In the spirit of ideating words like “mailboxing” I’ve come up with “bipostal” to frame my dual west and east coast mailboxing activities this winter. From Bainbridge Island to Bird Island, a pilgrimage to the storied Kindred Spirit mailbox on Bird Island was my first stop along the coast of North Carolina. The mailbox is famous for its enduring legacy of human connection through the unwavering stream of heartfelt journal entries which visitors can “post” into the mailbox.
“Kindred spirits are not as scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
– Anne of Green Gables
The Kindred Spirit mailbox embodies the notion that we are tethered to one another through our experiences and offers what has become a sacred “postal portal” through which kindred spirits find each other and themselves.
Every journey to the kindred spirit is as unique as the myriad reasons for
visiting. My reasons were both simple and complex. I wanted to say hello and I wanted to be transformed – a tall order for a metal box and a heft of drif twood.
Several nondescript looking notebooks were crammed into the mailbox, I selected one trying not to fuss too much over exactly which one.
I’d trusted that when this moment came to pass, I’d know precisely what to write, that something truly awe inspiring and insightful would pop into my head, that people would read my entry years from now and weep. My pen hovered over the page for what seemed an eternity. Nothing. Another eternity, again nothing. Feeling unprepared and somewhat ridiculous (akin to an awkward first date) I mundanely told the Kindred Spirit what had brought me to it and some nonsense about my hope for a Kindred Spirit back home on Bainbridge Island and then blurted out, “I love you Kindred Spirit!” With that embarrassment, I looked up from the notebook and scanned the indigo seam where sky and sea meet and caught a glimpse of the young woman on the adjacent bench who was fervently writing in a journal,
unself conscious tears cascading onto her page. In that moment having witnessed the power, fragility and beauty of both the natural and human condition I forgot my perceived shortcomings and emerged feeling extraordinary. For what it was worth I’d added my voice to the potpourri of voices emanating from the mailbox, each distinctly different yet collectively cohesive – recognizable as human. What could be more life affirming than the world being united in honoring our imperfect, awkward, humanness.
Sharing the journey
My sojourn was shared with a friend who is local to the Kindred Spirit mailbox. Debra McClendon and I were close co-workers who hadn’t seen each other in ten years and suddenly here we were, two gals on an amazingly sunny January day along a wide expanse of beach, witness to and participants in the enduring phenomenon that is the Kindred Spirit.
Debra also joined me at the Randall Library at UNC Wilmington where the Kindred Spirit journals are archived.
Visiting the Kindred Spirit Journal Archives
University of North Carolina, Wilmington | William Madison Randall Library
A visit to UNC Wilmington’s special collections archive at the Randall Library to view the archived Kindred Spirit journals revealed the full breadth of the stories entrusted to the mailbox starting with the year 2012. The Historical Museum of Bainbridge Island has offered to archive any journals from the BI Kindred Spirit when the time comes.
Author “Jack” DeGroot, a Kindred Connosseur, the Kindred Legacy and the Mystery of the Missing Journals
A delightful visit with former Kindred Spirit “secret helper”, author, speaker and new kindred friend, Jacqueline “Jack” Degroot brought forth a wealth of insight not only about her relationship to the mailbox but to the couple who started the Kindred Spirit, Frank Nesmith and Claudia Sailor. Jack’s book The Beach Boys of Sunset Beach was inspired in part by Kindred Spirit. During our visit to her home, she led us upstairs to her inner sanctum where she writes.
“I’m all about romances!” DeGroot exclaims, saying she reads, writes and watches them all the time.
The story of the Kindred Spirit is a romance between Claudia Sailor, the woman who ideated the box and the mailbox itself as well as between she and the man she met (Frank Nesmith) while on the little spit of sand where she first erected the Kindred Spirit. While much has been written about Frank, Claudia has remained largely a mystery – they are both deceased. I find myself drawn to this woman who’s wish it was to connect kindred spirits, who packed her little rowboat named Moses with a plain mailbox, a driftwood post and stamped envelopes with her PO Box address as the destination to provide anyone who reached the mailbox with a way to share their thoughts.
In trying to recall when Sailor passed, DeGroot pulls up some old emails on her old computer, “Was it 2012…hmmm, let me see. Oh, here’s one of the last few emails I received from Claudia dated July 21, 2012”. In the email Sailor who is 73 and not in good health talks of a recent knee injury causing her pain, she writes, “There are times when ALL I want is to be wrapped in the old army blanket I kept near the mailbox on a chilly day/night lying on the Kindred Spirit bench watching my campfire knowing Moses is bobbing patiently at the edge of the marsh behind Bird Island waiting for me to return to him. This is one of those times.”
DeGroot finds another email from Sailor: “No one else is sending journals to me. Sad, but apparently someone is keeping them. Being a mere human I have not figured out from one day or month or year to the next where the Kindred Spirit Mailbox is heading. I’m still like you, just one of the adventurers but I do just instinctively know the journals are meant to be kept together.”
We three women agree this is an important footnote as there is a mystery to what Claudia Sailor’s family did with the volumes of journals. Upon her death, they were unwilling to donate them to UNC or part with them in any way and as such the journals have not been kept together and a large chunk are now missing.
Kindred Spirit Bainbridge Island
The Bainbridge Island Parks Department gave its blessing to have a Kindred Spirit community mailbox erected on park department property. Dick Strom has agreed to create an artistic “post” to hold it.
“When Denise first made a presentation about the Kindred Spirit Mailbox to the Parks Board of Commissioners, I could feel her passion and joy around this project. As I’ve learned more, it’s a project of love, connection, and the environment. How wonderful it would be to come upon a contemplative place to read others stories and share our own hopes, dreams and thoughts. It would be a privilege to provide a home, and mailbox, to such a space within our Park District. Stay tuned!”
The Kindred Spirit Mailbox at Bird Island