Everyone who knows me will attest that I am a sucker for a pretty face. That isn't how I met Michelle Hickman, however.
In the usual, whim-driven serendipity that seems to rule my life, I was introduced to Michelle quite by accident. Through channels as obscure and baffling as how I usually learn about anything, I was informed of a woman who had never received a Christmas card over the course of her life. I'm no fan of Christmas and most of the Christmas cards I've ever received have been given a cursory glance and then ended up in a stack alongside my cluttered inbox. I figured someone else should have the opportunity to do the same. Besides, who doesn't like mail? I love real mail, especially from strangers. As much as I am a hermit, I enjoy learning about new people. The die was cast.
I didn't use a Christmas-themed card. I just took one of my usual cards, probably from a box I bought at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, filled its blank spaces with good wishes, and mailed it off to remote Pennsylvania. The recipient's address was the intriguingly named Fenneltown Road. I'm a big fennel-eater but I never knew it grew in the Keystone State. I'm still not clear where Fenneltown is, but it seems like a slice of Heaven in my mind's eye. Some people may disagree.
Since then, the admirable and esteemed (in my opinion) Michelle Hickman and I have continued an on-again-off-again, infrequent correspondence. I learned that she is the Surly Writer (her blog is here) and that she and I both enjoy a dedication to crafting written words. She now lives in a big Pennsylvania city, enduring all the travails that await a country girl in a crowded, impersonal metropolis. She writes fractured fairy tales. Maybe she lives a few of them, too. These stories have a legion of fans that admire her creativity and ability to tell a tale well. I admit I am not so much a fan of her fiction as I am of Michelle herself: her drive, her stick-to-itiveness, and her fortitude. She has talent and a promising career ahead of her.
Though we don't correspond as much as we may, I am pleased and honored to count Ms. Hickman as one of my acquaintances. When I drove my motorcycle from Boston to New Orleans, Michelle was a regular reader and commenter. My reports from that journey and her comments are collected in the sidebar to your left, about midway down the page. During that week, after I had spent ten or twelve hours astride my Little Ninja, propelling and steering it along highways and byways, it cheered me to know that Michelle was following my progress after I unpacked for the night. What is an author without an audience? What is a nomad without a fellow traveller, even if she is only seeing the passing landscape vicariously? No man is an island. History requires witnesses. My history is personal and Michelle was my witness.
Will we continue our correspondence or drift apart? Predicting the future is a difficult business. I still owe Ms. Hickman a letter. It's my turn and I promised one would be forthcoming soon. The card is out and still blank, its envelope is addressed and stamped, lying idle next to my cluttered inbox. It is time to put pen to paper and send her some real mail. Who doesn't like mail? I know I do.
A tip of the fedora to Michelle Hickman of Fenneltown, Pennsylvania.