Snail mail - staying in touch

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’ve been thinking lately about relationships and friendships and how important it is to us to stay in touch, no matter how far the distance or time is that separates us.

After all that’s how Facebook became so popular, isn’t it?

Several years ago I spent some time in the outback filming an educational documentary about the Great Artesian Basin. We visited the ruins of a telegraph repeater station in the centre of Australia, and it was just extraordinary. You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere in the world made of such lonely beauty.

The locals told us the story of a settler who had sent for his English bride to join him. She survived the arduous voyage half way across the world by boat, alone, and the miserably long and hot journey to their farmstead, only to find him gone (I can’t remember why - he was hunting or trading in town or something). It was many months before he returned, and he found her almost starved and completely blind from the glare of the sun on the salt plains.

Desolation doesn't begin to describe that moonscape environment. Yet people CHOSE to live there and many of them didn’t just live, they thrived.

The repeater station I visited was one of 11 that stretched fully from the north to the south of Australia, over 2000 miles. Building the overland telegraph line, in those days and in those conditions, was one of the greatest engineering feats in Australia's history.

Once complete it finally put an end to the isolation, by putting Australia in touch with the rest of the world.

To put that sort of effort into a place that was so remote and unforgiving (it was almost 50 degrees one day we were there) shows a powerful desire to stay in touch, don’t you think? Nothing but the overwhelming need to remain connected to the outside world could get you digging and building and maintaining a place like that in an environment like that.

I was playing with all these kinds of ideas when I was decorating mail to send to lovely blog-readers recently. These folk hailed from all over the world, and I wanted to think about ways we once had of communicating across distance, before this age of Internet and technology.

So this little collection of mail art is dedicated to the pioneers of communication. It's a celebration of the pony express riders (and horses!) who raced through pouring rain and searing sun; of the pigeons of World War II who did the jobs the people couldn't; of the men who laid a 2000-mile long telegraph route across Australia in 50+ degree heat; of the train drivers and sailors and pilots and code makers and code breakers and Alexander Graham Bell, and the many more men and women who, across the centuries, have helped us stay in touch with the people we love.

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