January 2, 2020 (1)vintage book photos (2 of 8)vintage book photos (4 of 8)

Dear friends,

The little town in which I now reside happens to be home to one of the most fantastic and well-equipped public libraries I’ve encountered in my adult life. (It’s hard to judge and rank fairly the public libraries of my youth, because I think of them all with such nostalgic fondness!) Over the weekend – a pair of grey, dull, wet winter days – my husband and I stopped by the library’s annual book sale, where we found ample rewards for our braving the weather.

This biography of Charlotte Brontë, published in 1877, is now the most exciting book that I own. It is in deplorable condition – but considering I paid $1 for it and that it is 143 years old, I can’t complain! Acquiring this book (and another late Victorian volume of King Lear) may prove thrillingly useful for me: as throughout this past year of blog-neglecting, I have occupied myself with attempting to write a fantasy novel that involves some elements of nineteenth-century publishing.

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Have you seen the most recent Little Women film – and – a more important second question – were you also blown away by the jewel of a scene in which Jo watches eagerly as her words literally take physical form and become a gorgeous book? It is the splendor of this period of publishing that I want to understand as best I can, and this biography is a fine example. I wish I could download the typeface used for the cover text!

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Another even more relevant and fascinating aspect of these nineteenth-century books I hope to collect: personal annotations! Let us generously assume that in this case, ” ’78 ” refers to 1878, the year after this was published…

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The copy of King Lear from 1888 that I purchased lacks an elaborate cover, but I do enjoy the design and composition of the pages.

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To return to the theme of a few paragraphs ago – as someone who notoriously abandons half-finished novels and never finishes them, trying to stick with this draft has been one of the greatest challenges of my creative life. My “book” (how odd it seems to use that word to refer to an excessively large Word document!) is nearly 90,000 words long, and I would say that every thousand words or so I am tempted to jettison the whole thing altogether and start anew.

Perhaps I can channel that desire for novelty into writing new blog posts instead?

Sincerely,

Mailbox Mermaid

January 2, 2020

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Dear seafaring friends,

How have the past three hundred and seventeen days treated you? I hope so desperately that you’ve been well throughout at least a good percentage of them! It is difficult to resist the blogging-monologue temptation to tell you exactly what manner of misadventures and magic have colored my past year – but in the spirit of the newly-arrived “twenties,” I will strive to dwell upon the future instead of the past.

I want to start blogging again. No, that’s not quite right – rather than simply returning to form, I intend to change the way in which I share words, pictures, and history with you.

In the five years in which I have “maintained” (a word I use loosely here) this blog, I must have attempted to reshape its overall image and identity at least ten times. I strove to keep up with the times and to adhere to changing design trends, aspiring to a digital minimalism that does not remotely reflect my fondness for visual excess.

When I considered returning to Mailbox Mermaid once more, I decided to search the depths of the British Library’s public domain historical images Flickr for inspiration – and found the perfect late nineteenth-century illustration that captured the frantic and overcrowded coral reef of ideas and whims that has emerged in my mind of late.

“Coral Bank in the Red Sea,” featured in my new blog design, hails from Robert Brown’s 1893 monographic Our Earth And Its Story: A Popular Treatise on Physical Geography. The vivid colors and intricate textures transport me to a stunningly saturated underwater fantasy, a pelagic paradise in which an endless spectrum of pictorial delights compete for the viewer’s attention – here a scattering school of fish, there a distant yet watchful shark.

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What is to come on this blog (if I indeed manage to remain true to my intentions) will involve a similar ecosystem of the imagination. I fancy writing posts that sound like letters more than articles, and sharing stream-of-consciousness musings inspired by the books I read, the natural wonders I observe, and the things that I make by hand.

I aim to cultivate a collection of one-sided correspondence and create a virtual place that feels like a tranquil tidepool tucked at the edge of a halcyon lagoon. May I write to you, and share some of my maritime dreams? I do hope you’ll say yes – at least for one more post! 

Sincerely,

Mailbox Mermaid

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A note: like all my “pin reviews,” this is not sponsored in any way and merely reflects my desire to share my whimsical adventures in collecting small metallic works of art. Onward! 

I remember a brief period in my preteen life when all “friendship”-themed accessories – handmade bracelets, necklace pendants that matched, and of course the quintessential “broken-in-half” charms – absolutely transfixed me. Considering that I am now more than a decade away from being twelve, perhaps it’s a little unusual that I, a grown adult woman, wanted to share this set of pins with my grown adult sweetheart for Valentine’s Day…but I suppose I am more than a little unusual by nature.

And I can’t resist a good cetacean-themed accessory.

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stamps & sundries: last unicorns

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Though I’m usually not one to read too many analyses of the state of the internet, I seem to be prone, at the moment, to stumbling upon articles that bemoan the death of blogging. As I have seen more than a few of my favorite blogs from past years vanish into obscurity – often replaced by a robust Instagram account instead – I sense a degree of truth to this blogging-eschatology.

I don’t want to start singing an influencer-inspired version of “The Last Unicorn” yet, though, because I still find this medium the most compelling vehicle for sharing stories. So here I am, with my Instagram private (and honestly less appealing to me these days):  attempting to keep my own little virtual storybook alive instead!

Here ends this unnecessary set of musings: onward to envelopes! 

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The animated unicorn-and-bunny pair above arrived in mid-January in this beautiful conservatory of an envelope.

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As someone who finds winter to be the most challenging and dispiriting time of the year, I usually prefer colorful, summery stamps: but even I must admit that the “Winter Birds” have captured my heart, and I have a booklet of them awaiting me in my craft room.

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More than one elegantly decorated brown-craft-paper envelope appeared in my mailbox over the past few weeks – I adore them! – and they inspire me to reminisce about my snail-mail-crafting habits of about four years ago. For a while, I loved embellishing brown envelopes with a few artfully placed stickers or cut-outs: perhaps it’s time for me to resurrect that pretty style again? Something like that unicorn, I imagine, would look particularly enchanting on a neutral backdrop!

grace notes

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Last week, I returned to my keyboard for the first time in months (inspired by my inescapable desire to sing selections from the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack). To my great shame, a layer of dust covered the music stand and even its tinny electric sound felt alien to my ears.

Given how long it’s been since I practiced piano in earnest, I almost feel undeserving of this dress – how dare I wear these stylized keys around my neck when I’ve neglected them for so long?

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stamps & sundries: nautilus ahoy!

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About a year ago, I halted my long-standing tradition of blogging about the mail I received. Somehow I’d turned the delightful pastime of documenting beautiful letters  into a responsibility, and I felt a great deal of self-imposed pressure to photograph mail before I’d even read what they contained (mostly due to the fact that limited winter light rarely allows for good picture-taking indoors!).

To be honest, though, I did so enjoy possessing a visual diary of the letters that traveled to me from various corners of the world. With that in mind, I’m resurrecting my old series with a slight twist: as the title suggests, I will mainly feature stamps and envelopes, with some (assorted) exceptions.

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thalassic literature

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If anyone reading my blog ever finds themselves in a situation that requires them to draw, animate, or design a dragon (or other serpentine mythical creature), may I offer up the gently rippling textures of the Pacific ocean and its beaches as scale inspiration? The constant motion of the sand and sea on this stunning day by the water made me feel as though I had entered into the presence of some breathing leviathan, lurking just beneath my feet!

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