4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

Lighthouses!

My friend Kem recently returned from a family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard.  Do you know what I found in the mail today?  That’s right! A postcard she sent days before her return.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Cape Poge Lighthouse. Photo by Paul Rezendes

Cape Poge Lighthouse is located on Northeast tip of Chappaquiddick Island.

Kem wrote that she always thinks of me when she visits a new place (how sweet!) and that my camera would be quite happy with the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard (I agree!).  The lighthouses were her favorite sites while there.  She talked about her trip and included pics of some of the lighthouses in a recent blog post.

I love lighthouses too, not only because they are beautiful structures but because of their interesting histories.  The Cape Poge Lighthouse postcard prompted me to take another look at the other lighthouse postcards I’ve received over the last several years.

Take a look:

Map of the Lighthouses of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Until the Cape Cod Canal opened in 1914, every vessel sailing between Boston and points south had to weather the dangers of Cape Cod’s dreaded sand bars that thrust out into the Atlantic Ocean. In 1797, the U.S. government constructed the first lighthouse on Cape Cod. These lonely sentinels have since provided guidance to mariners.

Click the link for more information on the Cape Cod Lighthouses.

Scituate Light (Cedar Point), Massachusetts

Scituate Lighthouse–a historic lighthouse of the War of 1812. This lighthouse is located at the entrance to the harbor and offers a beautiful view of the coast and the harbor.

The Cape May Lighthouse, New Jersey

Situated on the southern tip of Cape May Peninsula where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Cape May is recognized by the United States government as the country’s oldest seaside resort.  The Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859, is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The St. Simons Lighthouse, St. Simons, Georgia

The St. Simons Lighthouse was built by James Gould in 1810. It was destroyed during the Civil War and rebuilt in 1872.

Great Lakes Lighthouses

Left to Right–

Great Lakes Lighthouses

Although the two “Great Lakes Lighthouses” postcards seem to feature the same houses, there is an additional house in the postcard above–Seul Choix Lighthouse, Lake Michigan (middle white lighthouse).

I received the postcards in swaps from 2010-2016.  However, the final postcard in my very small collection of lighthouses is a “souvenir” I picked up in San Francisco after a visit to Alcatraz Island.

Alcatraz Island Lighthouse

The Alcatraz Island Lighthouse was the first one built on the U.S. West Coast, located in California’s San Francisco Bay. It is located at the southern end of the island near the entrance to the prison.

I enjoyed revisiting the lighthouses and reviewing the many other (unrelated) interesting postcards I ran across.  I encountered many that deserve blog posts, so look for some “flashback” postcard posts in the near future.

I think I just added a visit to all the U.S. lighthouses to my travel bucket list.  Maybe, I’ll get started this summer!

Have you visited any lighthouses lately?

Thanks for thinking of me, Kemi, and for prompting the visit down postcard lane.

Choose Kindness.

I thought I was at the end of my “kindness rope” earlier today. Then, a postcard arrived that helped me hold on a bit tighter.

PeggyO sent the card below for a Literary Wisdom Postcard swap, a series I host for the “All Things Book-Related” group on swap-bot.

Purple Crocuses and Kindness

Let’s take a moment to squeal because…well…purple crocus flowers! [Thanks, Christine]

The quote does not directly relate to my situation, but it reminded me to continue being who I am. A kind person. Even when I’ve had enough.  Even when I am saying “no.”

What do you do when your kindness is taken for granted? When you have been overly kind, generous, gracious, but it’s not enough?  When those on the receiving end are less than kind and seem insatiable, wanting more and more and more of your kindness?

I hope you choose kindness.

Note:  The quote, though ascribed to Mark Twain, did not originate with him.  Find out more here: Quote Investigator.

 

Discovering Spring in a Pretty Purple Pansy

Although we’ve had consistently warmer temperatures for the last week or so, spring has not actually sprung here in Northern Alabama.  I’ve been waiting a bit impatiently for the blossoms to fully appear, but it seems the temperamental winter we’ve had has made our early spring less brilliant than usual.

We’re not the only ones experiencing a delayed spring.

I received a postcard today from my photog pal, Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot, for an A Thousand Words group swap, “Early Spring Photo Postcard.”  She writes that it is still “clearly winter in Michigan.  The freezing cold and bitter wind hasn’t let up.”  As a result, she had to find a little spring at a local nursery’s “Spring Expo.”

