A Love Letter to Tangible Things.

A stack of letters bound with string. One letter open with a photo under it.
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

Everything is grey.

The wildfires in Oregon and California have formed a fog of smoke that sits over a city resigned to its existence.

It’s easy to be resigned to our failures.

I sat on the beach with an old co-worker on Sunday. We got stoned and stared out at the ocean. The horizon hidden behind a dull veil.

In January this same beach hosted the 2020 Polar Bear Swim. Everyone decked out in speakeasy swimwear.

A mass of people pressed together in bizarre ritual.

Three months later I would be grabbing one last box of donuts from Cartems on my last day of work at the office.

Not long after this, I would be laid off.

I started a Covid diary. Sloppy sketches, random thoughts, a daily record.

It seemed important. To have something that could be held. Pages tracking days, artistic ‘progression’, failures, frustrations, worries. I don’t keep it daily anymore (I’ve gained two part-time jobs and an exhaustive list of responsibilities since then), but I do still keep it.

It’s just more a monthly thing.

I have seen a holy writ defined as “a writing or utterance having unquestionable authority” but also as “the sacred writings of any religion”. The former is the more technically accurate definition. The latter is what we need.

In March I bought the book Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi. I took a John Hopkins course on Epidemiology. I bought notebooks for all the classes I anticipated taking.

In April I contacted a man I used to work with at the airport. He has OCD. I imagined this all must uniquely stressful for him. I was reminded there is value in simple sincere gestures.

“How are you? Are you Ok?”

In May I messaged a friend in Minneapolis. Checked in on the state of the city. The curfew. How she was.

“There’s good happening here and I don’t see it on tv. People opened their homes to protestors caught out during curfew. I didn’t see any of that on the news. People should see that.”

I started sending postcards. I had all these postcards of sailors from an exhibit of Kathryn Mussallem’s work at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. It turns out people like getting postcards of sailors. I contacted the museum and they arranged a minimal contact sale of more postcards from their store. The woman who set it up added a handwritten note of thanks to the gift bag.

Simple sincere gestures.

A hand written note of thanks admitance to the maritime museum
A hand written note of thanks admitance to the maritime museum

I reread Riot Baby.

I bought and read the Selected Poems of Gwendolyn Brooks. I finally finished Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns. I’d been picking it up and putting it down for upwards of five years (it’s a biography of Ayn Rand).

I wrote to Josh Williams. Still in jail for setting a magazine rack on fire during looting in Ferguson.

In June I started buying Yellow Tail Bubbles Rosé and drinking it by the bottle. I started painting again.

I bought and read Deus Ex Nigrum by Jasmine Reid.

I was working again by late July (good given my books and sparkling wine bills).

I bought and read The Gospel of Breaking, by Jillian Christmas. Close to Spider Man by Ivan Coyote.

I said goodbye to a friend in a park before she moved to Ontario.

I missed hugs.

I wore masks.

I wrote more postcards.

I bought more books.

In August I bought and read Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L Trump.

I mailed a painting of a friend’s cat I had done the year before. She announced its arrival via messenger. Said the cat approves.

I received two postcards in the tight neat script of one of my favorite people.

And I had a heaving cry watching a PFAW ad encouraging people to defend the post office.

At this point I’ve lost two people suddenly during the pandemic. I’ve witnessed the dissolution of friendships and marriages. But a campaign to save the post office makes me cry.

How could anyone not understand the importance of the mail, in any country, right now?

It seems a symptom of a people resigned to an existence in virtual spaces, where canceling people is easy because your social capital acts as your ratings.

If it drops you aren’t earning.

Basic relationship economics.

It seems a symptom of a people resigned to touchlessness and smoke and speaking at but never to each other.

There is so much more of you present in smeared ink and spelling errors than what you forward or ‘like’ on your chosen social network.

The effort of a gift, a letter, a postcard. It speaks to someone being worth thought and time. Money possibly. When considering “tangible things” monetary worth tends to be what comes to mind.

Still, a letter’s cost is nominal or sometimes nonexistent. But it occupies space. It has weight. It offers an outline in the grey.

An assurance that the horizon is there.

Poet, Writer at Optimistic Learner and Digital Economy Forum. Board member at Vancouver Poetry House. www.optimisticlearner.com

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