“all that red on the map, like a blood stain”

the morning after the US election, i heard someone utter that description of the results and it stuck. stunned and spinning and scrambling for explanations, the world puzzled at the websummit, the theme unavoidable on every panel.

in the weeks since, disbelief gave way to real fear. everything else has felt rather small and meaningless, in comparison to the big elephant in the room.

spinning

and then, slowly but surely, this cold helplessness in the pit of my stomach has transformed into a kind of determination. i’ve realised there is something i can do — which is, after all, exactly what we’ve been doing for the past 11 years through postcrossing: randomly connecting strangers.

if this project has taught me anything, it’s that people everywhere want the same things: to be happy and healthy, to keep their loved ones safe, to be heard and understood. when we randomly match two of these strangers across the world, we disregard their religion, skin colour, political stance or nationality… and yet, whoever they are, they share this brief moment together, teaching and learning and smiling for a few seconds. it’s beautiful.

it’s of little consolation, i’m sure, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s something. the more we know of these “strangers” out there, the more we understand them. and the more we understand, the less we fear.

and this — this i can do.


analogue wednesday #88

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slovenia_trees

branches and trees, from our week in slovenia last year.


isetta stamps!

i found about these completely by accident, while on a postcrossing meetup in germany last year… and i adore them! :D

isettastamp

had i known these existed sooner, i would have sent all my postcards with them!!


visiting a lighthouse

visiting a lighthouse was another item i’ve put on the most recent 101 list, because it’s something i’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never really got around to. lighthouses in portugal are open on wednesdays afternoons though, and visits are free… so it was just a matter of finding the closest one and doing it!

lighthouse

at the end of november, we drove to vila real de santo antónio to visit their lighthouse. it’s a thing of beauty, guarded by a ferocious beast…

dog

… which eventually let us in, after barking up a storm. we were the only visitors that wednesday, and the keeper showed us around with all the time in the world, patiently answering our questions and guiding our fingers away from the golden parts. the lighthouse was built in 1923 and is 40 meters high. the fresnel lens is home to a 1000W lamp (the bottom one in the picture) and a lower wattage spare (on top), in case the main one stops working.

fresnel

the system has a photovoltaic cell that automatically starts working when the light is low… except for one detail: the curtains! the lantern room is shielded from the daylight with fabric curtains, which need to be manually pulled back at sunset. so every single day, the keeper will go up there and do this job. we were a bit early for the ritual that day… but as luck would have it, we saw another keeper doing it at cape st. vicent a few days later! i made this dodgy video on my phone:

although st. vicent cape’s lighthouse isn’t as tall as the one in vila real, it’s a bit more important: this is where “europe ends”, the southwesternmost point in portugal, and the place where ships from the mediterranean start their journeys north. so it’s no surprise that it comes equipped with double the power (two mighty 1000W lamps) and a huge hyperradiant fresnel lens (one of the largest in the world). pretty cool!

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if anything, this visit to the lighthouse has only served to make me even more curious about these things…


walking on history, VIII: maulbronn’s monastery

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hesse and kepler stepped on these same stones on their way to class on maulbronn’s monastery (which used to be home to a seminary). it’s a striking place — from the vaulted ceilings to the tombstones that lay on the cloister’s floors.

previously on this series.