I like to walk out along the road to get the mail.
There's a letterbox out there I've used for the last 16 years. It is rusty. It states on the door that it's been approved by the postmaster general, so it can't be all bad. Thought about painting it many times, but then I stop myself.
I like its color of rust.
Yeah, I know its corrosion is caused by water, and rust's gobbling nature makes things fall apart. Rust frightens. It's not clean. Destruction, inactivity, neglect. But we are all rusty in some ways, aren't we? So it is part of the movement of life. And every day it makes the act of getting the mail like getting back in the saddle once more. You simply open the mailbox door and look inside its corrugated grey for some sort of surprise.
It is not Christmas every day in northern Virginia. But at this time in my life, nothing inside this rusty container along a country road frightens me. Bills come every month, and I pay them. Living simply keeps the content of these glassine-windowed envelopes acceptable.
I like when the Dalai Lama writes to me. It's always addressed personally to "Dear Friend", and filled with words seeking dough for the International Campaign for Tibet. The last one included a string of paper Tibetan prayer flags. Cheez, I love the thought of those things. String them outside your house and the blessings fly off in the wind to land on someone else in the world. Though methinks this string would last about 1.5 seconds outside in the wind and would detach and fly and tangle in the holly tree behind the back porch. Sturdier sanctity is needed in this Virginia. So I've strung 'em edge-to-edge on the bulletin board in my office that is so full of photos/paper, it could use some grace.
And the annual birthday card from my beloved Aunt Cookie. She never forgets. Ever. She and our favorite Uncle John have retired to the beach in Delaware, and have better things to do than send birthday cards. At 51, it still makes me smile. Though I have stopped shaking the cards so the ice cream money falls out. Well, sorta.
The other day I opened the mailbox door to find a box. I had forgotten I had ordered great ideas. Sent by a service called The Readers Subscription located in that great book mailing mecca of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, I received 12 paperbacks from a publisher called Penguin. They are simple little books, light little numbahs from thinkers, radicals, pioneers and perhaps a visionary or two thrown in to make sure you are getting your money's worth:
The Symposium - Plato
The Art of War - Sun-tzu
The City of Ladies - Christine de Pizan
How to Achieve True Greatness - Baldesar Castiglione
Of Empire - Francis Bacon
Where I Lived, and What I Lived For - Henry David Thoreau
Conspicuous Consumption - Thorstein Veblen
Eichmann and the Holocaust - Hannah Arendt
Fear and Trembling - Soren Kierkegaard
A Vindication on the Rights of Woman - Mary Wollstonecraft
The Social Contract - Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
So the old postal container standing stoically along the road delivers rusty thoughts that can always be revisited. And tonight I will read, just before I fall asleep, and those long-ago published thoughts will be different. And as I turn out the light, I will remember that I am too.