my wallet, waiting for just the right thing to spend it on.... A hot and frothy Cappucchino and a few quiet minutes in some lovely little coffe shop, or some pretty stickers that I wouldn't normally spend money on.Whatever it was, I would think about my mom while I enjoyed her gift.
  I was out of the country when she died. It was sudden and I didn't get to say good-bye.  I came home a day or two after she died,  when I got to her house I found a stack of cards next to her chair. She had been writing "thinking of you" cards, and a birthday card  to a four year old friend,  in the card was a $5 bill with a sticky note. I mailed the greeting cards and the birthday card with a notes of my own tucked inside...
  I wonder how many people she touched over the years with her notes and cards, how many peaceful, pleasant moments her little cash gifts supplied? She was a woman who knew how to quietly make the world a better place. I think this year I will carry on where she left off, sending cards out to say "hi" or "I was just thinking about you...", with the hopes of continuing her efforts, and I won't forget the Post-Its!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An Afternoon on the Porch

 We went from mid Summer to late Fall in a week. I am sitting outside in one of the wicker chairs on the porch writing this because it is too cold for me to sit in the house. My feet were like blocks of ice and it hurt my hands to type since my fingers felt brittle from the cold. It really isn't all that cold, but I still am trying to adjust to the diverse temperature swings in the Piedmont of North Carolina. In the mountains of Costa Rica where we have been living until our return to the States early this summer, the temperature stays pretty much the same year round. It runs between 75 and 85 year round, but rarely reaches the mid 80's. I am going to freeze this winter...sigh!
 So here I sit with my long sleeves and sweater, soaking in the late afternoon sunbeams. The sound of water trickling over the rocks in the frog pond is pleasant background music for writing. I just put the finishing touches on a couple of mailart mail outs and when I return to the house I will scan them so I have a record of what I've sent. With these couple of letters finished, I am officially caught up on my correspondence, which is nice.
 I have completed the drawings from my newest artistamp, and after a few final touches it will be ready to print. But I am having a problem finding a paper stock that I like for the First Day of Issue post card. With the economy going south, most of the good paper stores have disappeared, so I am having to rely on Staples in Charlotte. Unfortunately, they have  very limited choices in card stock. I think that I will probably have to distress watercolor paper to come up with the effect that I want. I was hoping that I would have the post cards ready to mail by now, but it may take a little while to get the card stock issues worked out. Maybe I'll have it done by the end of this week. I hope so anyway.
 For the moment, I will give you another little glimpse of the artwork for the stamp and wish you all well until next we meet!
Can anyone guess what it is?

Sunday, October 3, 2010


  There is a nip in the air, the jalepeno peppers are hanging red on the branches of my pepper plants and it is time to start smoking the peppers for Chipotle en Adobo. This is a traditional Fall endeavour, which requires much of my attention. But the largest consumer of time in the Fall is the celebration of the biblical Fall feasts, Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Feast of Atonement) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). It has been is an exciting and busy time of year with much to do in preparation for the feasts. We have just rolled in today from a week (eight days actually), of camping with our fellowship in the mountains of North Carolina for the celebration of the Feast of Sukkot. I have unpacked and put most of our belonging back in the house but I still have a mountain of laundry to do. I will soon have the laundry out of the way so it won't be long before I will be able to sit down a do a real  blog entry.
  I have received some really fun mail art to share with you in my next entry and for this time, I am going to post a sneak preview of a new artistamp in the final stages of developement. If anyone is interested in receiving my newest artistamp please leave a comment for me with you addy or e-mail me your addy at For now I must go, but I hope soon that I will see you in the mail!

