how to write seasonally unaffected greeting cards

The key is to write more than your name.

dsc08085-copyIn other words, resist the urge to buy a seasonally affected message under which you leave your signature.

Write words. Thoughts even.

Write in ink. (or pencil or crayon or anything along those lines)

Sit down with your address book, by which I mean an actual book made of paper and cardboard that lives in a basket on your kitchen counter and which is dog-eared and generally beaten up.

Flip through its pages and see names of people you see and talk to all the time and some you haven’t spoken with all year.

dsc08080-copy dsc08078-copyThere may be a reason you haven’t talked all year, but not to worry… there’s something very possible  about keeping in touch via annual conversations in ink. And in many cases, preferable.

So open your battered address book and begin.

dsc08074-copy dsc08070-copy dsc08069-copyRemember the woman you haven’t seen since the 80’s that you used to work with and once took an auto body repair class together. You had a rusty Dodge Dart. She made amazing rice. You haven’t seen each other or heard each others voices in more than thirty years. You don’t even email. The only time you’re in touch is at this time of year. By card. You’re up to date on events, if not inner psyches. (Not necessary to be up to date on every psyche.)

And your godmother who you never call often enough and friends across the country, and those who live an hour away but you only meet once a year.

You will find a man who turns 99 this month and still has all his marbles, and a woman who is 83 and has the smile of a teenager.

And the address of an old friend no longer around. You keep her name in the book anyway and every year you think what you might have written to her.

dsc08065-copySend notes also to the names you see and talk to all the time because the things you say in handwriting are different than what you say in keyboard or words out loud.

dsc08058-copyYou can buy cards or make them. From photos. Or potato stencils.

(In the past you may have chosen to drink rum and eggnog as you wrote but have since discovered you’re lactose intolerant and the rum makes your handwriting illegible by the time you get to the L’s in your address book.)

Options: Light a fire. Get cosy. Make tea or open a bottle of wine (see above). If it snows so much the better.

dsc08075-copyEmbrace the remembering that goes with each name and notice the different things you write to each person, the reminder that each relationship is its own thing.


See the exhibit of textile sculptures by Judith Scott (who is part magpie and part genius.)

Go with a friend.

(Stop here for lunch. Have the kale and quinoa salad. Say hey to Debbie.)

Pay a visit to the French store and say yes to that bottle of almond milk hand cream that will not stop flirting with you.

dsc08066-copy dsc08079-copy

Use pictures of the exhibit for this year’s cards. (If gallery approves said use.)

And even though you just saw the friend, send them a card too.

Especially them.


two things for a holiday monday

1.   Dear Moody Long Weekend Mornings… that conspire to keep their skies grey long enough to insist that I linger in bed fluffed with pillows and layered with pages—books, newspapers—and a pot of tea. Peppermint. Sometimes even going so far as to demand I have a square of dark chocolate.

My deep gratitude.

AND 2.   Dear Literary Press Group… who sent me a box of books that fit so well in the above-mentioned fluffing and layering. And all I did was like you on FB. How lovely you are, but please know my like is sincere and goes beyond any number of books (having said that, please also know I am beyond thrilled).

As for the books, well, they are perfectly exquisite gifts. The cover of each is a joy in itself.

I’ve already dived deeply into Rosemary Nixon’s Are You Ready to Be Lucky? because how can I do otherwise with an opening that goes: “Roslyn high-steps up Bantry Street on an icy Alberta evening buffeted by late-December gusts, holding high her sixty by forty centimetre tray of pineapple-stuffed meatballs, trying not to look like a woman who, at the yearly No Commitment Book Club Christmas gift exchange, received a can of gravy and… How to Seem Like a Better Person Without Actually Improving Yourself…”

There is also The Wondrous Woo, by Carrianne K.Y. Leung, and The Fleece Era, poetry by Joanna Lilley, which I’ve only peeked at and already love—not to mention that exquisite stock, the typeset, the black flyleaf. The words, did I mention the words? “I don’t look at paintings/ but at the walls on which they hang.”

