a sonder file: snail mail, v. VIII

It’s my birthday twin–Alison! She’s sondering us to the pathways of tangible connections that connect the intangible. Today, we’re talking about what it is to hold onto human connection when you’re in the middle of letting go of almost everything else…

Welcome to the Sonder Files.

sonder789

We have no home. By choice.

About five years ago Don was still working as a neuropsychologist and it was making him sick. Literally. He was 68 and desperately needed to retire. He worried about money all the time. I had a small part-time business as a domestic cleaner, which I loved, but the income was insignificant in the big picture. We simply couldn’t afford for Don to retire and for us to maintain our then comfortable lifestyle.

Through a visit to an intuitive counselor, and a lot of soul-searching, and daily writing, Don suddenly came up with a solution. Way out in left field. We’d sell our apartment, become nomads and travel the world. So we did. We started travelling almost four and a half years ago and have practically never looked back. It’s been the best thing we ever did. It has enlivened us in ways we never could have imagined, and forced us to live more and more in trust and presence.

But when you have no home what do you do about mail? Initially we converted all our regular accounts (bank, credit card, cell phone statements, etc.) to email. Some financial statements had to come by snail mail by law, and I think a few still do, but that has diminished. It took about twelve months for us to get our names of all those endless advertising lists – many phone calls ranging from polite to irate saying would you please get my name off that list and never put it on there again.

Our mail goes to friends who live in the same building where we owned our apartment. When we returned briefly from our first trip of less than three months they had a stack of mail for us about three inches high. After our second trip of six months it was about four inches high. Now after more than four years it’s down to maybe half a dozen items. Like tax notices and receipts. You simply can’t avoid those.

I don’t remember when I found Rarasaur, and started following her blog. We come from completely different generations, and I don’t always understand what she writes about – some of the pop culture and super hero stuff is beyond me, though I have to say I loved the Spidey movies! Once, years ago, I made a comment on a post that she never replied to, and then realized later it was because I had no idea what she was talking about so my comment made no sense. But we discovered we are birthday sisters, giving us a mutual Virgo understanding of each other’s inner workings. And then there’s her joy, her love, her brilliant writing, and her dedication to creating big open-hearted community! Well you all know what she’s like. It’s why you’re reading this right now. Like you, with every post I’m drawn into her raw honest shiny optimistic world. And her big heart.

I’ve been a fan of competitive figure skating for about forty years, ever since I first saw it on Olympic television coverage in Australia when I was twenty-something. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. In my thirties I moved to Canada where figure skating is a national sport. Inevitably I discovered a figure skating fan forum. Through the forum I met fellow fans in person at competitions, and it is because of them that I have a blog. Long before Don retired we were heading off on six weeks of overseas travel and my figure-skating buddies asked me to post about our travels on the forum in the non-skating section. Six years later I still have a thread on that forum.

I think it was about a year after we became nomadic, prompted by others on the forum sending each other snail mail cards that I offered to send postcards from each country we visited to anyone who was interested. Several people have wanted to return the favour, and send Christmas cards, and well, any old kind of card just for fun, but of course I say no because – no address. The only mail I ever receive is a small amount of official mail and I need to keep it that way. At some point in time Ra was added to the post card list.

Then she went to prison.

Through her online community I was able to keep up with her various addresses and continued to send postcards, and then letters as well after Dave died. I couldn’t believe anyone could have to endure so much heartbreak. I sent the last letter very close to the time that she was to be released and didn’t know if she would receive it or not.

When we returned from two months travelling around Turkey, Jordan and Egypt last October there was a letter waiting for me that was not an official letter. It was my last letter to Ra and it had been returned. The California Prison System returns letters that can’t be delivered to the intended recipient! Wow! Amazing! I still have that letter. I’ve been carrying it around for all these months – to Montreal for Christmas, back to Vancouver, and now to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It is still relevant even though I wrote and mailed it from Sweden last July.

P3000061-Edit

P3000062

Each time I’ve looked through the small pile of papers I carry around with me, things that get lost in my laptop case, I’ve seen that letter (and the enclosed post card of Stockholm) and thought that I must mail it to Ra. And then I’d forget about it, procrastinate again. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to let go of it. Perhaps I didn’t care enough. Perhaps I cared too much. Perhaps its time has passed. Who knows?

