Earlier this summer my children, my visiting brother, and I went letterboxing for the first time. Letterboxing is like geocaching without GPS, or like a little outdoor treasure hunt. (Here’s a link to additional information about it.) The idea is that people post clues to find a “letterbox” that they’ve hidden on public land somewhere. If you follow the clues and find the letterbox, you can stamp into the box’s log book with your own stamp, and also use the unique stamp that comes in the letterbox to make a record in your own notebook. I had heard that people often make their own personal stamps for this game, so P, T and I each chose a small original animal stamp from a number of them I had made some time ago during a fabric-printing project. (I chose the llama, T was the deer, and P took the elephant.) Then we set off to a local forest where the clues I’d printed from the computer were to lead us to six hidden treasure spots.
After failing to find the first two letterboxes, morale was getting a little low, which in my kids translates to claims of starvation and near-fatal exhaustion. Intrepid explorers that we are, however, we persevered, and eventually succeeded in finding the other four. Starvation and exhaustion suddenly receded, and a good time was had by all. I must say, however, that despite the lovely day and the fun walk in the woods, what impressed me the most was the quality of the stamps we found on our trek. I had not expected small works of art.
This is my favorite, called “The Giant’s Daughter.” It’s a poor impression, unfortunately – it isn’t so easy to get a clean impression using a too small stamp pad for inking and a rough granite boulder for a pressing surface! (And this one, the best impression we got, was T’s – too bad she chose a lined notebook.) But what a nice little image. It’s based on an illustration by John D. Batten for Joseph Jacobs’s Celtic Fairy Tales, printed in 1892. I especially like the folds of the robe, the birds, and the border. I can’t give proper attribution to the artist, since he or she is identified only as “Dragonfly” in the letterboxing clues. Nevertheless, thanks to Dragonfly for putting such work and artistry into something that spends most of its time wrapped up, inside a Tupperware box, and buried under mouldering leaves and “a suspicious looking pile of rocks.” We've got plans to go letterboxing again some time, and I look forward to seeing whether other letterboxing stamps are equally beautifully done.
[Pictures: 3 animals stamps, carved rubber by AEGN;
Giant’s Daughter, rubber block print by “Dragonfly,” placed 2005.]