Populated Mailbox

We often pass by a larger than usual, old and rusty rural mailbox where someone with a sense of delight in the absurd has installed a “set-up” of small plastic action figures and troll-like creatures. A figure who seems like he’s lost his motorcycle, but wears a party hat, holds down the top of the box. Inside pose a skinny Avatar figure and other bulging-with-muscles articuated beings I can’t name. Floofy feathers adorn some of their party hats since they are safely out of the rain. Recently, a seated, naked baby doll improbably joined the party, looming large behind the colorful crowd.




The new cheerful Forever stamps, replacing the unexciting Liberty Bell, reminded me that at a certain age our older son attended the Anchorage Stamp Club on Saturday mornings. In the basement of an Anchorage recreation center, with great diligence and enthusiasm, he sifted through piles of stamps heaped on tables by the club’s adult sponsors.

Our other son, too much younger to understand stamps (let alone the intricacies of condition and provenance that fascinated his brother) was nevertheless intense in his pursuit of an equal number of stamps.

In spite of absolutely no interest from either son now, I’m loath to part with these tiny pictures of British gardens or Alaska wildlife, or the postmarked first-day-of-issue envelopes sent by a friend in England or by the boys’ grandfather. Little depictions of the world.

The artist Donald Evans really made worlds of stamps. The book about his work, “The World of Donald Evans,” by Willy Eisenhart delights me always. In his short lifetime, Evans created countless exquisite watercolored stamps, each one perforated at the edge (dots made by an manual typewriter) and cancelled (by a rubber stamp he carved). Stamps for imaginary countries Evans invented, and stamps celebrating everyday things from fruit to friends, umbrellas to chickens.

Evans told the Paris Review in 1975: “The stamps are a kind of diary or journal…It’s vicarious traveling for me to a made-up world that I like better than the one that I’m in. No catastrophes occur. There are no generals or battles or warplanes on my stamps. The countries are innocent, peaceful, composed.”

A Guest

The orb weavers have yet to begin their elaborate constructions in the garden, but in the house I see a large and finely structured (not at all threatening) spider with filament legs and a nearly non-existent body. In a quiet room, she’s made a web structure, where the ceiling meets the wall.

She’s accumulated a collection of gnats in her webbing,  more than I ever knew we had. If you get too close, the spider senses danger (I read this after I thought I’d caused it by touching the webbing), and vibrates the web so rapidly that she obscures her location in a blur.

Males are said to wander looking for food and mates. This one must be a female – she seems settled in.


Bees in Boot

Early this summer I bumped one of the boots filled with succulents decorating the tiny porch of the Buffalito. Out poured more winged, disgruntled creatures than you‘d think could fit in one low-cut boot.

That evening I carefully slid a shovel under the boot and relocated it away from the Buffalito. But when I returned to the porch, frantic relatives circled in the air over their suddenly gone home. I put the boot back.

The next few evenings, I slid the boot a foot or so away from the porch, and it spent the rest of the summer at a safe-from-disturbance distance. Our beekeeper friend identified the inhabitants as wasps – yellowjackets – ground, or as she said in this case, boot nesters.


On the return trip, Anchorage to Seattle, I sat between two burly guys, fishermen. The one on my left studied a football referee’s handbook, and the one on the right read, and copiously underlined, a book about conflict – management, resolution? I never could properly see the title. We were a peaceful threesome.