Why do I collect stamps? The images! Many collectors want to delve into the meaning behind those images—to explore. I do that too, but oftentimes it’s simply the imagery that excites and satisfies me.
I always look closely at stamps featuring houses and trees. Why? I’m just interested in the amazing variety of structures people build for themselves.
And trees—they don’t entice like flowers, but the simplicity of their appearance—trunk, branches, leaves—has more affinity for me. And maybe it’s their size too. Maybe it’s because I climbed so many as a boy and could hide in the cover of their leaves—watching all from above. And maybe too it’s because we children could play with our little cars and soldiers and cowboys in the raised roots of the fat old oaks behind our house.
Perhaps I’m a topical collector. I haven’t organized a collection of either houses or trees, but when I’m ready, my first stop will be the American Topical Association. There I’ll find others who share my interests, as well as the ATA’s comprehensive topical stamp checklists.
Let me know what your favorite stamps are that picture houses and trees.
For five years many nations have been marking the 100th anniversary of the years of WWI with postage stamps. We’ve forgotten most of those issues, just as that war is a thing of history to us—with no personal meaning. Today’s mass murders trouble us greatly, as they should, and yet WWI accounted for some 15 to 19 million military and civilian deaths—averaging more than 10,000 a day. And like all war, it didn’t have to be.
Those WWI commemorative stamps generally feature photographs of military personnel and monuments, but a few affected me.
In 2017 Great Britain issued a set of six WWI commemoratives. The four above spoke to me. The shattered red poppy told of peace shattered by war. Private Lemuel Thomas’ life-saving Bible was for me an ironic image. How many millions on both sides of this tragic conflict professed true faith in the Bible? The tombstones in Belgium, at stamp size anonymous, whisper wasted lives. And Isaac Rosenberg’s poetic words from Dead Man’s Dumpof 1918, “Earth has waited for them, All the time of their growth,” testify to the human tragedy. (Rosenberg, an Orthodox Jew from Gloucestershire, was killed in 1918 after returning from a night patrol near Fampoux, France, most likely be a sniper.)
This year Slovenia issued a visually haunting interpretation of that endless field of tombstones. The ethereal shape created by the varying light and dark crosses are a mist of millions of lives lost…most now forgotten.
this year Poland, whose designers are known for graphic directness, presents us
with the choice that faced nations 100 years ago: flowers or explosives. That
choice continues to face us. Too often the decision is disastrous.
Ireland’s literary approach to Armistice Day is twice strong. Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s 1915 poem is familiar to many of us, and is always worth a reflective read: In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place: and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Finally, from Thomas Kettle’s 1916 poemTo My Daughter Betty, the Gift of God: Died not for flag, nor King, Nor Emperor, But for a dream, Born in a herdsman’s shed, And for the secret Scripture of the poor. Kettle, a Member of Parliament, joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and died in 1916 on the Western Front.
Consider these stamps. Click the links above and read these poems in their entirety. Tell me what you think…and feel.
October 31 is Halloween in the U.S.— a day for children to dress in costumes, wear masks, and go door-to-door asking for sweet treats. Pumpkins are everywhere, and homes are decorated with witches, skeletons, spider webs and orange lights.
The popular celebration of Halloween evolved from the Christian tradition of a holy eve before the feast of All Saints Day. And in turn, the Christian tradition likely evolved from pagan harvest festivals. That history makes for fascinating research.
Halloween is also a time for masks—a time to make believe you’re someone else. For me, some of the most fascinating, intricate and scary masks are those of Slovenia, featured on the stamps shown here from 1997 (above), 2000 (left) and 2002 (below). These masks, however, are from the annual Carnival festivals which end on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the Christian season of Lent. And much the same as Halloween traces its roots to ancient traditions, the Slovenia Carnival traditions of masks and costumes have ancient origins as well. Warding off evil spirits and bringing good fortune are chief among the historic purposes of the costumes.
Masks and costumes are not the only similarity between Halloween and the Slovenia Carnivals. In Slovenia, children in masks also go door to door asking for treats!
To see more Slovenia stamps, link to the Slovenia Postal Service.