 little sneak preview from my drawing board of my newest artistamp

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thank You

  The month of August was a very good month for my mail box. I received several very nice lengthy letters, a bunch of postcrossing postcards, some surprise mailart and letters from people who read this know who you are...thanks and big hugs for the lovely letters! August was a very bad month for me to answer all of those wonderful letters. I watched the pile of letters accumulate, joyful for the gifts of correspondence, but sad that I was unable to put pen to paper.
  Finally, on Shabbat this week, I was able to grab my stack of letters to be answered, and make my way through most of the pile. I designed an envelope to send them in and have them all addressed and stamped. I feel much better now...
   The whole month of August was spent coming to grips with bad medical news for my husband and then follow up appointments and medical "procedures" to try and treat the problem. For My husband, an avid hiker and outdoorsman, having to spend most of his time under fluorescent lights, inside windowless treatment rooms was alot like caging a wild animal. Fortunately and unfortunately, what can be done for him has been done...we can now try to return to our lives, try to ignore all that we have learned and act like everything is going to be OK...pray that everything is going to be OK...
   In times of stress or heartache I have always turned to prayer and then to letterwriting and mailart to help me keep my balance. But this month, I was struck silent. I couldn't find any words to say that didn't sound hollow. I found myself sitting and staring, I didn't see anyone or talk to anyone outside of my family. I just drew up inside myself somewhere and held my emotional breath, hoping that I would soon wake up and find I'd had a bad dream.
  During that time letters came to my mailbox. Fun and colorful envelopes filled with salve for my stinging heart. Little gifts and drawings from my favorite 6 years old pen pal, a rubber cut of a steampunk bird from a friend and fellow stamp carver, stories of daily life, letters full of humor, hope and joy. The stack grew and grew, and I felt fortunate to have people in my life who will take the time out of their day to write me. With time I found my voice and my pen would write words that felt like they had some weight, but I still don't have the words to express what your letters have meant to me this month. Most of you didn't have any idea what was going on in my life, but your letters helped me to make it through. Thank you.
A Steampunk bird rubber cut from friend and fellow stamp carver

A "sweet" surprise from a new friend

                                             A lovely and cheerful letter from
                                                         A Year of Letters

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Unexpected Event

My day today was going to be full of mid-week housekeeping tasks, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, garden chores. But instead I took a hard fall in the shower. Our bathtub is a 1920's vintage corner tub, porcelain over cast iron... normally I love this tub, it is deep and smooth and holds a lot of hot water for a good soak. But today, I slipped and came down hard on my tailbone; fiberglass would have made for a much softer landing.... I wrenched my back and neck and my tailbone is screaming at me, but thank God I didn't hit my head or break something! I am however, not feeling up to cleaning and such, since my head is throbbing and I feel dizzy. So instead, I am going to catch up on my letter writing and spend some time working on my blog.
I have been working on a postcard for my July mail out. Since this is blueberry season, and my bushes a hanging heavy with plump juicy berries, I went out and took some photos. One of them I have turned into an artwork for a post card, I also designed an artistamp using a painting I did in one of my art journals. I am almost ready to get the whole business printed and mailed out, I just have to get to the printer and get it set up (still in boxes in non-essential living areas of the house...) but I will post a pic of the artistamp as sneek preview. If you want to be on my July mailart mail out list, just leave your addy in the comment block or e-mail it to me at and I'll send you one. See you in the mail!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Generosity of Strangers

During the year I was in Costa Rica I didn't have a dependable way to  send or receive mail. So for that year I didn't participate in mail art activities. Things like mail art calls and sending mail to friends and strangers in the mail art community were put on hold until I could find a way to get my mail. Unfortunately, this meant that I was out of the loop. Many mailart calls passed me by and friends I had corresponded with for years, had nowhere to send things to, so I wasn't on their lists anymore. This is a sad condition for a diehard mailart and lover of letters to find themselves in!

   Upon my return to the states, even before I was moved into my house or had my art stuff unpacked, I got a POB and started trying to make connections with my old mail art community. Sadly, some of them have disappeared and others have moved on. I was afraid that mailart had suddenly disappeared during my time out of the "real" world, (my Costa Rican life being a departure from reality as I had known it...). But then I came across  the IUOMA social network on Ning,, in an internet search on mailart. Eureka!! There in the roll of mail artists from all over the world were the names and addresses of several mailart buddies and much to my joy, a whole lot of other people I hadn't had the pleasure of meeting yet! Be still my beating heart! I was very happy to find out that there are still mail artists in this world and that mailart itself has broadened and deepened in character. There are really some talented and original artists that are participating in filling mailboxes with snail mail goodness!

    After a life time of being on the move, I know that being the new kid on the block can be painful and lonely ...trying to find or make a niche to fit into can be a daunting endeavor. Not so in the mail art community. The basic principles of mail art revolve around reaching out to a bigger world and touching the lives of strangers. I spent hours pouring over the pages of the IUOMA, reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones.   Below are two examples of the generosity of strangers, both of which have recently graced my mail box. Their simple act of sharing something of themselves has done a lot to make me feel like I have come home.

This lovely mail art came from Ahmet Demir. It is four envelopes that when placed in a quad, make the whole picture of an owl. On each envelope there is a part of the owl and a composition of interesting artistamps and actual postage. What an fun idea and so well done!

This is the unfolded outside of the mailart sent by Grant. The background is a page from on old stamp collectors album. The outside is decorated with various stamps that hint at the "otherworldly" contents on the inside of the envelope.

The Altered Fishman is a very unique and fanciful image that Grant designed for his July mailart mail outs.

