If she were to write a love letter to Whitehorse, Lindsay Zier-Vogel says it would be to the Yukon River early in the morning. And to the mountains. So she did, she wrote the letter, sealed it in an airmail envelope, and hid it — maybe on the Millennium Trail, or maybe in the industrial section.
Maybe you found it.
The Love Lettering Project started ten years ago in a Toronto park. Then love poet Zier-Vogel had a purse full of crafts, and was in a mischievous mood. On a whim, she wrote a love letter to Toronto, didn’t sign it, sealed it in an airmail envelope, and hid it in the park.
Thus was the start of a journey that saw Zier-Vogel write and hide 500 anonymous love letters to Toronto in a year. Word spread about the woman behind the letters, and the writer received a grant so she could share her idea. Soon, she had other people writing and hiding love letters to Toronto.
“This is when the project started to be what it could be,” she says.
Eventually, her love letters brought Zier-Vogel north. On May 6, in the evening, she adorned a table in the Rah Rah Gallery with coloured scraps of paper, felt pens, glue sticks and envelopes. She hung airmail envelope bunting above the table, and opened the season finale of Brave New Words with an invitation for people to write love to Whitehorse.
Susanne Hignley, host of Brave New Words, says she jumped to have Zier-Vogel attend the evening of writing.
“I like how she inspires writing in the community,” she says. Hignley is impressed with the crowd: “some people just came for the letter-writing part!”
Zier-Vogel was invited north by the Dream Catcher Society. The organization pairs mentors with high school students. The mentors encourage kids to stay in school and to be excited about learning. Zier-Vogel has been mentoring for a few years, and is touring the North to meet some of her students, and share her love letter idea with teenagers.
She says it’s initially hard for teenagers to muster-up love for their hometowns. Often, first reactions are, “I hate it here.” But then one kid will say something small, like, “I love how Main Street looks when it’s lit with Christmas lights.” Someone will agree that it’s beautiful, and they’re off to the races.
Zier-Vogel started the project on a mischievous whim, but says she’s learned the value of turning the dialogue about home into a love story.
“It’s so easy to talk about what is wrong with a place,” she says.
She acknowledges that the negative conversation is important. But once she gets people to think about what they love about a place, they realize it’s just as easy. And it’s nice to share.
Zier-Vogel says her favorite part of the process is hiding letters. She loves imagining people finding them: “someone might find a letter and be like, ‘Pooh! I hate it.’”
She’s fine with that, but she likes to write stories in her head about the strangers who find her notes. She thinks about how she may be changing people’s days, or perceptions.
She says art interrupts everyday experience. She recalls walking in New York City with her mom, and seeing a bike with a crocheted cover on a street corner.
“It interrupted my day. I’ll never forget the conversation I was having. I’ll never forget that corner.”
She hopes the Love Lettering Project does the same thing, and makes people stop and remember.