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Year in Yosemite: Mail Time - Explore

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Sierra Daily

12/29/2009

Year in Yosemite: Mail Time

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Wawona post boxes. Photo by Jon Jay.

On nice days we often walk to the post office. We leave our house, go past the bear-proof dumpster, through the forest, over a bridge and down Spelt Road (obviously named by natural food fanatics). There we pass the Indian matate sites, get on the trail that runs behind the library and up to the school, cross the road and finish up on the hilly horse trail that takes us directly to Pioneer Village.

At Pioneer Village we walk past the horse stables and a collection of log cabins built in the 1800s, through a covered bridge erected in 1857 and make our way to the parking lot of the Wawona General Store.

To the right of the general store is a stamp-size post office so old there are still bars on the window –- the old-fashioned kind like you see in banks in Westerns –- where you ask for your mail. That is if you don't have a post box.

For the first few months we lived in Yosemite, our mail went to “General Delivery.” Before we moved here I had so little knowledge of rural life that I actually had to ask what “General Delivery” meant. It means this. No home delivery. No residential address. You just go to the window and ask. My daughter loved this. Xboxes and computer games aside, asking for the mail from a real, live human being gave her an incredible thrill. Sometimes, it's the little things that count.

Then one day I decided it would be nice to have a post box. You have to pay for them but it means you can pick up your mail anytime, 24/7, and not just when the post office is officially open.

If I had realized what a thrill these boxes would give me, I would have rented one sooner. Because they are so charming and old, they remind you more of square dancing than of modern communication. Combinations go something like: circle three times right to A1/2, then left two times to G, pass your partner and it's on to K1/2. Then you do-si-do.

The boxes themselves are so tiny they were surely installed at a time when people wrote on small, wispy pieces of crinkly paper that got tucked into little envelopes and addressed with a perfect hand.

And that hand belonged to a righty. Left-handed myself, it is impossible for me to open my mailbox without my fingers getting in the way, blocking the letters of my weird and wacky combination. No, these boxes belong to a time when teachers prowled the classroom and slapped all lefties' hands with a ruler, forcing them to change to the right.

But it’s worth the finger gymnastics. In these days of instant communication, these boxes are so whimsical and unexpected that one day I know I'll dial in our combination and out will jump Seuss's Thing 1 and Thing 2. I have no doubt they will do-si-do, do an allemande left and then, like us, promenade back home.

-- Jamie Simons

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