12 March 2014
Dinner prep starts at 5, so I only have ten minutes to write and get downstairs. But I needed to show you the most important part of the island: the Post Office.
Before I arrived, I was so sure I would become best friends with the postman/postmistress, that he/she would see me coming in and smile, would recognize me, would welcome my arrival and pull out her books of stamps, knowing that I will be coming in for more soon.
When I came here, I saw how quickly reality can alter the only hope or expectation I had about coming.
Hilary is not a friendly postmistress, although I think she has given some people a few very forced smiles. Not me. To me, she throws across a glare that makes me question whether I am supposed to be here at all. I’ve only been in twice. The rest of the time, I post my letters and cards in the postbox outside.
The post office backs up onto the beach, which is the only redeeming quality. And on the other end, arriving mail is brought over on the ferry, needing two boats and a few islands to reach us here. It’s brought up to the Iona Welcome Centre, divided up into essentials and volunteer and staff mail, and then brought to our individual homes. Yesterday, two massive packages arrived at our house for Wendy. It’s her birthday tomorrow. I’ve gotten a card, and it arrived on Monday, when I happened to be in the Welcome Centre, peering over Pete’s shoulder at the day’s mail until he told me that I could help him sort it. My name jumped out at me, and I wandered around the Welcome Centre reading the card, giggling to myself, and feeling generally elated that something someone had written by hand had reached me, all the way out here, surrounded by the sea. I had to re-read it a few times, just to clarify. This is for me, and it has made the journey. All the words are intact. The ink is still there.
I’m averaging about a letter and a postcard per day, but I’m about to have two full afternoons off on Thursday and Friday, so that number will likely increase. I’ve been here for 6 days, and I’ve written 8 letters and 9 postcards. Okay, I’m way over my estimate. I’m glad I’m keeping a log — I’ll tally it all up and let you know the final numbers.
Today, I made dumplings from scratch. And bread. I made bread from scratch. When I poured it onto the table to wrangle it into breadtins, I watched how it moved, how quickly it needed attention. At first it was an overwhelming struggle, but I almost said to Anja at the end: I understand the bread now. I know how it thinks and what it wants. It’s like getting to know a person who is desperate for guidance.
Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change
Naomi Shihab Nye
Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery
by the side, but not the tracks.
I’ve watched one for three years, she says,
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.
Peter isn’t sure. He saw an abandoned track
near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train
is a changed track. The metal wasn’t shiny anymore.
The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.
Every Tuesday on Morales Street
butchers crack the necks of a hundred hens.
The widow in the tilted house
spices her soup with cinnamon.
Ask her what doesn’t change.
The rose curls up as if there is a fire in the petals.
The cat who knew me is buried under the bush.
The train whistle still wails its ancient sound
but when it goes away, shrinking back
from the walls of the brain,
it takes something different with it every time.