Thanks to both of you for making my mail box an interesting and happy place!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Note About Being...

Dear Friends,
    In the days since my return to the States I have been asked many times "what did you "do" in Costa Rica?" In order to have a response to that question, I have tried to fix in my mind what we actually "did" in Costa Rica.  We moved to Costa Rica to work a 40 acre farm, to spend some time as a family after my husband had a rude awakening to a serious brain issue, and to enjoy the lovely sights and high elevation freshness of the rainforest.We did all of that. We worked very hard every workday out on the farm. We spent lots of really quality time together as a family, and it was hard to miss the was everywhere. But that isn't really what we "did" there.

Yesterday, as my husband and I were chatting on this subject we enumerated our many adventures, talked about the highs and lows, but I really didn't come to an answer until a few minutes ago as I was sitting at the table eating my breakfast. As I contemplated our life here in the states and remembered what life was like on our mountain in Costa Rica, I realized it wasn't that what we were doing there was so different, but how we did it was very different....

Life on the mountaintop started before daybreak, much like our life here does. We were out on the farm early to have the heavy work done before the sun got very high in the sky. I would cut up fresh fruit for everyone to eat and then we would head out, care for the animals, water the seedlings, tend to other barn yard tasks, then Daniel and Erin would suit up and head out to cut the pastures or strip sod for new garden beds.  I would walk back up the lane to the house to start breakfast. Gallo Pinto (a Costa Rican dish of rice black beans and a special sauce), eggs, toast or home made bagels, fruit, tea and of course, good fresh ground Costa Rican coffee.

The guys would come in at 8:30 or 9:00 and we would eat and chat and linger over hot beverages, while looking out the north facing windows. The view out that way was verdant pastures dotted with cattle and beyond that the misty cloud covered rain forest. There was no hurry to get back outside, since it most certainly would pour rain for an hour or so at this time of day. So we would get the scriptures out and read and discuss what we read, then my son would play his guitar, my husband would work on his newest blog entry and  I would sit with a second cup of coffee and look out the window and marvel at the beauty beyond the glass. When the rain stopped everyone would boot up again and return to the farm. Thus life went, we worked and played, in an ebb and flow dictated by the rainforest. We sat in the evenings playing cards or backgammon by a 5 watt light bulb, or stood out in the darkest dark you can imagine and viewed the sweeping arm of the Milky Way in 3-D. Instead of falling into bed stressed out at the end of a work day as we did in the States, we would lay in the dark and listen to the Tilawa winds as they ruffle the window curtains (and the bed sheets if you didn't hold on to them...) and drift into peaceful slumber. We never set an alarm, there was no need, the rooster (wretched beast) and the parrots and toucans would make sure we were up. If it was raining while we were working, that was okay, we were sure to get wet sometime today... There was no reason to hurry, there was nowhere to go, and what we didn't finish today would still be there tomorrow.

 So much of our life Stateside was spent "doing" stuff... running errands, checking off things on our to do lists, working on our homestead, going from one thing to another hour after hour, day after day. At the end of each day we would all drop our exhausted bodies into bed to get a few hours of sleep before it all started over again. There was no time for lingering over coffee, no daytime hours available for guitar music or blog entries. Life was spend "doing".... It was during breakfast this morning when I decided to have a second cup of coffee that the answer came to me. As I enjoyed watching the blue birds fly in and out of their nest on the trellis outside the dining room window, it occurred to me that we weren't "doing" anything on our mountian in Costa Rica, we were in a constant state of "being". In Costa Rica this is called "Tranquilo".

So, with this revelation I am going to strive to "be" more and "do" less. I hope that I can hold on to the lessons learned in the rhythms of a simple life lived on top of a mountian in view of a very large volcano, and apply them to each day lived out in a small cottage homestead in the piedmont of North Carolina.
                                              Until next time, I'll see you in the mail!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

To write or not to write...

The house is full of unpacked boxes, we are sitting in camp chairs and limping along with three forks and a spatula as cooking /eating impliments. I have no idea where the rest of the cooking utensils are. This state of flux should be pretty normal to me, I grew up an army brat. I have lived my whole life out of boxes, why should now be any different?

 The real problem isn't living out of boxes, it is having so much of life out of sorts. The house has to be painted before we can place furniture in the rooms, the plumbing must be repaired before the lake under the house will dry out, and I just can't imagine how we are going to "fix' our newest problem... My lovely Shiro plum tree, full to the tips of its braches with ripening plums, has fallen over. I believe that the broken pipe that has been pouring water under the house for who knows how long, has saturated the ground around the tree and the weight of the fruit caused the tree to pull up from the roots and fall over. I am inconsolable...we planted that 18 years ago as a whip (a three foot terminal seedling) and since then it has been the joy of the garden from early spring blossom to the lush and juicy yellow fruits that come ripe in June. What a loss.