I swear to god one day soon I will mail it. Finally I’ve gone so far as to buy an envelope to put it in. I’ve addressed the envelope. I even found an Oficina de Correo to buy a stamp but it was closed. Tomorrow maybe . . . . . . . or the next day . . . . . . . sometime in the next week . . . . . . . It’s on the way. I can feel it.

 

___________________________

weareallconnected.jpg

Alison and her husband Don have been bright lights in my journey. We’re so very different, but I think in the truly most important things, we have a large stretch of commonality and we play there often.   As to that “Inmate paroled” picture, well, it gives me shivers every time I see it.  Can you believe it, friends? I made it home.

Now’s your chance to find wonderland, too, so go go on– travel the world with Alison and Don. {One of the greatest things about life, is how we can go on adventures with friends through beautiful words and pictures!} But before you run off to her place, leave her a little comment here to let her know you’re thankful she sondered. It’s these types of messages that remind us that we make the flavor of our world…

http://alisonanddon.com/

55 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed and appreciated your post Alison. I so admire that you and your husband have made the choices that you made. What wonderful adventures you must have had since you became a nomad. I look forward to perusing your blog!

    And I also love the things you said about Ra. Your words are so true.

    Like

    1. Hi Karuna, I’m so sorry I’ve taken so long to reply to you. I didn’t get the memo 🙂
      Thanks for your kind words. It was an honour to be able to write this post for Ra. I think she’s a light for many.
      Alison

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Too late. Don mailed the letter from Mexico this morning. Finally!
      Although we have many friends in the US, and there are many wonderful places that I’d love to visit, and I’d absolutely love to actually meet Ra in person, we tend to avoid it because now Don is over 70 the cost of medical insurance is truly heinous.
      Alison

      Like

    1. Oh Juliette thank you! I loved your Sonder too.
      I was immersed in Canadian and US Nationals and Europeans for nearly 3 weeks – finally sticking my head up from skating again. Oh and I’ve also been watching a bit of roller slalom. Amazing! The world is a beautiful place!
      xoxox right back
      Alison

      Like

    1. Thank you so much Gunilla, I’m glad you enjoyed it. There’s definitely a place in the heart where Ra and I meet. We’re the overlap in a venn diagram. Your jewellery is beautiful!
      Alison

      Like

  2. Don (Alison’s husband) here, writing to say that I took Alison’s letter to the Officina de Correo (post office) this morning, and paid 18 pesos (about US$1) to send it to Ra with much love and big hugs attached.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Kathryn for your wonderful compliment. I mean it. I frequently read the blogs of others and wish I could write as well – Ra’s for instance! It was her exquisite and effortlessly profound writing, and her big heart, that brought me to her.
      Alison

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Alison! It has been quite some time since our wires last crossed, it was such a pleasure to read your sonder today! I often, if not daily, daydream about packing up the vitals and taking off. Unfortunately, it is not financially feasible for my husband and me at this point in our lives, but maybe someday!

    I haven’t been around the blogosphere as much as I’d like lately so I haven’t caught any of your recent posts. I’m going to make an effort to change that 🙂 Hope all is well!

    ❤ A

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much A! Yes, someday you will take off. If it’s in your heart it’s bound to happen eventually. I’ve been a bit withdrawn from the blogosphere myself lately. Having a little rest. I think we all need that from time to time. All is well. Hope it is with you too.
      Alison ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Alison and Don,
    I fell into an Alice type hole, followed someone who commented on my blog then another who commented there and so on until I came across your words. I am pleased to virtually meet you and hope one day you pop along to my blog put your feet up and enjoy the scribbles memories poems and stories i post. Until then safe journey traveller’s. 😇.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ellen – you fell into a rabbit hole and ended up in Wonderland. I’m so glad you did! I’m pleased to meet you too, and look forward to perusing your blog in the near future. This afternoon probably.
      Alison ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Alison & Don,

