In March, my friend Elizabeth and I took a workshop together at Kripalu, Vibrant Visionary Collage, led by Karen Arp-Sandel. We had no idea what we were in for! We thought it an opportunity to mix girlfriend time, yoga retreat, spa and getaway with a little art. Little did we realize how transformative, fun and mind-shifting four days of "innocent" collage making in a roomful of mostly middle-aged goddesses could be.
One of my favorite discoveries that Karen turned us onto is mail art, where the postal system is medium, and the art is handmade collaged postcards to friends, family, or really anyone. Karen and her partner-in-crime, Suzi Banks Baum, call it FEmail, which I love. Karen and Suzi are the Queens of FEmail as far as I'm concerned - check out their current (extended!) exhibition at Berkshire Art Kitchen.
Elizabeth and I were so inspired by all of this that we vowed to send each other a piece of mail art every month. What better way to stay in touch with the yin and yang of our distant and often out-of-touch lives throughout the year, when what we really want is more time for connection and being present with one another? I wasn't sure if I could make my April deadline, though, with recent knee surgery packing me a wallop I'd not fully anticipated - my convalescence was more like a hibernation as I navigated drug allergies, infection and deep fatigue.
I felt more than a little protective letting go of E's postcard. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the postal attendant - would s/he give me a hard time for sending something that didn't comply with postal standards, or would they be game for a little art? I also knew my little masterpiece would be immediately changed the moment I handed it over for postage and hand-cancelling.
And that's exactly what happened. Not only did the attendant smile and take a moment to look at both sides of the piece, he patiently looked through all of his stamps to find just the right combination to arrange in the space I'd left. "See?" I said, "You're a collaborator on this piece of art!" He smiled. I felt so good leaving it in his hands, knowing that the first part of it's journey to Elizabeth was good.
When I returned home today, guess what was waiting for me in the mail? Elizabeth's April postcard to me. I got a little weepy has I caressed it and gazed, the message both powerful and tender to me.