Then there’s Swarm by Lauren Carter, a mildly dystopian novel about “a world only one turn of the dial from our own”, and a matter of survival by fishing, farming and beekeeping. My sort of thing. Finally—as if this bounty isn’t enough—A History of Breathing, a play by Daniel MacDonald that, based on a quick scan, I can’t wait to properly spend time with.

All of which to say: a thousand thanks, dear Literary Press Group. A box of books is no small event in this house.

the postman brought all that

Here’s what I love:

— that someone went into a shop and chose an image from a rack or a shelf

— that they had to get stamps too

— and a pen

— and then find a mailbox

— the whole process maybe taking a day or two, the postcard in their pocket or bag until they found a place to sit down and write it out… a cafe, no, a trattoria, or a park bench surrounded by pigeons, piccioni… all the while a small connection between sender and sendee—not to mention a trace of Italian sunshine still there in the corner…

I love all that.

Before I even read a word.

So grazie, young travellers, for knowing how much this would make us smile!

ink and stamps and a sidewalk, oh my

I wrote a postcard today.

I like postcards.

I like getting them and I like writing them.

I think, in a way, I like them more than envelopes and letters. Although there’s much to be said for envelopes.

Postcards are the original ‘tweet’, a status update. But with no expectations, no demand for immediate response. No pressure.

I walk along the sidewalk, drop the postcard into the box.

And someone will find it, take it to wherever I’ve said.

I never get over this amazing fact.

And then I walk home.

I cross a bridge on my way, stop a minute, look down.

I think I’ll write another postcard tomorrow.

i’ve got mail…

An especially nice delivery today included the gorgeous piece of always-art that is The New Quarterly, issue 121—reason enough to stop everything, boil some leaves and find a comfy chair—but this issue also features a [new] novel excerpt from the smart and funny Michelle Berry

[Note to self: brew extra big pot of tea.]

Also got three lovely chapbooks, ordered through Alberta Books after hearing about their literary salons. Events are intimate gatherings of twenty or so in private living rooms throughout Calgary—not designed to sell wagon-loads of books, but rather to appreciate words in the best way: with others who appreciate words. Each chapbook, simple but beautifully presented, is signed by all contributing authors, who vary from established to emerging and include, among others, Aritha van Herk, Jeramy Dodds and Betty Jane Hegerat.

What I love best is the nod these salons give to perhaps a more elegant past when life was possibly a bit slower and the world definitely a bit smaller and the pleasure of one’s company was what it was all about.

And the word ‘salon’.
I just love that word.

 “Mohammed told me that Palestinians are born knowing how to sling a stone. He joked that West Bank boys emerge from their mother’s womb swinging their umbilical cords over their heads. I stood behind the shabaab, afraid of being hit by an errant rock, and watched as they co-opted King David’s weapon against his own heirs. Some wrapped keffiyehs around their head to hide their faces, but most didn’t bother. The rain slickened cheeks too young for beards, and soaked through their blue jeans. Slings dangled from pockets like something cool.”  ~from In the Shadow of the Wall: Travels Along the Barricades, by Marcello Di Cintio (to be released by Goose Lane Editions in Fall, 2012)

More Mail:

art lesson

pocalogging to my own tune

dear mr. postman

the reason i like mail

thirty truths: 14

Truth #14:  I love postcards. Love buying them in souvenir shops and cheesy motel lobbies, love making them, collecting them, sending them when I travel, or when I don’t—to someone on the other side of the planet, or just a few blocks away. I love initiating a rousing pocalog a few times a year. And best of all… I love love love receiving them.

art lesson

In a recent round of POCALOGS to my young niece, I sent a postcard of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers—with a question, which, if answered correctly would win her a prize.

The question was: what is an unusual or interesting fact about the artist?

Her answer (painstakingly googled no doubt) came by email.

his name is vincent van gough and interesting facts about him are
He Suffered from Schizophrenia and Other Mental Health Problems.

Then a minute later, another email—

and he only had one ear.



pocalogging to my own tune

I think I’ve invented a word.

