Vanishing Species / Forever Stamps

In the time of coronavirus, every tidbit of news that breaks through the noise and touches our awareness has the potential to become ingrained in our overall experience in meaningful ways. What manages to stick can be very personal. How will we look back? What will the sensory triggers to remembering all of this be?

During these challenging times, the already struggling United States Postal Service is under threat in favor of privatization and corporations. This is also due to a long and winding presidential grudge against Amazon, the Washington Post, the media and ultimately, the truth. So to show support I purchased stamps. I enjoyed browsing the wide array of themes on the USPS website and I finally landed on the ‘Saving Vanishing Species’ set pictured with this post. It resonated with me because of another story popping in and out of my sight lines on a daily basis now.
Horrified, and admittedly captivated, Jeff and I watched the entire Tiger King docu-series while sheltering at home in Buffalo, Ny. It’s easy to dismiss the show as merely spectacle, and from what I’ve read, it appears that it was edited and engineered with the goal of creating a golden nugget of money making entertainment. But there’s more to it, I think. As the series unravels, we’re introduced to the ultra tan, roadside zoo keeper, Joe Exotic. His wild hairstyle and paranoid rants against his arch enemy, Carole Baskin eerily mirror our own president’s demeanor as he rails against imaginary foes like the “fake news media” and the Deep State in his daily coronavirus press briefings. But what struck me most about Tiger King is the rare glimpse into the subculture the show’s cast of unseemly characters reveals. I was already skeptical about the idea of wild animals as pets, but I wasn’t fully aware of the atrocities that were laid bare here. There are far fewer tigers living in the wild than living in captivity. Less than 5% of captive tigers in the US belong to one of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, meaning the rest fall outside of federal oversight. Further research tells me that “poaching and illegal wildlife trade is the most immediate threat to wild tigers. Every part of the tiger, from whisker to tail has been found in illegal wildlife markets.” Learning this and seeing how the big cats were treated in the show, caused me to feel deep sadness for the animals. In a time when 20,000 + Americans have died and the president is incapable of expressing even a hint of empathy, this kind of sadness can take a firm hold. In my opinion, opening ourselves up to witnessing potentially unpleasant things can help us gain perspective. Tiger King activated something in me, and as a result I want to do more. I know my $13.00 purchase of first class stamps is not going to save the tigers or the USPS, for that matter, but I can be a voice for change and I can do more.
When the stamps arrive in the mail, I’ll add them to the small collection I’ve accumulated over the years. When I come across them again in the future several things may come to mind. I’ll remember sheltering at home with Jeff, a new found empathy for tigers, and a feeling of searching for some kind of meaning in it all. I’ll also remember the rage I felt upon realizing that this attack on the post office is an attack on the November election.

Home for Christmas

With my niece, Penelope and Nephew, Luke

For most of the year the temperature in Buffalo, NY where I live, is cooler than Omaha, NE where I was born and raised. Surprisingly though, the winter months in Buffalo are slightly warmer than November – February in Omaha. As I type, it’s zero degrees in Omaha and 11 in Buffalo. Including four years I spent in Kansas City, MO attending Art School, I’ve now lived away from Omaha almost as many years as I spent there during my formative years. Every year around this time, I travel to Omaha for Christmas, spend a few days with loved ones, then turn around and head back to Buffalo to greet a brand new year. Buffalo is home now, but Omaha is where I return to reconnect with the people and places that raised me.

In Buffalo and in my other travels, I’ve grown and changed in many ways, but I’m still the same person I always was. I long for the sound of thunderstorms that roll in from the high plains of Nebraska and shake you from your sleep. I listen for the familiar voices that reassured me as a child. It is colder in Omaha this time of year, but I have come to search for the warmth of home. Thank you to all my family and friends who love me for who I am and welcome me with open arms.