One of the highlights of last year for me was the 2022 Postcard Project.
It was one of the best kinds of things, starting with a simple notion and evolving into something much bigger and more fun than I could have imagined.
I wasn't sure what would happen last year when over Memorial Day weekend, I wrote a column asking people to send me postcards from their travels throughout the summer. Fortunately, people got on board. The evidence of their participation remains within arm's reach of my keyboard as I type — a 5-inch high stack of postcards from readers who traveled to all 50 states and 18 countries.
In full disclosure, postcards from the last two states arrived days after the project officially ended. (Here's looking at you, Oklahoma and Idaho!)
Via the Postcard Project, I heard from old friends, new friends, strangers, brothers of friends in New York, aunts of readers in New Jersey, ex-stepmothers of others in Alaska.
Turns out that postcards can be evidence of just how amazing people can be. In a sweet way, they are such a great example of one person taking the time and energy to connect with another.
Looking at last year's postcards now, I remember those days and the brightness I felt when I stopped by the front desk of the newspaper and picked up the day's postcards. In fact, I made a friend in the process. Sha'Brian Armstrong had just started her job manning the front desk, and she began to get almost as excited as I did about the postcards. On some mornings, I would walk up and she would say things like, "You've got Nebraska and another one from Colorado!"
Then, I would sit at my desk and read each postcard, smiling all the while. My dad was dying a long and agonizing death last summer. Smiling about postcards was lovely. The postcards were these little bits of happy that no one had to do, but they did.
That's the best life has to offer, isn't it? When people do things they don't have to do just to spread a little joy or fun?
Some people sent me antique postcards that their grandmothers collected — one was of the official state flag of Kansas, which, according to the postcard, was adopted by the Kansas Legislature in 1927 and "revised in 1961 with the Great Seal and Crest symbolizing Kansas history." (I thought you'd want to know.) The postcard was a gift from Jack H. Brier, former Kansas Secretary of State. (I looked it up and Brier held the position from 1978 until 1987.)
A woman named Charlene Cress in Zachary, a retired teacher, sent me a postcard she bought in 1981 on her first trip to Alaska.
"I saved five of these for special folks," Cress wrote. "I ran across it as I was downsizing and moving. You are 'special folks' now. I have since been to Alaska 12 times."
That was not the only Alaska postcard I received. Marcia Matthieu sent one from The Inn at Coldfoot Camp, Coldfoot, Alaska — located 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle. She wrote the card on July 2, 2022, on her drive up the Dalton Highway to the shore of the Arctic Ocean.
I learned so much throughout the project, like what postcrossing is. Christy Ricketts, of Gonzales, explained that postcrossing is a project that allows you to send postcards and receive postcards back from random people around the world. (To be clear, that's real postcards, not electronic ones.)
Sending real postcards takes extra effort. In fact, I learned that real postcards are trickier to find. Miriam Kolwe got creative when she couldn't find a postcard in New Jersey. She took a photo and turned it into a postcard and mailed it. Where there's a will, there's a way!
We've got high hopes for this year. I considered creating a theme for the 2023 Postcard Project, but I decided postcards are difficult enough to come by and, as my father would say, it's always a good idea to "dance with the one that brung you" — so all postcards are welcome!
However, if you want a personal challenge and are simultaneously looking to up your postcard game, Earl Toops, of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, sent in four tips last summer about postcard writing. On a postcard, of course.
He said it's a good idea to have some congruency between the card and where it's marked from. He suggests to include a weather report.
"Say something profound, such as “Castle Bran in Romania has as much relationship with the novel “Dracula” as Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” has to “The Nibelungenlied," Toops wrote. "Try and get a hand stamp, not a machine one."
Get in on the fun early. Send postcards to Jan Risher, The Advocate, 10705 Rieger Rd., Baton Rouge, LA 70809. We will create a digital map and report back throughout the summer. The 2023 Postcard Project will end Labor Day weekend.