Postcards In The Time of Covid-19
Rediscovering ways to rekindle friendships while the world is on lock down
Truly snail mail has never gone out of style, it has been more reserved for junk mail and our bills, bank statements and sometimes invitations for big events like weddings or graduations — at least for those of us who haven’t switched most of that to more paperless, digital means.
Still, ranging from uncommon to rare, receiving any physically written on and sent mail from our loved ones is generally reserved for a birthday card from grandma. Or that one eccentric and or estranged Auntie or Uncle that you’re pretty sure is a spy and or holding on to a grand inheritance to possibly pass on to you. Since COVID-19 shut the world down, folks everywhere have been constantly defining and redefining how they communicate and how they spend their time — shut in, mostly.
Yes, there have been big upticks for streaming apps and folks online gaming but folks the world over have been doing more of those “analog” activities: putting together physical puzzles, playing board games with the family and reading through those piles of unread books on our night stands and the like. I happen to be cleaning and organizing one day (Kondo Method or bust!) and found my treasure trove of postcards and other paper goods and thought to start sending them out. In doing so, I rediscovered a way to rekindle my friendships while the world is on lock down.
To Daryl, a friend made during Tumblr’s golden era I sent this postcard from one of my favorite local museums here in Los Angeles: The Broad. Featuring Thomas Houseago’s “Giant Figure (Cyclops)” I added the (BEST) joke from a tweet from cartoonist Darryl Ayo: “i can’t believe they named him “Cyclops” instead of “Supervisor”. As a fellow X-Men fan, I just knew he’d get it and have a laugh on me.
Before Daryl, I sent Josh, a postcard of the T-Rex bones assembled and on display at the Natural History Museum of LA also purchased there from the gift shop. Visiting from New York, he came to L.A. and we went to the museum — when he told me social media has informed him our trip was a year ago — I was happy to send him a postcard for memories sake. Thanks to COVID-19, We’re not going to any museums anytime soon and by God, I sure miss them.
To Rick, whom I share a love of reading, comics and Kickstarter I sent over this weird postcard with concept art from a junkpunk graphic novel. On it I wrote about the rabbit hole of weird things as topics in Youtube videos I watch from time to time like the green skinned Woolpit children and Lake Nyos. When he received it I was happy to learn that he too had been researching and looking up random weird things too.
Before him, I sent Sarah, a friend of many friends of mine and now quite securely, my friend a postcard with a photo of a Yayoi Kusama art installation (Infinity Mirrored Rooms) with Langston Hughes’ timeless poem “Tired”. The poem’s opening lines are: “I am so tired of waiting, Aren’t you, For the world to become good And beautiful and kind?” I noticed that both our social media posts mirrored an inexplicably exhaustion with America’s love affair with dehumanization of Black folks among the waves of Black Lives Matters protests.
To Jasmin, a longtime friend whom I’ve know since my high school days who is off studying, following her dreams of taking care of the environment I sent a postcard of a cute print of a Llama standing above Cati, succulents and other greenery. We both post photos of our plants to Instagram and on my card I tell her about one of my newest plant babies, a coral cactus (a Frankenstein-my words) that I plan to re-pot next week.
Before Jasmin, I sent a postcard from the same happy llama series to the 9 year old of a friend who, as her mom put, was going through it, trying to adjust to being physically cut away from her friends, school, her girl scout troop and all the things an extroverted child would miss nowadays. On the back of the card, I wrote some terrible riddles that would make her either laugh or groan — hoping to bring some burst of spontaneous to her young, disrupted life.
To Lauren a dear friend whom I’ve shamefully kept forgetting to check up on during these trying months, I sent one of these postcards simply stating “The Future of Medicine is Indigenous” with a stethoscope against a brilliant pop of blue. She’s by no means a medical professional or essential worker in that regard but she’s essential to me. As women of color, we both have an understanding of how important the work of marginalized persons which include women and BIPOC. Not just in the fight against against COVID-19 but also in the current and future fight — of making sure marginalized communities stay afloat since this pandemic has revealed that the systems and institutions that exist aren’t and won’t protect us.
It’s been a fun side project that has evolved to me continuing to raid my stash of postcards I’ve bought and saved from being a tourist and all my museum hopping over the years. I’ve been buying more postcards, mostly from small business owners! I’ve been taking time out of my days, turning the screens off and centering myself to figure out what words are floating around in my head to place down of the backs of these cards that I send off in the mail with a stamp attached.
Is it life changing?
I think not.
Yet it provides a burst of spontaneous motion to add to the days that are long and so often, without a crumb of much good news.
It’s been really fun to read and hear about the responses from the people I love when they receive my postcards. Friends has sent postcards and cards back. The postcards have been topics of discussion in sorely missed ‘catch-up-with-you’ phone calls. The postcards have been reason for buddies to tweet me or send a private message on one of many social media apps.
And while certainly the postcards have helped me rediscover a way to rekindle friendships while the world is on lock down, they have certainly brought a newer, small joy to my life that I’m grateful for. Going to check the mail has probably never been such a task that was seen as so significant yet now, I can wait to go collect the mail. Postcards In The Time of Covid-19? One of the best decisions I made this year.
This is a perfect time for a call to action for those of us who are in the United States to bring your attention to the United States Postal Office and all the hard working folks employed by this vital civic institution. The future has looked grim for the USPS for a while and I don’t know where we would be without them — in fact this written piece and all the joy I’ve poured into it would be hard pressed if it weren’t for all their hard work — this is an essential service that can not be cut! Read more on how to help here!