    Congratulations on your Gypsy lifestyle…my leanings are fairly nomadic too. Being a Canadian RN, I can clearly understand why you avoid the health care in the US and get your fix on skating when you can. I have missed what the heck this whole Sonder thing is, but how wonderful you are still carrying that letter. Hopefully RaRa shares it with us at some point. 🙂

    Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ridicuryder. Ah, skating – an endless pleasure for me. One of the greatest gifts of the Internet, otherwise I’d see practically none at all since we became nomadic. The letter has finally been posted. From Mexico. I think we can rely on the Mexican mail system, unlike that of, say, India or Laos. I sent postcards from those places and never heard from anyone if they received them or not. Maybe one day soon Ra will get the letter. And maybe she’ll share it. Or not. 🙂
      Alison

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much Rowena. I can’t believe I carried that letter around for so long. Maybe I just wanted to carry around a little reminder of Ra. At the same time I trust in the timing of the universe. It has finally been mailed!
      Alison xox

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alison, I really get that sense of timing or serendipity. I was inspired to write a poem about a young girl who I’d barely met and it took me a long time to give it to her. I wrote about it and such experiences in a post “The Love of A Stranger”, which I thought you might enjoy xx Rowena

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I really enjoyed your post – thank you for sharing it with us. I’m off to check out your blog as well.
    Take care and safe travels. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I loved being able to share this story. Ra’s right – we are all connected. Maybe I carried that letter around with me all those months as a little reminder of that.
      Alison

      Like

  7. Incredible. But then after twenty-seven years as a therapist and mental health director, I can say with certainty, that bloggers are the most incredible people, especially Alison and Rara, but then I am a virgo, so probably biased. Bloggers enrich my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Alison…so nice to see you as a guest on Ra! I always love the positive take you take on things. This post and the idea of the letter somehow gives me a sense that not only are we all connected, but that everything actually is OK.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks BF. I do think we are all connected, and that everything actually is OK. I love that you got that from my post. I’ve felt for a long time, despite appearances, that everything really is OK. Life unwinds itself as the appearance of individual selves, but there’s this feeling we’re really just one, lost in the illusion of separateness.
      Alison

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Darlene. I think that letter was a small kind of miracle – the way I mailed it too late for her to receive it, the way it came back to me, the way I carried around with me for months, until finally its real purpose was revealed – a tangible illustration of the connectedness between everything. Only then, when it had served this purpose could it be mailed to Ra. Magic eh?!
      Alison

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Alison, you and Don never seize to amaze me. Your plethora of wonderful travel stories and now this touching adventure of human connectedness. Might there be a sequel some day?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Helga. The way that letter served to show the connection between us all feels quite amazing to me. Maybe there will be a sequel. Maybe Ra and I will actually meet in person one day. That would be beautiful. That would be a story to tell!
      Alison

      Like

  10. Very intriguing post. I was not familiar with the term sonder before this, but while reading, the German (my background) meaning kept coming to my mind: special.
    I love snail mail and figure skating (used to do in my youth and still get out to skate once a week, and watch comps of course).
    Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Caroline. Ra came up the word sonder, from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. To Quote Wiki: “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a website and YouTube channel created by John Koenig that defines neologisms for emotions that do not have a descriptive term. Each neologism, while completely created by Koenig, is based on his research on etymologies and meanings of used prefixes, suffixes, and word roots.” So sonder could easily include the German meaning.
      Another FS fan! Yay! But then you are Canadian so of course! I’m really looking forward to Four Continents next weekend.
      Alison

      Like

  11. This is a truly magical story, the spirit of sonder in action. Your writing tugs the heart strings Alison, I long to know more of Ra’s story, where is she now, what is she doing, why was she in prison, is she still blogging, maybe under another name? The questions are endless. I hope your snail mail reaches its destination. I also hope you are now resting and recovering in your new space. I do admire you both for taking life by its throat and I look forward to receiving your posts that transport me into your world.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks again pommepal. I know you’ve realized that you’ve written this on Ra’s blog, and that if you poke around enough probably all your questions will be answered. She is indeed an inspiration. I hope she lets me know if the letter ever reaches her form Mexico.
      Alison

      Liked by 2 people

Rawr?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s