essay: ‘What you love most may not last but it’s worth fighting for anyway’

Messages from your post office box

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 1:15pm

What if the email alarm on my computer this morning is true?

“brutal news. IT’S OVER. usps”  It goes on. Calling me by my first name. “Lucinda, if  you care about your local post office in Rockport then donate to save it.”

Of course, I care about my Postmaster, Steven. He the most wonderful postmaster ever.  He’s from Colorado where I lived my early 20’s in the celestial part of my life.

He hands everyone an open envelope smile when they come in the door. I see him more dimly now, mottled with a mask and bluebird blue rubber gloves on behind the counter. He’s hung a plastic curtain, sliced a clean cut, and edged it in neon orange masking tape. This allows us to put our credit cards through to buy stamps or pay for packages.

His younger assistant, raven haired Ann Marie, works beside him. They create high frequency. They make you want to go to the post office to feel good about humanity, good about aching for the old friend you lost,  good about about your broken wrist, good about our ability to bounce back from this pandemic or not.

As I approach the post office door, I pass the window box of maroon velvet pansies planted courtesy of the Rockport Garden Club. I adjust the elastic on my mask to fit behind my ears.  The hand sanitizer is in the car waiting for my return. It’s early morning and the post office is empty.  I turn left to Box 177. I hear  Steve on the inside: “ I have a package for you. We’re not allowed to accept alcohol, but I did this time.”. 

It's the case of white wine my stepdaughter, Caitlin, ordered. She escaped Brooklyn and has been with us quarantining since March. A puzzle by the fire, a glass of wine by 5:30 p.m. in a pandemic has becomes our daily ritual. I’m slightly concerned I should stop. I will stop.  But not until this case is empty. 

Nothing’s  sure. That’s what’s clear in a pandemic. The Buddhist’s  teach about impermanence. But not the post office. I’ll lay my body down to save the post office.

The history of the United States Post Office is rooted in a single, great principle: that every person in the United States, no matter who, no matter where, has the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service. That’s true equitable democracy. That’s the fragile democracy worth fighting for.

What institution has such a pithy, albeit unofficial, creed chiseled into the grey granite façade on the 8th Avenue New York City Post Office: “ Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds?”

These words lifted from Book 8 paragraph 98 of The Persian Wars by Herodotus. During the wars between the Greeks and the Persians in the Fifth century B.C., the Persians established a system of mounted postal couriers who served with great fidelity, just like Steve.

The grey granite used to build that Post Office was mined in the Dix Island Quarry in Muscle Ridge, Knox County, Maine. You can practically see Dix Island if you climb on top of Rockport Post Office roof.  

The USPS delivered hope and comfort during my high school years away at school. I would go down into the basement to a bank of bronze mailboxes. Look through the tiny window where my heart jumped seeing multiple white envelopes leaning on to each other. I’d turn the dial left and then right to the exact notch and my box would open. Letters from boys. Letters from friends in similar schools locked away. Letters with the familiar angular pen of my Father or the open peacock blue ink mark of my Mother. Treasures. Letters of acceptance. Letters of rejection. Letters of human touch.

In my years in Colorado I’d go into the big classical Renaissance rival style post office in Boulder and collect my General Delivery mail. I’ve always been a postcard writer. I collect them with people in mind and shoot them out like arrows. A post card pierces the heart open. 

I tell Steve I’ve gotten a disturbing email about his Post Office going away. 

He gives me a Buddhist response: “I’m not going anywhere.  But that won’t be forever.” 

What you love most may not last but it’s worth fighting for anyway.

Lucinda Ziesing lives in Rockport.