Subscription postcards: Big strides, greywater reservoirs, and badgers

Postcard collage: A giant foot about to step across the Mississippi headwaters. Text: Award for stepping across the Mississippi River, Lake Itasca, Minnesota.

Hello Andrew! Here’s a postcard I picked up last summer at Lake Itasca, home to the Mississippi headwaters. Itasca is a made-up word, derived from the phrase veritas caput, Latin for “true head”. Apparently the actual headwaters of the Mississippi were a matter of some contention. While there I strode across the Mississippi with my dog Skillet. I was warned to be careful; if he peed in the river near the source he could flood New Orleans. A man and his dog, flirting with danger.

Postcard collage: A big sign that says "DAM" in front of a backlit sequoia.

Hello Mollie! I hope you like this postcard — I made it using a dam-awareness brochure I picked up in Minnesota last summer. Out here in the west all the reservoirs seem kind of low. I have been doing my part to help: I save all my used dishwater, and once a week I drive up to the mountains to dump it in the nearest reservoir. I am joining thousands of other planet-loving Americans in my quest for a greener earth. It must be working — when I turn on the faucet, the water comes out soapy and full of potato peels.

Postcard collage: A man in running clothes next to a tent and pine trees, with the text "All Natural". Behind him is a badger.

Hello Kathleen! Here is a postcard that I made last summer while I was in the Midwest. After I made this postcard I saw a badger in Iowa’s Loess Hills — another great case of life imitating art. For such fierce creatures, badgers sure are cute as the dickens.


ps: Did you know Wikipedia has an article titled “List of Fictional Badgers”?

Subscription postcards: Big trees, big bears, angry moose

Postcard collage: Man on ground in front of tree-trunk cross-section with date markers. Text: Class is now in session.

Hello Kevin, and happy New Year! Every January it is nice to look back across the years and take a gander at the soul-crushing march of human progress. And what better way to do that than in tree form? Class is now in session! You’ll need a notebook, work gloves, and a chainsaw. Excelsior!

Professor Tree

Postcard collage: Black bear climbing up sand dune. Text: Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan.

Hello Elizabeth! This postcard is from Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan. They are big hills made of sand, located on the shore of Lake Michigan. The dunes got their name from a Native American story. They say a bear and her cub swam across Lake Michigan. When they were done, they laid down on the shore for a long nap. It was so long that they got covered with sand, forming the big hills! According to the story, the bears are still down there sleeping.

Postcard collage: A moose sneaks up behind a man with a fish. Text: Moose on the loose.

Hello Carmel! This is a postcard that I made last summer while traveling in Minnesota. It depicts a moose sneaking up on a man to steal his lunch. According to the book Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance, moose in the United States and Canada kill more people per year (six) than any animal except snakes (twelve). In Anchorage, Alaska, more people are attacked by moose than bears. An Alaska state wildlife biologist warned to “assume every moose is a serial killer standing in the middle of the trail with a loaded gun.” Personally, I think that makes Americans sound more dangerous than moose.

Art by mail: Extreme Wisconsin geology

Postcard collage of glacial geology, the St. Croix River, and man on stand-up paddleboard thing

Message on postcard:
Hi Kate! Greetings from Berkeley, California, where I’m laid up a friend’s apartment recovering from a wild boar attack. The picture on this postcard is of the St. Croix River on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, I think. It was beautiful when I was out there earlier this summer and the water was high, before drought took hold in the Midwest.

My grandfather lived much of his life in a tiny town called Marine on St. Croix, and I visited his grave in the town’s tiny cemetery. I remember when I was a kid when my grandfather died; I was 12 or 13 years old, and it was the first death in the family I had to deal with. I was up late awake, crying in bed, when my dad came into my room to comfort me. It was his dad who’d just died, and he told me he remembered when his grandfather had died when he was a kid. I quieted down, expecting that he would say more, but that’s all there was, and just that much was all it took for me to find enough quiet to calm down.

My family was out here in California when I was attacked by the boar, and when I was in the emergency room worried about keeping my legs, my dad was there and knew the right thing to say. I don’t remember what it was, probably because of the morphine and the subsequent general anesthesia, but I told him about how what he had said when his dad died had helped me out … but thinking about it now I wonder if it’s not so much about hearing the right thing, but having the right person there to talk to you.