Stamps and Glue and Getting Stuck
Those lick-glue stamps stick to the paper until thoroughly soaked. Immerse them in warm bowl-baths until the rough-edged stamps slide easily off the paper. Thumb-rub the slick glue residue—a pleasant easy sensation. The children place each little perforated-edge parallelogram rectangle on paper towels to dry: a rose, a frog, a train, a mountain, Santa Claus, R2-D2, newly-famous brown faces, the dear flag, Mary and the renaissance Christ-child. Self-adhesives stole some of the simply joy of stamps, like the sound of slowly tearing along the perforation lines after folding; and the taste of glue (my god! how unsanitary!). No amount of soaking dissolves the new adhesive, that isn’t good old glue; a careful snip-snip and you’re done; the stamp is ready for the book, forever attached to its matching piece of envelope. Attachment is the root of all suffering, the eastern mystics teach, ancient and still-living, which they discovered by sitting in cold caves and on the banks of black rivers all their lives, free of being stubbornly stuck to any thing, or any one. But here in the modern west I hear that joy cannot exist without courage, neither courage without vulnerability, neither vulnerability without pain. Joy and pain are a pair, apparently: sticky stamp and envelope. And I wonder if peace can be found, if at all, at the perfect balance point between connection and disconnection, and what the hell does that mean anyway? The chalice, the temple, the kiva, the body of Christ—that infinitesimal point where temporality and infinity touch, commune, coexist. (suppressed expletive.) For all of my mortal living time I have licked myself and stuck myself to someone or something, becoming bound to the paper, and getting rudely ripped off without the mercy of a soak, and part of the stamp stays messily with the paper, and some paper comes along grudgingly with the stamp, ruined for the collector’s book. I really do not care for the philatelist’s tweezer-finesse. My bulging envelopes of stamps will get glued into books someday, or not, by me or my stamp-admiring children, or not. What I like most about stamps, after all, are the vivid-color pictures, the oldness of a year or a century, and the idea of the glue that connects me to a million places and people I love, to whom I am thoroughly stuck.
(Pictured above: a small portion of my bulging envelope of unorganized U.S. stamps.)