But all of this is not what I really wanted to talk about. I think that I would feel much better if I could just write some letters and make some postcards to send out. The problem is that other things take priority, cleaning and painting, getting the weeds out of our garden beds and reclaiming the blackberry and blueberry patches as well as starting seedlings to go in the garden beds. All these things are worthy of my full attention and I am happy to have my good ground to dig into, but I yearn to sit with paper and pen, paints and glue sticks and make a grand sticky mess.I think about writing letters and then I am stopped by the fact that I have nothing to write on except the backs of grocery receipts or the occasional brown paper wine bag. I know it is silly to be embarrassed to send letters on such humble stationery, but it has caused me to feel reluctant to write or send out mailart with so few resources to work with. Will people look at my missives with a jaded eye because I am writing on recycled materials with a boring bic pen? So the question remains, to write or not to write... The answer to that question probably lies with whether or not I can find that boring Bic pen....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Internet, Finally!

Well, I left Costa Rica more than a month ago...we have been living "pillar to post" for more than three weeks. Last Monday we were able to move into our house, and this afternoon we finally got the Internet. It feels good to be able to curl up on the bed and read my favorite blogs and e-mail. I have really felt out of touch. I have had some access when I can go and sit at our local Chick-fil-a and use their wireless, but with all the tasks involved with getting settled back in the States, there hasn't been much time for that.

Now if I can only find my art supplies and writing stuff, I will be able to start sending some mailart and postcards to those who have been following my blog. I have hopes of unearthing my stuff from the pile of boxes in the next day or so. If you are reading this blog and would like to get something in your mailbox from me, please leave me an e-mail at I will look forward to hearing from you!

Letters of Love to Costa Rica

Being without consistent access to the internet during my move back to the States has made me feel disconnected from all my friends and loved ones back in Costa Rica. It was a little strange that we had internet at all where we lived on top of our mountain over looking Volcan Arenal and the lake. I always kind of chuckled to my friends and family that I was sitting amidst the sloths, monkeys, and toucans tapping out "love letters" to my dear ones in the States. It is quite a juxtaposition when you think about it... we had line of sight microwave internet that was very expensive, but worth its weight in gold in the rain forest and no internet access in a place over run with technology...go figure.

I am sitting in the air conditioned Chick-fil-a dining room with piped in music and smiling "helpful" Chick-fil-a employees offering to "refresh my beverage" for the umpteenth time...(gotta love them, they really try to please). But in my mind's eye I am sitting on the front veranda of the cabina with my laptop balanced on my knees in the open air, with the strong Tilawa breeze blowing my hair into knots, the sound of hundreds of birds singing in the rainforest. While holding on to that image, I am trying to compose letters of love and gratefulness to those I left behind on the mountain top. I just don't have the words to speak what is in my heart. Everything is muddy, I feel distracted and sad. Really, I can't write to them anyway, since there is no postal delivery to speak of in the pueblo and no one has internet. But it is my desire to send out into the "ether", my thoughts and hopes for them so that at least I have voiced my heart.

   Thank you for being a pillar of strength to your family, the pueblo and each of us in the Binford household. You're courage to face each day and find new ways to provide for your family in a severely depressed economy, enduring the pain of injuries left untended for too many years, has helped me to see my own struggles with a different perspective. The memory of your integrity, staunch devotion and loyalty are a benchmark that I use daily.
   I am so grateful for the quiet, unassuming council you were to our son and for being the best friend and hiking partner that my husband has ever had. Their time in Costa Rica was the joyful and enriching time that it was, largely because of you. I can't thank you enough.

    I smile every time I think of you. Your optomism and humor made my days bright and when I felt low I knew that there was always a kiss on the cheek and a hug waiting for me. Your family is so blessed to have you there to lighten their hearts and carry their burdens on your strong shoulders and I am so blessed that you called me your friend.

    I have tried again and again to put into words what you mean to me... to call you a friend would fall short, to call you a daughter wouldn't hit the mark either. You came into my life as someone to help me around the house and our relationship grew into a precious gem that I hold close to my heart. Hours of sharing thoughts and stories, aided heavily by the Spanish to English/Einglish to Spanish dictionary and a healthy dose of laughter, are some of my favorite memories from our life on the mountain. I think about you daily and miss your sweet smile. When I think of all the people in Costa Rica I hold dear, you are the one it pains me most to live life without. I pray for God to multiply and send back to you, all the kindness and love that you have showered on others. I also hope that someday, we will be able to laugh and share our days together again.