Pocalog: stands for POst CArd LOG. Similar but different from the original and ubiquitous WeB LOG—my version involves postcards, stamps, moving feet and letterboxes.

Also different from ‘writing postcards’, traditionally done on sunny foreign patios or beaches but can be (and is by me) done anywhere; I’ve got a lovely little stash of postcards, picking them up wherever, from flea markets to art galleries to cheesy souvenir shops and sending them out willy nilly to friends near and far all year round, almost always for no good reason— sometimes with nothing more than a brownie recipe scribbled on the back.

But I digress.

I was meant to be talking about another use for postcards, i.e. pocalogs. The idea being to send a postcard every day, or at regular intervals, just like writing a blog post. Only not endlessly, but for a designated period of time. I’ve only ever done it once—last year I sent a month of pocalogs to my niece, casual blurbs, sometimes with mini quizzes where she could win prizes, which she always won. (Google has made quizzes kind of pointless…)

So this year, because it went over so well and it seems to want to become a tradition (albeit reserved only for her), I’m doing her a pocalog of 31 ‘postcard’ stories for her birthday (plus a *donkey).

God bless technology but at the end of the day it’s such lovely nonsense that makes my world go round.

That and chocolate.

‘Stanley’s Shoes’

Stanley the alligator lived in a Florida swamp next to a house inside which lived a mean and miserable, crusty old Florida man of at least thirty-five, whose goal in life was to shoot Stanley and make a pair of shoes with his hide. But one day in his mean and crusty exuberance the man fell into the swamp with his mean and trusty rifle.

Sometime afterwards the other alligators in Stanley’s swamp said, Hey, Stanley, are those new shoes you’re wearing?

Heavens no, Stanley replied. Why, they’re at least thirty-five years old.


*Just to be clear, not a donkey for the garden (although I understand they make excellent watch dogs) but a sponsored one from The Donkey Sanctuary that she can visit. Her mother will be relieved.


dear mr. postman

Dear Mr. Postman,

Can I tell you that when I see your merry little van driving about, or when (all too rarely) it stops in front of my house and from my window I see you walk to my front door and ring the bell or when if I’m not home you leave a package or a note saying to pick up a package at the nearest post office—can I just say that it’s a happy occasion. Always.

And while we’re at it I think you should know that I’m always slightly amazed that for a pittance my own packages are taken to wherever in the country I say. That for about fifty cents someone will deliver a letter to a friend in B.C. and for under a dollar I can enclose shells or pebbles or sand and send it to my niece for her fairy beach. Who else but you would do that??

I’d like you to know that in this ever more frenzied world I find the tempo of post office mail almost soothing and that I’m grateful to see you arrive in all weathers, cutting through the small space between the tall grasses and the quince bush with a fistful of envelopes. I don’t (usually) mind if the mail is late or takes a week to get to me from Mississauga. It’s actually refreshing (occasionally) to wait for things, to not feel the need to demand or expect and then be disappointed or angry when responses don’t come at once. It’s like postal zen.

Because, as much as I admit to googling, I’m really quite tired of instant everything. I like postcards and handmade cards and red wine stains on crumpled stationery. I like the smell of writing paper and sometimes of the writer. And I like how I can prop the card up on the kitchen table and look at it a hundred times a day. How I can hold the letter and feel close to the person who wrote it because I know that not long ago they held it too.

Oh, sure, sure, I like email and all the other ways of communicating (no, wait, that’s a lie; I don’t like all the other ways…) and they each have their own advantages of course, but none—none—delivers sand or Halloween candy or feather boas or lipstick kisses, but you.

(For the record, I do not like the lady at the new post office outlet in the Shoppers Drug Mart. She’s snarly and un-postal and I don’t think she truly ‘gets’ the industry she’s in. Plus she charges packet prices for envelopes that sail through that magic measuring slot thing. I know, it’s her tiny bit of power. Still.)

Anyway, Mr. Postman, I won’t rattle on. I really just wanted to say this: cheers.

Sincerely yours,

A Correspondent.