Two and a half years ago, I made the somewhat obscure decision to buy a collection of hand-lettered items from a stranger on the internet named Ali. I didn’t know her personally, but I had recently started following her on Instagram, and she offered a collection of her work for sale. I bought it, not knowing what to expect, and was immediately enthralled. I continued to buy these collections as they evolved into a monthly mailing. And now, two and a half years later, saying goodbye to her mail, this mail that I look forward to most each month, feels like saying goodbye to a dear friend.For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a word appreciator. This quality came from both of my parents – my mom, in her desire to bring people together over hymn sings and poetry readings, and my dad, in his ability to quote long poems at random, his need for books contributing to the constantly overflowing bookshelves in our living room. Words have always been a part of my life. I struggled when I found out that a guy I was dating didn’t read. I’m usually that person at parties that asks people to bring a quote or poem to share. I believe in the power of poetry. There is no greater gift to give or receive than a book, inscribed with a message on the inside cover (just ask Iceland). So as these envelopes of inspiring words started appearing in my mailbox, my love of words evolved. My eyes were opened to the impact that the perfectly selected set of words can have.
I started incorporating these hand-lettered words into my instagram photos, taking snapshots of my table and enjoying the process of curation along the way. This became a new creative outlet for me, largely thanks to these words from Ali, and continues to be something I deeply enjoy. These photos provide a glimpse into my life, into the way I interpret the world, into my strivings for appreciating the art of slower living.
Bold and courageous women have been a constant presence throughout these mailings. Words from Amy Poehler, Anne Lamott, Shauna Niequist, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Maya Angelou, among others, stand as beacons of strength and wisdom amidst the din of lies and misguided advice so prevalent in our world today:
These beautiful words have infiltrated my life completely: they cover my tables, they sit in my drawers, they live in my wallet, they hang on my refrigerator, they flood my instagram. These words encouraged me to improve my photography and styling skills, prompting me to take clearer, brighter photos. These words have been the benediction and encouragement to dear friends: I gave these words as some of my favorite people moved to Ecuador to work in community development, I gave these words to my beloved friend when she had a miscarriage, I gave these words to friends when they experienced death in their families, I gave these words when my friend changed jobs, I gave these words to some mentors as a thank you for their teaching, I gave these words to a boy I was dating when he ended it by saying he wasn’t willing to be vulnerable, I gave these words when my friends adopted the most darling set of twin girls, I gave these words alongside Christmas presents, birthday presents, baby gifts, and wedding gifts, with notes to new friends and old, grandparents and cousins. These words have hit home as my family journeys through cancer, these words spoke comfort when my grandma died, these words gave strength and courage in the midst of quitting my job and pursuing true vocation, these words have brought light to dark places, these words brought to life the simple complexity of language and the perfectly chosen quote.
So as I proceed into the coming months without a recurring envelope of new words, I must continue to gather these words for myself. I will listen just a bit harder for them, I will seek them out, I will write them down in my notebook, I will think about them and memorize them, I will say them out loud to myself, I will put them into my eternal collection to draw from as needed. Forever shall I be indebted to Ali for her art that opened my eyes to the power of beautiful words.