Purple Pansy by Diane W.(Midteacher on swap-bot)

Of course, I’m pretty pleased with this gorgeous purple pansy. Not only is the pansy beautiful but the presentation is stunning, so I’m grateful Diane was forced to find spring in another way [Sorry, Diane].  She writes that the pansy was popular among the attendees and she “enjoyed watching everyone’s faces light up when they saw” the pansy. I wish she’d seen my face light up when I retrieved her postcard after work today!

How appropriate that Diane accented the flower with the word “discover.” I’ve been looking for strong evidence of spring (beyond temperature) for a week now!

Now, I have to figure out which inspiration wall needs this purple pansy most–the one at home or the one at work???

Has spring sprung yet in your region?

Love Inspired: Loyal Birds and “Fowl” Words

For a recent “Love Inspired” swap for the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot Gale D., my partner, went birds and feathers on me.  The goal of the swap was to pair a love quote with an appropriate photo.

Gale settled on a quote from  A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh:

Some people care too much.  I think it’s called love.

Gale does a lot of bird photography, so she sent me two of her favorite photos.

The first, a pair of Mute Swans:

“Mute Swans” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

According to Gale’s note, the Mute Swans “stay together forever. It saves time and energy, and they produce more cygnets this way.  They make a great team.”

I found some interesting tidbits about Mute Swans on Cornell University’s All About Birds Site.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mute Swans are not native to North America
  • The swans pretty much mate for life, but will find another mate if a partner dies
  • Their reputation for monogamy along with their white plumage has helped establish them as a symbol of love in many cultures
  • The Mute Swan is the “star” of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling
  • The swans are pretty aggressive (so give them lots of space)
  • The oldest known Mute Swan is 26 years, 9 months old

Gale also sent a pair of Canada Geese and their goslings.

“Canada Geese,” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

Gale wrote that she loves Canada Geese, but although they adapt around humans well, she hasn’t had much opportunities to get close to the geese.  Ironically, she lives in Canada.  This particular photo was shot in a cemetery pond.

There are a LOT of Canada Geese on the university campus where I work.  She’d have no problem getting up close and personal with them. During early fall, they pretty much rule the campus, even stopping traffic at times.  That can be annoying, but it is a pretty glorious sight to see them take flight in formation.

During the second year of their lives Canada Geese find a mate, and like Mute Swans, they are monogamous and mate for life.

It truly is inspiring to find such “faithfulness” and “loyalty” in the animal kingdom.  We often think so little of them, but we have so much to learn from them.

Microblog Mondays: The Wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

I recently began a new swap series in the “All Things Book-Related” group on swap-bot. For the series, swappers must send partners a book-related postcard with a quote from a fictional or poetic work that enlightens, inspires, or “shows us the way.”  The quote may be printed on the front of the postcard or written on the back.

This is the most recent card I received–for Literary Wisdom #3:

Literary Wisdom

Literary Wisdom from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

The postcard came from Mandi of Lake Elsinore, California.  She writes, “We hear so much bad news these days that we forget there is still love and happiness in the world.”

The Tolkien quote served as a perfect ending to a class discussion on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”  One of the most important take-aways from our discussion was the need for us to remain vigilant in the quest to protect our freedoms and preserve our souls while doing so.  We protect ourselves during perilous times–such as these–by recognizing the struggle is not all there is, by praying/mediating, by moving in love, and by immersing ourselves in the love of family and friends.

microblog_mondays

Children’s Book Illustration Postcards: Cute Kids, a Dog, a Cat, and a Tea-Drinking Rat

Every two weeks I host two children’s book illustration postcard swaps on swap-bot.  One “public,” which means any swapper can participate and the other for members of the Book Lovers Congregate group.  I posted the first 10 swaps in the second series of swaps that began last year: here and here.

The 125+ postcards of the first series of swaps can be found by clicking the links that follow: part i, part ii, part iii, part iv, and part v.

To avoid posting dozens of children’s book illustration postcards in one post, I’m making an effort to share the postcards as the swaps complete.  This way, we can spend a little more time on information related to the postcard.

Swap #11 (Public) came from Israel, from Lihior, who remarks that she loves these swaps, and I’m happy to have seen her in every swap so far!ch-bk-illustration-received-11-1

The postcard Lihior sent (above) is from The World of Peter Rabbit, a collection of postcards that features the illustrations of Beatrix Potter, the beloved English writer who penned and illustrated more than 20 children’s books in her lifetime. This particular postcard is from the book The Sly Old Cat, 1907.

According to the information provided on the back of the postcard,  “the book was the third in the series of concertina-bound books that started with The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit and The Story of Miss Moppet, but was canceled when the format proved too fragile for bookshops.”

The series of books was written for younger children and was designed to introduce the children to the world of Peter Rabbit.

The Sly Old Cat was finally published in 1971. It tells the story of a cat who invites a rat to a tea party with the intention of eating him.  No worries.  The mouse outwits the cat and escapes.  He even gets a yummy muffin for his trouble.

The postcard for the Book Lovers Congregate Swap #11 came from Xira in the Netherlands.  She posted a picture of the postcard on Instagram with some other outgoing mail.  I “liked” the photo and “exclaimed” over Jip and Janneke, but I had no idea it was headed my way.  Imagine my surprise!

If you’ve read any of my other children’s book illustration posts, you know that I love the pair of friends from the Dutch preschool children’s books, Jip and Janneke.  The books are written by Annie M.G. Schmidt and illustrated by Fiep Westendorp. The two have been writing and illustrating the children’s books together for more than 30 years.  They feature the best friends living as preschoolers–lives filled with play, mischief, interpersonal conflicts, and loads of fun.  The children and their pets are always in black and white as you see them here.

This particular image is from a 1993 illustration.  The postcard features Jip (pronounced “Yip”) and the Janneke (pronounced “Yan-nic-a” with the stress on the first syllable) and Weenie and Sippy, Jip’s dog and Janneke’s cat.  The postcard back does not indicate from which book the illustration comes.

A few years ago one of my first-year students, after engaging in lengthy conversations with me about the duo, gave me a collection of Jip and Janneke stories on CD.  In Dutch.  One day, I’ll know enough Dutch to understand what I’m listening to. 😀

Jip and Janneke

Jip and Janneke Audio CD Cover

I have already received half of swap #12 and swap #13 is underway, so look for more children’s book illustration postcard posts soon! Until then, spend a few moments revisiting your childhood and pick up some kiddie lit!

 

 

Cup and Chaucer: Mini Pocket Flipbook

One of the most enjoyable snail mail projects I worked on this year was a mini pocket flipbook for a swap in the Cup and Chaucer group on swap-bot.  Cup and Chaucer, as you might have guessed, is a group of swap-bots who love mulling over a great literature with piping hot cup of tea.

I’d never done a flipbook before, but my interest was piqued by the theme–books!  How could I resist?  Besides sticking to the theme, the only other requirement was that we incorporate a pocket.

My “receive from” partner, AnnaM, created a beautiful flipbook–lots of purple and gold, pretty embellishments, and many thoughtful handmade items.  Overall, it was an elegant flipbook, nicely presented.

This is how the flipbook came out of the envelope:

Flipbook Packaging

Flipbook Packaging

Here’s the front cover:

Flipbook Front Cover

Flipbook Front Cover

And the back cover:

Back Cover

“There is no scent so pleasant to my nostrils as the faint subtle reek which comes from an ancient book.” –Arthur Conan Doyle

And everything in between [click an image for a closer look]:

Here’s a closer look at some of the tuck-ins [click an image for a closer look]:

There was just so much “eye candy.” I remember doing the happy mail dance when I opened the package.

The swap came at a crazy time for me–April.  The cruelest month. Remember?  I didn’t even see an opportunity to work on it until the mail deadline date.  I ended up grabbing a bunch of supplies on my way out the door one morning, working on it, and completing it in record time in my office (between classes, of course).  I posted it on my way home.

I chose a color pallet and crafted without a plan:

fullsizerender-57

It was early spring and I was happy to see and play with color again.

True to my “English professor” word, I finished the front cover last (I tell my students to write their essay introductions last).

Bookish Flipbook Front Cover

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  –Charles Williams Eliot

Here’s the back cover and everything in-between [click an image for a closer look]:

My favorite part is Dickens’ Dream by Victorian artist Robert William Buss.  I scavenged it from a mailer from one of the textbook publishers. The curly haired lady was also salvaged from an envelope or the back of a postcard.

The flipbook was 5 x 7 inches, a manageable size.  It was bound with washi tape. I tucked in Jane Austen postcards, Project Life cards, star-shaped Post-it notes, washi tape, and paperclip bookmarks–something else I learned to do this year.

Making the flipbook was an easy and fun activity; I’m looking forward to crafting another one. If you’d like to make your own flipbook and need to see more of the process, here’s the YouTube video I reviewed before making my own:

Doesn’t this look like fun for a rainy day?

Abandoned…

While traveling around Northern Alabama, I encounter many abandoned buildings–homes, businesses, barns.  Some of the buildings obviously lack love and care, and passersby watch them slowly fall to pieces. It seems time stands still for some other buildings since there are no visible signs of neglect (other than overgrown grass and bushes).

I often wonder why these buildings are empty and alone and what stories they have to tell.  This intrigue led me to create an “Abandoned” swap in the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.  It was for this swap that Midteacher sent the package I received yesterday.

She sent several photos of two abandoned buildings.

"Abandoned Building" by DBW aka Midteacher

“Abandoned Building” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr with canvas overlay.

This is a building Midteacher passed on her way home [from work].  She loved how it was falling apart.  In her note she wrote that “the roof caved in from last winter’s heavy snow and then, sadly, it was torn down this summer.”

Here’s another slightly different view:

Abandoned Building

“Abandoned Building” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

Here’s an old barn found on her friend’s property:

"Old Barn" by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

“Old Barn” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

And here’s a view of the silo:

"Silo" by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

“Silo” by DBW aka Midteacher. Edited in Pixlr.

I sent SilverD, my “send to” partner, a notecard featuring an older photo and a building we pass three times a week, but finally stopped to photograph a month or two ago.

"Abandoned on a Corner"

“Abandoned on a Corner”

SilverD thinks the building was an old store or saloon. It also looks like a home with many additions. I’m not sure.

Here’s the altered photo in black and white:

"Abandoned on a Corner"

“Abandoned on a Corner”

Its neighbor is also abandoned.

"Abandoned's Neighbor"

“Abandoned’s Neighbor”

Though perhaps not as abandoned.

I have a whole collection of “abandoned buildings” buried on my computer. Perhaps, when life slows down a little, I’ll take the time to pull a few and share them.  Maybe, by then, I will know some of the stories. 😉

Until next time…

 

Autumn Happy Mail

I hope you’re not tired of reading about autumn, because I received a bit of autumn happy mail today and I have to share!

Swap-bot’s Midteacher sent a swap in an autumn-themed envelope with a gorgeous autumn card and photo.  Autumn was not the theme of the swap, but it is not unusual for swappers to send extras that the receiver will enjoy. Of course, my love for the season is no secret.

I will share the swap items tomorrow, but for today, let’s just take a look at the envelope and the autumn extras.  Here’s the pretty mail art:

Zentangled Leaves by Midteacher

Zentangled Leaves by Midteacher

Just seeing this envelope makes me smile.

On the inside was a card designed with one of Midteacher’s photos and embellished with paper, ribbon, and other items.

Fall Card made by Midteacher

Fall Card made by DBW aka Midteacher

I mentioned Midteacher’s card-making techniques in a post earlier this month.

She wrote a special thank you note inside which made me feel warm, fuzzy, and appreciated.

She adhered a little photo  inspiration to the inside of the card:

Photo Inspiration by Midteacher

Photo Inspiration by DBW aka Midteacher

And added a photo featuring her favorite autumn mug and a crunchy, frosty pile of autumn leaves:

"Leaves and Tea," Photo by DBW/Diane aka Midteacher (swap-bot)

“Leaves and Tea,” Photo by Diane aka Midteacher

Now, I have to make a decision: Should these go on my “Fall Wall” or should they be used in my journaling?  Maybe, they should go on the wall until I’m ready to use them in a journal. Hmmm… I’ll figure it out later. For now, I’ll just enjoy the little happy-makers.

“See ya” tomorrow…