For The Documented Life Project’s Week 3 Challenge, we were encouraged to use an envelope that we received in the mail somehow in the art journal page. It could be whole or in parts, altered in any way. I feel like this challenge really prompted me to go more slowly and thoughtfully, as I waited for the “right envelope” to come my way.
This challenge also came at an interesting time in my new year. For most of my life, I’ve lived in places where I don’t have family. I’ve built and created families out of close friends. Since I’ve recently moved to a new place, I have my newly created community here, but then I have friends and family across the country. This week, I had two long distance friends contact me for help and one friend send me her “save the date” card for her wedding in June in New York. I spent most of my time this week thinking about these friends and how I can remain connected to them.
Enter the envelope challenge. Envelopes feel to me as a way to both bridge and mark distance. They bridge distance by sending notes from afar, like my friend’s save the date card. But they also mark distance in the postmark, the literal mark of their travels. As I was thinking about this, I thought about maps. On Flickr, I found a Creative Commons licensed image of maps, which included the lines “Maps are Not True for All Purposes”, “True Distance, ” and “These Are Distortions”. Building on these lines, I wrote:
Maps are not true
for all purposes.
These are distortions.
True distance is measured
in the tension created
when you stretch your heart thin
across a continent.
When your heart traces
frequently traveled routes,
a flight map of memory.
I travel this path,
all too often.
I took a photo on my way to work, of tire tracks in the snow, then altered it in PicMonkey so that most of my words were overlay-ed on top of that image. Then, I made a separate version of that image for the pocket of the envelope, to include the last lines. Based on the color scheme of my Flickr picture, I used blue and green acrylic to accent my pages. I also created a “flight map” for my front cover, which shows the states where my closest loved ones live: California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.
This week’s challenge felt more like a journal to me, a way to process what was an emotionally full week. In year’s past, I would have just kept trudging without really thinking about the ways my distance from family and friends is both connecting and isolating. Once again, I find myself so grateful for this process and project. It’s really becoming a center for me throughout my weeks.