I know that none of these words will reach the people they are meant for, but in speaking them "out loud", I hope the essence of my thoughts may somehow reach them and that the blessing I ask for them will be from my mouth to God's ears.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fighting Flames in the Dark

I have been working on this digital post card since the night of the first fire. I am now no longer in Costa Rica but felt like I needed to finish what I started and tell a story of the surreal events of the weekend before I returned to the States.
This is dry season in Costa Rica. All the lush grass and vegetation turns to tinder. Unfortunately, this fire and the one that followed 48 hours later were not the result of dry grass, they were intentionally set. It was pitch dark and quiet on the southern slopes of our farm when we saw flames shooting high in the sky. Any other night we would never have seen the fire until it hit the rain forest, since the farmhouse sits back on the north side of the farm. We just happened to be having our beginning of Sabbath dinner out at the cabina on the farm with friends. So we were facing the southern slopes and saw the fires right after they were started. The first night there were three fires set some distance apart. High in the mountains out on the pastures there would be no way for water or other fire fighting equipment to be brought to our aid. My husband had run to the bodega to get tools like shovels and rakes to try to control the blaze. Samuel, a dear friend, grew up in these mountains, and knew exactly what to do...he ran to through the pasture, broke off a branch from a wild orange tree and began beating out the flames. The fires were out in pretty short order and we all returned to our dinner, very thankful to God for being able to control the direction of the fire and get it put out.
The next fire was also set after dark. We were at the farm house so we didn't see it. A neighbor told us our fields were on fire. Daniel and I grabbed our knee high rubber boots, shovels and rakes and jumped into the 4x4. The ride out to the south face felt like Mr. Toad's wild ride, as we bumped and jolted over the deeply cut tracks of the lane, the palm branches and ornamental ginger slapping at us through the open windows. We ran out into the waist high grass and began beating at the flames. This fire was much larger and closer to the elderly neighbors who lived at the bottom of our slopes near the river. We beat furiously at the edge of the fire closest to the tiny house. This left us with our backs turned to the body of the fire... Daniel beat the flames out with a rake and I went behind him covering the coals with dirt so they wouldn't start up again. The smoke was so thick that I couldn't breathe and I worried that the wind would shift and we would find ourselves surrounded by the fire. I was tiring and Daniel was concealed by the smoke and flames. I felt all alone. The rubber soles of my boots were melting and the heat was uncomfortable to the bottoms of my feet, but I knew, as did Daniel, that if we gave up and left the fire to itself,  our neighbors would lose their home to the fire. Possibly it would continue across the dirt road to the Pueblo of Sabalito, where the rest of the families on this mountain have their homes. So we fought to gain control, sweating and choking, our eyes stingng and tearing with the smoke. Just when I thought I could go no further, I felt someone's hand on my arm and turned to see our friends from Sabalito. Two families had come to help us, others were standing ready at the road to keep the flames from spreading to Sabalito. My tears turned to sobs... I handed Samuel my shovel and stumbled out of thick of the smoke to get some air.
I don't know who started the fires or why...we have lived very peacefully and happily up here and as far as I know we have no one who would want to do us harm (it was probably done by those who have issues with the owner of the land we are leasing) . The reasons remain a mystery, but we were comforted by the fact that the people of Sabilto were there to help us and that they were very grateful that we did what we could to keep the fires from taking the Pueblo. I return to the US with the conviction in my heart that we belonged to the Pueblo, we weren't "gringos" that lived up on top of the mountain, we were part of an extended family that lived and worked and fellowshipped in simplicity and joy. The fires just annealed and tempered the relationships that we had already forged. My heart is heavy that I had to leave the place I now think of as home, and all the precious people who have been so dear to my heart... People who in some cases, can't read, don't know the first thing about sending or receiving mail, will never see this post, since the internet is not available to them. People who unless I return to the mountain, I will never see or hear from again.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Stateside P.O. Box

 Well, after 1 1/2 hours debating with the post office as to whether or not a passport can be considered a second form of identification, I finally have a new P.O. Box! My new mailart addy is:
                                               P.O. Box 535
                                           Waxhaw, N.C.,28173

I am  sitting in an internet cafe to post this so I am not yet able to do much blog posting, but hopefully it won't be long. In the meantime, I am working hard to get set up back in the USA and getting acclimated to US culture again... sigh! If anyone feels inspired to send something cheerful to a tired traveler I would be delighted! I will be producing some mailart and mailing out as soon as I find my art supplies. Until then I will hope to see you in the mail!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Stateside Bound

