Last week I was thrilled to be invited to give a lecture for Prof. Robert McGill’s fourth year Literary Citizenship course at the University of Toronto. What a remarkable group of people! We talked about The Love Lettering Project – the what and the why and the how – and what we love about where we live. Then we wrote love letters.
The hush that happens after the rush for paper, pens, scissors, glue and envelopes is one of my favourite kinds of quiet.
Check out some of the amazing, thoughtful letters that have since been hidden around town:
(The bleachers at the U of T Athletic Centre also happen to be one of my favourite places on campus and immediately after my lecture, I popped into breathe in the chlorine-y air and watch the incredible swim team practice!)
The English Department has moved since I was an undergrad/grad student, and it’s now in the building that used to house my pediatrician’s office. It was surreal to see drywall where I used to see Dr. Garfield, but I was thrilled to see the mail shaft was still in place by the elevators!
I had the great pleasure of chatting with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning host, Matt Galloway from the docks outside of Sunnyside this morning (my ultimate favourite spot in the city – between the lake and the pool!)
And I’m not the only one who loves swimming! Check out these amazing swim love letters that have been written over the years:
Last fall, I got to chat with a writer named Melody Warnick. She was interviewing me for CityLab, but 30 seconds into the interview, it didn’t feel like an interview at all. We talked about city building and placemaking and what it is to love where you live. She’s written a book about it and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
How we come to feel at home in our towns and cities is what Warnick sets out to discover in This Is Where You Belong. She dives into the body of research around place attachment—the deep sense of connection that binds some of us to our cities and increases our physical and emotional well-being—then travels to towns across America to see it in action. Inspired by a growing movement of placemaking, she examines what its practitioners are doing to create likeable locales. She also speaks with frequent movers and loyal stayers around the country to learn what draws highly mobile Americans to a new city, and what makes us stay. The best ideas she imports to her adopted hometown of Blacksburg for a series of Love Where You Live experiments designed to make her feel more locally connected. Dining with her neighbors. Shopping Small Business Saturday. Marching in the town Christmas parade.
All. The. Yes.
And I’m SO honoured that she’ll be hosting Love Lettering Project events at her book launch in Washington, D.C., at Kramer Books, (my very favourite bookstore I hid letters in in 2010), and in her hometown, Blacksburg, Virginia!
Washington, D.C.: Wednesday, June 22, 2016. 6:30pm
Kramer Books, 1517 Connecticut Avenue, NW in Dupont Circle
More info here!
Blacksburg, VA: Friday, June 24, 2016. 4-6pm
Book launch party and Mini “I Love Blacksburg” Fest at Alexander Black House, 20 Draper Rd.
There’ll also be a scavenger hunt, a chance to play Blacksburg bingo, eat Blacksburg food and more!
A 2010 love letter to Washington hidden in Kramerbooks.
Is there anything dreamier than being surrounded by the city’s most beautiful paper for an entire afternoon, writing letters with the loveliest folks? Nope! I had the best time The Paper Place‘s Crafternoon this June (and yes, I did come home with a lighter wallet and a lot of washi tape…!)
I spent all of May spending outside. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I spent A LOT of time outside in May for the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30×30 Challenge. I partnered with them, and asked people to write love letters to nature and was floored daily by the responses. I’d scroll through Instagram and Twitter (using: #30x30challenge and #lovenature) and revel in the beauty of the natural world and in how and where people spent their 30 minutes/day in nature. It was so wonderful.
I had the most lovely wrap-up meeting with Aryne Sheppard, David Suzuki Foundation’s Senior Public Engagement Specialist, and an absolute gem of a human being, and she shared the stats with me:
My heart is full to bursting. Truly. That is a whole lot of people spending time in the natural world, thinking and reflecting on what it means to them, and how it changes and shapes who they are.
I generally spend a lot of time outside with my 15-month-old, but there was something about the CHALLENGE part of it that transformed our time outside. There was intention. I biked to parks I’ve never been to. We spent a lot of time exploring. My son discovered ants. And tree bark and pinecones (both of which he infatuated with!). We planted a garden (including milkweed!). We spent so much time by the river, by the lake, in Toronto’s High Park. There were near-daily picnics. And on the one day I didn’t spend at least 30 minutes outside, I felt cagey and cooped up and it furthered my resolve to be outside, really be outside. It is truly an extraordinary practice and I feel so grateful for the DSF Challenge for the big huge reminder.
Over the month of May, we watched the tulips, the daffodils and the allium bloom, then the lilacs and the forget-me-nots. My son ate his weight in dandelion seeds (we’re still working on blowing the seeds, not eating them like a lollipop).
How incredible is this? When I think about love, I think about lilies. When I think about hope, I think about a tree growing.
The only thing better than reading letters from kids is reading their love letters to nature. Case in point:
The biggest thank you to all the 812 (!!) schools who took part in the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30×30 Challenge in May. And an extra special thank you to all of the school who mailed in their letters. DSF’s Senior Public Engagement Specialist, Aryne Sheppard and I were brought to tears by the thoughtful, heartfelt letters.
The letters above were sent in from: Ms. Knight’s Grade 7 class at Munns Public School in Oakville, ON the Kindergarten and Grade 2 classes from Holy Family School in Grinshaw, AB, and the top photo is from the most incredible package from a school in Toronto, complete with photos they took of their caterpillars and butterfly release project.
For the entire month of May, I partnered with the David Suzuki Foundation and asked people to write love letter to nature. Each winning love letter received amazing prize packages from Genuine Health! Congratulations to May’s 30×30 Challenge winning love letters to nature!!
Week One’s letter by Minna KW!
Andy P’s daughter’s love letter to the amaryllis in the garden!
As the David Suzuki Foundation’s#30x30Challenge wrapped up, close to 60 elders from different parts of the world joined together in Vancouver to write love letters to nature. Elder Li Chen shared her love letter:
Nature, Your warm sunshine, clean air and water nurture us like a mother’s milk. You help us grow, generation after generation, to become healthy and strong. Your jade-green forests and five-coloured flowers and grass dress up our environment in four corners. You energize us everyday and give us strength to live life to the ten-full (fullest) Nature, we deeply love you, we want to get close to you and protect you. Thank you for giving us everything. Li Chen. May 26, 2016
In all my years of teaching, I’ve always wanted to get structured feedback on the workshops I do. I always get some, but it’s usually in passing – before recess, or while students line up for lunch – and/or anecdotal.
I’m so excited about and so proud of this five-day curriculum I’ve created and I really wanted to know what really worked and how I could improve it. I got that in spades. The students were so generous and articulate with their feedback, it was astonishing.
(The overall outcomes: too much brainstorming, not nearly enough time with the good copies. Noted!)
But the biggest, most important piece of feedback I got was that they got it. They GOT IT, this whole crazy thing I’ve been doing for 12 years. They got that “a simple letter can make someone’s day.” That you can “write letters to places as if they were people.” That if you “share love around you, it makes everyone happy.” That our “neighbourhoods are better than they think they are.”
Cue the confetti cannons (and the tears!)
In the workshop, we wrote love letters to the school, to the students’ neighbourhoods, and then hide them for strangers to find. THEN, we imagined who found our community letters. From these (incredible!) character sketches, we then wrote letters BACK from these characters. I was so excited about it, and it turns out, so were the students:
I love teaching in schools so much, it often renders me speechless. Case in point: