Monday, October 17, 2011

Open to the New

Here is evidence I am open to something new in my life.

The other day, while my daughter was at soccer practice, I walked down to the post office to mail off a writing-contest entry.
Upon entering, I saw they had the old-fashioned mailboxes, some which even had combination locks to open them instead of keys. I gasped internally.  The slant of late afternoon sun made them appear like a bank of golden carvings.  At night, I still routinely dream of opening my college mailbox, turning the dial in anticipation of what might be inside. I think it also goes back to my fascination with small containers. (See the post below.)
Regardless, as I stood in line waiting to weigh my package, I noticed that one of the mailboxes was available for rent.  It was even one of the doors that required a combination.  If you look closely, you'll notice there aren't numbers to mark the revolutions, but letters!

I left that day without renting the box--just to make sure I really wanted it--which it turns out I did.

So, you may now send me mail at:
Britt Kaufmann
PO Box 863
Micaville, NC 28755

I promise to write a return note/postcard to anyone who sends me mail there.  (I can hardly wait!)

I also blame Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See which tells the story of two foot-bound Chinese women who are sworn friends for life. (Link for photos of foot-binding--not for the faint of heart.) For centuries, Chinese women were not able to walk from the house to converse with old family and friends, so were essentially confined to the homes of their husband's for life.  To combat the loneliness, they developed a secret written language.  Nu shu was taught in the women's room, mother to daughter, a written phonetic language... unknown to men.  A written language, created by women, for women, to maintain their friendships, to chronicle their lives, joys and despair.  While the nu shu is still being taught to preserve a cultural heritage, it is no longer a secret, nor does it have a practical application, since women are mobile and permitted to learn men's language.

As a lover of words and sneakiness, I find this heartbreaking.  (Though I would not advocate the return of such circumstances that found this language useful.)  I guess, having my own post office box is an attempt at reclaiming a part of that intentional communication.  These nu shu writings, embroidered on handkerchiefs or written on fans, were often burned upon a woman's death to carry messages of her into the afterlife.  But some are preserved.  Nu shu was written with great care, in concise, formal, numbered syllabic patterns. As much as we now depend on blogs, email, and facebook to communicated to loved-ones far away, I lament the temporality of it all.  (And I readily admit the fact I'm addicted to all three.) This "writing" will not last, even as nu shu has done.  As a writer I wish for communication where we thoughtfully consider what we write, focus on the intimate details of self-expression and audience... not simply reposting willy-nilly the blatherings of others.

Also, there is something to be said for an artifact in hand--for anticipation, instead of instant feedback: spin the dial between my fingers, feel the resistance of the cogs, the hinge swinging open... a letter from a friend sliding out into my waiting imagination.

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