Well, the time has come... I have had to say a fond farewell to my beloved mountain top, to my friends and to Costa Rica, the place that I have come to believe is home. I am presently in the process of moving and will not have computer access for a couple of weeks. I hope to have a P.O. Box very soon and I will post the address when I get it. I won't have time for the next little while to do much Mail Art, but hopefully before long I will be sending something to all those who have followed my blog. I really appreciate your interest in my blog and hope that we will continue to share our interest in all things letter writing and Mail Art.                See you in the Mail!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

383.122 A Life in Letters

It all started innocently enough. I was looking up and down the rows of books on the shelf of my favorite library. I needed inspiration for a creative writing class I was teaching. I often wander the isles letting titles or names call out to me from the shelf. Some of my best ideas come from the 641.5, the Dewey Decimal destination for cookbooks. You wouldn't know it to look at them on the shelf, but cookbooks often have wonderful stories and insights from foreign lands and cultures between their covers. But on this day, there was no conversation on 641.5. However, as I was walking past the endcap where the librarians display the books of the month, 383.122 (correspondence) spoke to me. I could have sworn I heard Meryl Streep's voice from the movie Out of Africa softly saying, "I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills..." There on the shelf was a book on the collected correspondence of Isak Dinesin, the author of Out of Africa. Since I have passion for all things having to do with letters, the thought of a a lifetime of correspondence sandwiched between the covers of a book really piqued my interest. So I took it from the shelf and found a comfortable chair in periodicals to curl up in.

From the pages of this book came the uncut version of Isak Dinesin's life in Africa. Her hopes and dreams, fears and the courage it took to face them, the pain of failure and the yearning of love lost, all poured out in the raw, unpolished script of letters to lovers and friends. I was so overtaken by the power of these private, handwritten words that I almost felt ashamed to read on, but couldn't help myself. I had to go on, to see her in the stark light of reality, instead of in the smartly dressed and witty, diffused version that I admired from the movie. Reading her letters told her story in a way that even she, as a first hand witness, couldn't do justice. The letters were unguarded and frank.They were not meant for public consumption, and by seeing them on the pages of a book, I came to see the person that she really was, human, vulnerable and flawed, just like me.

By the time I turned the last page of her life in letters, I was forever changed. Not so much by the story the letters told, but by the realization that her story and my story weren't so different. I have a life in letters. Scattered over years and miles, somewhere in the world, people I have written might still have in their attic, moments of my life tied in a bundle with a ribbon. I find comfort in the thought that while digging around looking for something unrelated one day, someone could run across my letters and from the pages hear my voice.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Toucan Mail Art

We have a nesting pair of toucans in the tree behind our cabina. They have a nest in a hole in the trunk of a Mango tree. They are so beautiful; it is hard to believe how rich their colors are. Toucans are very skittish around people so getting photos of them is difficult. You have to stay out of sight and hope that they don't hear you.

I made this faux mail art post card in celebration of the nesting Toucans. The photo is of the male toucan , who was at the time of the photo sitting in one of the huge mango trees down the lane from their nest. I hope that we get to see the fledglings emerge before we have to move back to the US. What a treat that would be!
Addition on April 8, 2010
A few days have passed since I posted the above. Since then I have taken to setting up the video camera in the pasture where the Toucans live. I have left the video camera running for hours at a time and then taken the camera back to the house to watch and fast forward to activity to and from the nest. It has been very educational. After being educated in the habits of nesting toucans, I felt like I might have more luck at actually capturing them with my still camera. So off I went to the large mango tree where the toucans are nesting, equipped with the video camera on a tripod and my still camera around my neck. I knew that my approach would spook the sitting toucan and that she would fly off a short distance as a diversion. So I didn't try to sneak in. I just walked into the area and started setting up the video camera. As expected, the toucan popped out of the hole and flew away. Once the video was set up I went and consealed myself in a large planting of Bird of Paradise, thinking that when she flew back to her nest she would fly over and not see me, as I was covered by the tall leaves of the planting. It was mid-day and the sun was strong. The sunburn I had gotten from an extended walk the day before was stinging as sweat trickled down my back. Time went on and on, but no toucan flew overhead. I decided after awhile to change to a more shaded location. So I moved to the line of Mandarine trees that were directly behind the cabina. I hoped that the tree trunks would mask my location from the bird as she came back to tend the nest. Time drug by, those annoying little ants that bite and hurt like crazy had made lunch from my ankles, and still there was no toucan activity at the nest. I was beginning to worry about the unattended nest. I decided that I should leave the area and just be satisfied with the video, when I glanced around at something moving in the tree overhead. I met the stare of the male toucan who was sitting in the tree right above me.... I felt silly. Here I had been standing in the flower bed adding sun to my already crispy nose, and then providing fodder for the little ants from hell, all the while the toucan was concealed in the branches above me watching the show. So I took the opportunity to get some very nice close-up shots of him, packed up my gear and went home.
Later, after viewing the video I came to understand that the toucans had not left the nest unattended. Both toucans can fit into the hollow inside the tree, I just caused the male to come out to distract me, which he is obviously very good at...all the time he was watching me in the tree above me, she was sitting patiently on the eggs waiting for hubby to return so she could get a break from the nest. Obviously my toucan education is on going.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Faux Mail Art

