January 7, 2012

Stamp of Inspiration

Over the course of three decades P and I managed to accumulate a large (some might say excessive) collection of rubber stamps.  The initial impetus for purchasing them was to amuse ourselves and our correspondents with decorative touches on letters, birthday and holiday cards.  This was of course a time when people actually wrote letters. Even ordinary brown paper-wrapped packages became more intriguing when adorned with stamped designs.  I smugly sensed that customers waiting in line with me at the post office were envious of the fancy and fun packages I was mailing compared to their own Plain Jane versions.  As our stamp collection grew I concentrated on making elaborate three-dimensional cards, hand-coloring stamps, embossing with my hot pink heat gun, and stamping with glitter. Eventually my work space diminished, my enthusiasm waned, but I continued to buy rubber stamps.

Prior to our move to Pasadena we made a major commitment to down-sizing.  We gave away, "gifted" and had a massive yard sale.  Throughout this process our rolling cart of 12 drawers crammed with about 200 rubber stamps remained unscathed.  Even though rubber stamps don't translate well to the virtual communication techniques of emails and texting, we couldn't bring ourselves to part with a single one. Deciding to sell a much beloved  table was an easier decision.  When moving day arrived I wrapped the cart shut, rolled it onto the moving truck, and a day later rolled it off into our storage unit. Done deal.

Until now. We recently made another commitment--to divest ourselves of the storage unit.  There is  no physical space for the cart and no legitimate need for all the stamps.  Released from the confines of the cart, the stamps covered the dining room table for a few days while we walked around them, reminisced and thought about their future in our lives.  Nora got first choice. She selected enough sentimental favorites to fill up several plastic bags, and I added two special stamps we'd ordered from the back of Cheerios boxes years ago--imprecise but still recognizable images of two and four-year-old Nora permanently captured in rubber.  A large box of miscellaneous stamps was sent off to a young teacher friend with the hope they might be used by her students.  The table was now half empty. I became more brutal with my assessments.  Stamps were thrown out, and the ones that made the final cut were fit like puzzles into three smaller plastic boxes.

As I packed up the "message" stamps, I noticed a theme and took a picture of ones above.  Originally we purchased them to instill guilt in our friends and family.  A cute (and slightly passive/aggressive) way of saying "hey, I wrote you, now write me back!"  But as I looked at them yesterday I realized they offer a different message now--less admonition and more personal inspiration.  "Please write!...Why haven't you  written?..No feeble excuses or artificial explanations of any kind." I may never use these stamps again, but I won't ignore their directive. 

Another favorite stamp reads "This is not art."  After a long hiatus I'm not striving to create art--I'll settle for creating a habit. Write.

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