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

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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scenes from a sail

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As someone who cultivates an association with the ocean throughout all she does, I must confess that I can count the number of times I’ve actually traversed the sea on one hand. Unlike the protagonists of The Wind in the Willows, I lack much experience with “messing about in boats.”

You can imagine, then, what a deeply moving and exhilarating experience I enjoyed on this recent sailing adventure during my trip home! Flat water, clear skies, and a few humpback whales passing through (captured in all their glory thanks to my zoom lens!) made for a most enchanting morning.

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2018 in wandering

 

On the one hand, 2018 might have qualified as the most adventure-packed year of my life. As my husband (then-fiancé!) and I finished up our last few months of long-distance love, I visited the United Kingdom twice in six months – a new record for me! We enjoyed a brief period of quiet time in our new home after that final visit resulted in the happily-ever-after of a granted visa: and then the rest of the summer concluded with a trip to my home, our wedding, and a mini-honeymoon.

I always enjoy looking back over my various voyagings in a given year, so I hope you will indulge me as I post my virtual travelogue nearly a week into 2019!

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Summer in Salem

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Every time I leave my forested home in favor of the coast, I imagine what it would be like to move there permanently. Nothing appeals to me more than the idea of spending every day by the ocean – or at least being within a short drive of the seaside. As a consequence of such visits, I also find myself rekindling my fascination with maritime art: spending weeks afterwards brushing up on New England’s seafaring history!

Though it’s been almost six months since my husband and I went to Salem for a mini-honeymoon, I’m glad that my academic circumstances prevented me from posting these photographs until now. Those wildly hot August days meandering past the Atlantic seem even more appealing in January!

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journey through the mists

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Given that this post’s title can be considered an homage to the superior fourth installment in the Land Before Time saga of my youth, I’m naturally overwhelmed by the timeless qualities of these rain-soaked forest landscapes. With that broad, bold Monstera leaf big enough to shelter a small child from the elements (holes notwithstanding!), the towering banyan trees, and the glistening plateaus of thick uluhe fern clusters, the plant life surrounding this waterfall trek seems magically monumental in scale.

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aque[duck]ts

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The last time I visited Wales, crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct seemed an impossible venture – ice, cold, and wind might have complicated such a quest. I’m glad we didn’t even try, because the summer experience proved absolutely idyllic!

Clad in my standard uniform for British adventures – a Sophie Hatter-esque dotted blue dress and an enormous, SPF-strong sun hat – I stepped into the sky with a canal at my side!

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The aqueduct (a World Heritage site!) naturally appealed to my romantic sensibilities. That’s funny, considering that it constitutes an engineering highlight of the Industrial Revolution – probably the opposite of what would satisfy most actual Romantics – but in the twenty-first century, it possesses a distant historical aura that I adored. Imagine an alternate world in which such airborne canals became commonplace, and man-made rivers stretched like highways throughout all of New England!

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A flock of ducklings and their watchful mother crossed our paths near the edge of the canal. Make way!

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Of course, I most enjoyed the marbled, glimmering glimpses of the sky and trees in the water! On our way back, a few tourist-bearing canalboats sliced through the reflections, creating an even more dizzying pattern of colorful ripples. Now that I’m back in Massachusetts, I can’t help peeking into creeks with some disappointment…