   I feel strange. I am preparing to leave Costa Rica and return to the United States. Practically everthing I own is either in storage in the States or packed in totes to be shipped back when my son leaves on Monday. I will be in Costa Rica for another month at least, with only the bare essentials to live with. The kitchen is bare bones, most of the clothes that still fit are worn to a thread so they won't be going home with me, I have no books, no art supplies, no projects, nothing to cook with but a few pots and a knife... What am I going to do for a month?
   This is the first time since we moved to Costa Rica that I have had time to work on projects. I love what we've been doing here, but there has been no time for art. Now I have plenty of time, and nothing to work with. Sigh. Fortunately, I still have the laptop and internet so I have been playing around with some digital art. It is no muss no fuss, but not as satisfying as holding paper, paint and getting ink on my hands. I am happy though to have some sort of creative outlet.
    For the past few days I have been puttering around with some old images that I found on the computer. Some time ago I had scanned  into the computer a bunch of images that I collected from all over. I ran across them recently and have been pulling images from this forgotten trove, to make a digital faux mail art. Faux mail art because I can't actually mail it. There is no way to get it printed out. Here on the edge of the rainforest there is no Kinkos or photo processing place to get my things printed so I will have to be content with posting it to my blog.
    Actually, due to the wonders of the internet, I can reach more people with faux mailart than with the real McCoy! The only problem is... that it can't be mail art if it's never been through the mail.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mailart in the Mailbox

    I was participating in mailart long before I knew there was such a thing. Decorating the envelope or making my own stationery seemed like a natural extension of my letter writing. Actually, many of my letters were  journaling done on decorated pages and sent to my friends. These creations were not especially well done or of the wonderfully colorful and well designed ilke that you see today, but they were original. I would tuck in different flotsam that I found here and there and put aside to share. Things like Cracker Jack toys, theater tickets, pieces of wrapping paper or ribbon. Just something to be a surprise or flutter out of the envelope when it was opened. In return I would get fat letters full of blow by blow stories about "he said, she said", and some blurry photo they took of themselves. It was wonderful! I would take their tokens, except for the photos which I kept in my scrapbook, and pass them on to someone else that I was writing to.
    Actually, I think that a lot of the mailart things that are practiced today were invented by teenagers. The Add and Pass of today resembles the draw something and pass it along, that teens were always passing around in high school. By the time the note got back to the owner, the drawing would have grown to cover the page and would be a collection of doodles, stickers, quotes and I luv's. The Add and Pass of today would be a xerox of something that was interesting to the sender and the sender's address,(on the back of the page). The originator would then put the page in an envelope, seal it, decorate it and mail it off to someone on their mailart list. The recipient would then add something to the page, maybe an impression from a favorite rubber cut, or a used postage stamp or better yet their newest artistamp. After adding something to the page, the recipient would copy the address of the originator (if they didn't have it already), and add it to their mail artist addy list.Then they would turn the page over and add their mailart moniker and address to the back, stick it in an envelope, decorated it and send it on. The idea being that when it was full, the last person to add something to it would mail it back home to the original sender. That is, of course after making a color copy or scanning it for their own collection!
    I entered the present day world of mail art in an effort to de-stress after then death of my mother. I needed something to do to take my mind off my pain and to give me something to look forward to. I started looking for mail art trades online and found some that didn't seem too involved. I made my post cards and decorated envies that I stuffed with hand made mini envelopes, used postage stamps, flyers from music events, and stickers as well as a handwritten note, poetry or quote. I made my way to the post office and opened a P.O. Box so that my return mail would not be coming to my home address. Once that was accomplished, I mailed off the letters and postcards with my new moniker and Po Box address on them and waited for what seemed like forever for something to appear in my P.O. Box window. Actually, it wasn't that long, since I had chosen a couple of "I'll send you one when you send me one", post card trades and an "write me three letters and I'll write you three back", to start off with. In a week or so I had my very first response, a hand made postcard from a trade and the next day two more postcards from another trade. They were humble beginnings, but worked wonders on my heavy heart.
    As time went on I graduated to mail art calls with a theme and started mailing to the people that were on the documentation lists I received from the calls I participated in. With each mail art call there is usually a promise of documentation of the names and addresses of the participants in the call. Sometimes the documentation came at the end of a call, sometimes periodically during an on going call, and then some documentation was to have your piece of mail art posted to a website, where your art could be seen and you could see what else was sent to the call. So my list of addresses grew exponentially and my mail box almost always had something in it when I checked it.
    After my first year of sending and receiving mailart, I had collected so much mail that I had to start recycling some of it. Not every piece I received was actually "art", many of the things I received were add and passes, regular post cards or slightly decorated envies with goodies inside. These were used to create new pieces and sent on to bring a smile to someone else's postal worker as they stuffed the mail boxes. The ones that were truely pieces of art I have preserved in acid free folders or document protectors with the intention of keeping them long term. The beauty of mail art is that you can use whatever materials you have, recycle, reuse, and send on so that soon you can have a mailbox full of fun and interesting mail to brighten your day.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Lifetime Love of Letters

