The Gift of Mail


I recently arrived home to find a small, salmon notice from the post office in my mail box. It informed me that I had a package waiting, but that I had to pay $3.77 in postage to pick it up. Under comments it just said “green wallet”. As I actually thought might happen, a nice person came upon the wallet I left on top of my car a few weeks ago, wrote my name and address on a sticker adhered to the wallet, and placed it in a mail box, leaving it to me and the USPS to take it from there. Based on the somewhat shaky, but neat, cursive penmanship, I guessed it was an elderly woman who took the time to do this.

It got me thinking about how much I love the USPS.
Taken almost completely for granted and lately referred to mostly for their financial woes, this institution has been delivering everything from wallets to honey bees to love letters and letters to Santa for as long as this country has existed.

As a child, I was an avid letter writer. My parents taught me to write thank you notes, post cards from vacations, and let me know that the best way to receive mail was to be the first to send it. With my creative spelling and pictures, I kept up with grandparents and aunts who lived out of town.

In the second grade, my teacher gave us a list of schools in foreign countries that had students who wished to become pen pals with students in my school. Always fascinated by kings, queens, and knights, I chose England and was one of only a few students to receive a letter in response. Patty and I continued to write through our teens, meeting twice, and making it into our early 20s before losing touch. Thinking that was that, several years later I was contacted by a woman on Facebook whose last name I didn’t recognize, only to realize it was Patty, and, with updated contact info, the Christmas cards resumed. It is a bit ironic that it was the world of instant messaging that brought us back together, so our snail mail could continue.

Because there is little actual need for paper mail in a reality of online bill pay and email, it makes a letter, postcard, or package that much more dear, a gift rather than a necessity. Coming across a handwritten envelope amongst the stacks of credit card applications, coupons, and bills, is truly one of the greatest and simplest pleasures I can think of. It is a little token, there for no other reason than to say “In our fast paced world, I took the time to write and send this, hoping it makes you happy.”

Freshman Lawn

She looked around the area known as “freshman lawn” and knew she had to do something different or she wouldn’t make it through her sophomore year of high school. For the previous year she’d endured the lawn, continuing to attend class when friends began to ditch, never joining to get high in the parking lot, always doing her homework.

She stood quietly and walked down the stairs towards the drama room. Alone, she sat on a low wall opposite the group of students who’d caught her eye the year before and took out her sandwich. Within a week she’d met the entire group, begun to call them friends, auditioned for and won the lead in the fall play, and she knew she would survive her sophomore year.

Years later, a woman thinks about the girl who took it upon herself to change the direction her young life was taking. A quiet voice nudged her the morning she left freshman lawn and, without a plan, she decided simply to ask for more.

Now, as her adult brain does its best to tell her that change is scary, reminding her of all the work she’s done to get where she is, she thinks of the girl who was brave enough to be vulnerable and uncomfortable for a few minutes.

Twenty years later, when she decides to take a few months away from the security of her film career and to sign up for creative writing classes instead, she thinks of this girl. After she drives to an open mic night for flash fiction and stands in front of a group of strangers reading her story, she thinks of this girl. As she extends her hand to meet a new person, instead of avoiding eye contact and blaming it on shyness, she thinks of this girl. Though very faint, the same voice that nudged her away from freshman lawn, whispers that she can have more. And she decides to listen.

Pear Tree


Eight years ago a friend gave me a tiny pear tree to plant in the yard of my new house. Its trunk was not much thicker than my thumb and it stood about 5′ tall. We planted this twig of a tree on the NW corner of my house.

Within the first year it was producing huge, green, Bartlett pears, much too large for its small size. Branches drooped and sagged under the weight. I picked dozens early, trying to ease the weight.

It survived years of my being on location with random renters/housesitters forgetting to water it. It made it through a house renovation, standing like a small tree island in the middle of a yard of trenches. And it continued to produce bushels of pears.

Yesterday, upon returning from a quick trip to LA, I looked at and realized how attached I am to this tree. I worry about it when I’m away and call neighbors to check on it. It makes me happy to leave bags of pears on their doorsteps afterwards.

Initially pears confused me. Never ripening on the tree, I wasn’t sure when to pick them. Finally I realized that it was simple, all I had to do was put my hand around one and it would either come off easily or not. Then into a paper bag they went, ripening within a week. Cut up with some cheese or baked in a tart, there’s really nothing better than the perfect pear.



I read a horoscope last week that said to watch for books that jumped off the shelf at me, wanting to be looked at and read.

Well, it wasn’t a book that jumped out, but a poem. I heard it in a documentary called “Free Your Mind”, directed by Phie Ambo, and made a mental note of the title, wanting to look it up later. Then, yesterday, this same poem was handed out in my writing group, to be read and discussed.

I think it is really beautiful and relevant in the way it talks about the stranger we all periodically let ourselves become. The self who is always there, awaiting our return, never judging, wanting just to love and nourish.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

-Derek Walcott