Last week on a solo road trip, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a conversation between Mary Oliver, America’s best-selling poet, and local favorite Krista Tippett from On Being. While driving in Northern Minnesota engaged in this incredible podcast, Listening to the World, I was brought to tears by the story of Mary Oliver as a young writer in the wilderness.
Although a strong student, as a young adult Mary would often skip school to wander in the woods of Ohio, where she found her needed peace and inspiration. Mary wrote down everything she observed from nature, never leaving home without her notepad and pen in hand. There was no other way she was able to create and share her thoughts – immediately scribbling down emotions the moment they entered her mind was her act of poetry.
Clam digging in Provincetown, 1964
A prolific writer of both poetry and prose, receiving the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and publishing over 25 books over the years, Mary has continued to handwrite everything she creates and can’t imagine any other way to capture her daily observations.
Oliver at Book Signing
Although she mentions it’s more difficult to handwrite in her older years (thankfully her poems are becoming shorter these days), she still uses pen and paper for all her work. So as April’s National Poetry Month (as well as National Letter-Writing Month) comes to a close, I feel extremely grateful for the words and beauty which Ms. Oliver has brought into our world, all through the simple act of placing mind to pen to paper. What is stopping you?
One of the excitements around the holidays for Emmett and Oliver is checking the mailbox (I wonder where they get that from?). Every day their anticipation grows with the hope another holiday card will arrive. Now it’s switched from holiday greetings to Thank You notes but soon this will come to an end as well. Other than the occasional birthday invitation or a postcard from a traveling friend or relative the “Mail Season” is over for the boys. But before we stop stalking our Postman….
Let’s check out these opportunities available for kids to receive weekly or monthly mail.
A winner of the Parent’s Choice Awards, Little Passports allows children to live through the adventures of Sam and Sophia as they travel the world reporting back from a new country each month. Not only will they receive a package in the mail with a personal letter addressed to the child but also a passport stamp, a photo from the country, souvenirs, and more.
Abe’s Peanut combines original art and stories with good, old-fashioned stamps. Every month a different story will be shared through four postcards, each addressed to the young and cheery recipient. Abe’s Peanut is all about making “mail magic” for kids and moving away from the digital world.
However, you don’t need to sign up for any programs if you have a willing correspondent such as a grandparent or friend who lives on another coast. Ask them to become pen pals with your kids or send postcards while they’re traveling. Help your kids start a postcard collection – Hang the postcards from a mobile, create a wall for displaying. My mother-in-law finds all kinds of reasons to send her grandsons mail, be it an invitation for a lemonade & cookie picnic or a handwritten poem during the month of April (National Poetry Month).
On your end, teaching children to write letters is handing them the power of the pen. While a preschooler might find joy “drawing” a letter or dictating to you a note to a loved one, your grade schooler can first begin with including their own name and the receiver’s name and eventually move on to sentences about the weather and their mood. If the child is writing back and forth to a pen pal it can become even more exciting. I have kept all the letters from a childhood friend, Jeffrey George, who would write me detailed letters while living in Brussels as a boy. I would read these over and over again imagining the castles he visited and trains he rode. Who knows if he enjoyed reading about my piano lessons and Brownie Troop but it’s hard to imagine how the sight of a letter with one’s name scribbled on the envelope wouldn’t put a grin on any kid’s face!