    The art of letter writing has been all but lost to us with the advent of e-mail. The daily anticipation of  correspondence waiting for us in the mailbox has been supplanted by the instant gratification of the e-mail box.  Nothing can compare though, with the joy of opening the mailbox and seeing your name handwritten on the front of and envelope. A letter isn't just a piece of paper conveying thoughts and information, it is evidence that someone took time out of a busy day to think of you and connect with you in a tangible way.
    Letters can be held in the hands, read and re-read, saved for years and read again. They are time capsules that hold your personal history safely in their pages. It is conversation at its best, each person gets to have their say, uninterupted. Words can be thought out, editted, and read for clarity before others hear them. The process of letter writing helps to hone the skills of meaningful communication.
   I have had a life long love of letters. Being an Army brat, frequently having to say good-bye to friends and move away, letters helped to ease the loss. I could stay connected with those I left behind. Writing helped me to push back the sense of isolation and receiving a return letter helped me bear the lonliness of being the new kid in town.
    Some of my letters have traveled with me all over the world. The pages may have aged and yellowed around the edges, but every time I open one of them, I can still hear the voice of the author. The words speak to my heart as clearly today as the day they were first opened. Some of the letters represent voices that may no longer speak to me in person, family members who have passed away and friends that I have lost contact with. By opening their missives I can remember them as they were, untouched by age, loss or death.
    I wasn't really aware of how much I depended upon mail until last year. I moved from my homestead of 20 years to a farm at the edge of the rainforest in Costa Rica. Here my address is 600 meters North of the Plaza, Sabalito, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. With an address like that, I'm not too likely to have mail find me, even if there were a mail box for it to be delivered to! The closest P.O.Boxes are located at the back of a motorcylce sales and repair shop, 12 bumpy, curvey, kilometers away in Tileran. We actually have P.O.Box #7,  but for the last 10 months, nothing has been delivered there. It has either been returned undeliverable to the sender, or disappeared without a trace. So, with much reluctance I have resigned myself to e-mail communication.
    E-mail allows for impersonal, one sentence notes, where u replaces you and 2 replaces to, or even worse the forward, of a forward, of a forward. I can't touch the surface an e-mail, smell the faint scent of the cologne the writer was wearing, or relish the small artworks called stamps, that grace the upper right hand corner of the envelope. I miss the comfort of words on paper that I can carry with me from place to place, tied with a ribbon, to remind me of the people I am seperated from by miles and time. I am always happy to have an e-mail, don't get me wrong, some news is better than no news, but it just doesn't feel the same. 
    One bastion of hope for the future of letter writing is mail art. Within the mail art community are many people from diverse backgrounds and cultures who have taken hold of a common thread, the writing, decorating and sending of mail. The unselfish act of sending mail to total strangers opens up a wide world of possibilities for connecting with people and in some cases making lifelong friends. The mail artist will respond to a mail art call posted on the web, or just send a handmade postcard to a random address, with no expectation of a return letter. It is an act of benevolence, a gift, a random act of kindness, and more often than not, is rewarded by a return letter or card. As mail artists all over the world know; you have to send mail to get mail, so why don't you start today? Send a real letter to someone you haven't seen in awhile, or look up mail art calls on the web and choose one to respond to. Wade in, reach out, and enjoy finding little gems with your name handwritten on the envelope mixed in with the bills and junk mail in your mailbox!