This month’s newsletter is a commentary on the final line of Mary Oliver’s poem:
“Instructions for Living a Life.
Tell about it.”
Today, the things we “tell” others “about” are most often communicated via digital media—emails, texts and tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts, and Pinterest pins. If you watched the Academy Awards, you saw Ellen DeGeneres tweet a photo of herself with a bevy of celebrities from this year’s Oscar ceremony. Essentially, she sent a virtual postcard around the world in an instant.
It’s no surprise that in today’s “selfie”-obsessed culture, we’re more likely to snap a photo of ourselves in front of the Eiffel tower and text it to our friends with a “wish you were here,” than send a paper postcard via snail mail.
I think that’s too bad. Yes, I know postcards are old fashioned. They’re a lot more trouble to find, write, address, stamp and mail than sending a text. But I think the effort is worthwhile. There’s something very magical about receiving a postcard--whether it’s from some exotic place halfway across the world, or from a near-by quirky attraction.
My husband and I recently took a road trip from Tucson to Palm Springs. On the drive out we stopped for lunch at Luce’s Casino in Yuma, AZ (a Roadside America recommended attraction), and then followed a lead from the NY Times travel section and headed North along the Salton Sea to Salvation Mountain. We climbed the yellow brick road to the very top of the “mountain”-- a giant Gaudi-esque art installation made of hay bales, cement plaster, and gallons of paint. My husband described it as “off the wall and on the edge.” It was definitely something to “tell others” about! Our next stop was the International Banana Museum in Mecca, CA (it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records), where we slurped down the best banana shake ever. That story could qualify as a case study for the Harvard Business Review.
Once in Palm Springs, we played several top rated golf courses, had dinner at Melvyn’s (of Rat Pack fame), and bid adieu to the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies (the high-kicking, tap dancing cast ranges in age from 55 to 84!). Sadly, the production is closing its doors after a 23 year run. Our last stop was a photo op with Marilyn Monroe, a 26-foot tall 17-ton statue of the iconic beauty in her billowing skirt pose from “The Seven Year Itch,” set against a backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains.
So many astonishing discoveries to share, and no postcards available anywhere! Apparently, postcards are fast becoming a relic of the past. Why should that matter?
Postcards are exercises in creative writing that help us share with others things that astonish us. They’re proof that we are paying attention, and a lasting tribute to the recipient’s importance. They’re snapshots of history that help us “tell others” our stories, celebrate legends, and memorialize life’s adventures.
I used to send postcards from my world travels to my niece and nephews when they were little. Nothing much was ever said about the cards; I never knew if they made an impression. Then once, on a visit home, my 12-year-old nephew invited me up to his room to see his new boom box. When I entered his bedroom, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the new boom box; it was the dozens of post cards I had sent him over the years framing the mirror over his bureau. I know those postcards made a lasting impression!
The next time you are astonished in your travels and want to “tell others,” consider sending a post card. If you can find one, that is!