Letterbox Name: The Great American Pin-up Series: Alice
Location: Waukesha County, WI
Distance: 3.5 miles
Once upon a time, there were eight lovely sisters. They were born in Lake County, Illinois, and were raised in an old farmhouse and, after they had grown up, they made their way out into the world. They found nice nooks and cozy niches to call home, and found themselves receiving all sorts of interesting visitors.
But every so often, the sisters longed for a bit of adventure themselves, and hit the trail to go and see their cousins, who lived in all sorts of interesting places. One day Evelyn received a letter from her cousin Alice, inviting her for a visit. Evelyn was thrilled, for she and Alice had been great friends since they were girls. They shared a love of stories and poems, and had often spent long hours talking about their favorite books. Evelyn was also excited because, for this trip, she planned to bring a special surprise along for her cousin.
When Alice received Evelyn’s reply, saying she would be coming for a visit, she started to think about where they might go for a good walk and a nice picnic lunch. She settled on a beautiful spot near where she’d grown up in Waukesha County, WI. It was a lovely spot called mahpaL kaeP park, and the two of them made plans to meet at the Evergreen Grove.
When the day arrived, Evelyn packed a few things into a knapsack and made her way north from Illinois into Wisconsin, toward mahpaL kaeP. When Evelyn arrived, she saw that Alice had already picked out a spot just west of the parking lot. Alice had spread out a homemade quilt on the thick green grass and, as she was wont to do, had drifted off to sleep.
Not wanting to disturb or wake her cousin just yet, Evelyn stealthily removed a few things from her bag and set them on the blanket. She took out some chocolates that her sister Ethel had sent along, and a bottle of red wine that she’d purchased in a shop across the street from the bookstore she called home. And most importantly, she took out the gift she’d brought for Alice, and set it down on the blanket beside her daintily dozing friend.
When she’d finished, she laid a gentle hand on Alice’s shoulder and gave her a slight shake. Alice jumped up out of her dream, startled into wakefulness, and looked around as though unsure of just where she was. When she saw Evelyn, she smiled and threw her arms around her in an enthusiastic hug. As they pulled away, Alice saw the package that Evelyn had set down next to her. Alice gave her cousin a good-natured grin and asked “What exactly is this?”
“It’s a gift. A little something that I found at the shop, and knew you would enjoy.”
“But it’s not my birthday or anything,” replied Alice playfully.
“Consider it an un-birthday present then,” offered Evelyn, returning Alice’s smile.
So Alice unwrapped the gift carefully, and found it to be an antique copy of “Through the Looking Glass”, dated 1878. It was marvelously illustrated, and showed just enough age to be really interesting. The outer edges of the pages had yellowed, and Alice took a moment to feel the weight of the book and the texture of the paper. She breathed in deeply and savored the smell which seemed to be unique to old books. It was a wonderful gift, and Alice looked at her cousin with wonder as she said, simply, “Thank you.”
“I’m glad you like it,” replied Evelyn excitedly. “This gentleman walked into the store the other day with a box full of old books that he’d cleaned out from his father’s house, and he had no idea what he had. There were all sorts of antique books and special, annotated editions. I was in heaven sorting through them. And of course, when I saw this one, I thought of you. I know Alice’s adventures have always been some of your favorite stories.”
“Yes,” replied Alice. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved those books. They’ve actually been on my mind quite a bit lately.” She looked pensive, and slightly troubled as she said this. “But let’s talk about that over some lunch.”
So Alice began to unpack the sandwiches and fruit that she’d brought with her as Evelyn opened and poured some wine for each of them. They talked for a while, sitting in the afternoon sunlight and enjoying their lunch. When lunch was finished, and the wine was gone, Evelyn asked Alice about books, and what exactly had been on her mind of late.
“Let’s talk about that later, after a little nap,” said Alice, as she stifled a yawn.
“I should have known better than to bring along wine,” replied Evelyn. “No, let’s take a walk. I want to hear what’s on your mind, and it won’t do to have you drifting off into dreamland.”
Evelyn stood up and offered a hand to her cousin. When the two had packed up the remains of their picnic, they started off westward across County Road C, and began walking on the trail that made Alice think immediately of roses, hearts, and diamonds. Before long, they came to a fork in the path, and chose to follow the one-way bicycle trail for while.
As they walked, Evelyn once again asked Alice what was troubling her. Alice sighed heavily and said, “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with the rest of my life. Just like you and the other girls, I made my way out into the world, and found something which seemed to suit me. But I think I got it wrong.”
Evelyn smiled encouragingly at Alice, and nodded as she continued.
“The office I work in is stifling something in me. I’m so envious of you, getting to work with books all the time. I loved that. I loved being away at school and learning about books. I loved discussing books and trying to figure out what things meant. I sometimes think that figuring out stories helped me figure out…me.” She paused momentarily, and ended, saying “I guess that sounds kind of strange.”
“No,” replied Evelyn. “It sounds wonderful.” And the two continued walking until they came to another fork. This time, they chose the right-hand path, veering toward an idyllic little farm. From here, they walked until their path intersected the Ice Age Trail, and decided to follow that trail as it rolled up and down hills, and eventually led into a pleasant little forest.
After a while of walking in silence together, they reached the end of the forest. Alice spoke again, saying, “I guess I’m just struggling with whether it’s enough. I mean, does it make a difference to try and better understand what’s in a story? Does finding a deeper meaning in literature help anyone?”
Evelyn replied. “It helped you, didn’t it? I mean, I really believe there’s something important about understanding the ideas that other people have decided to write down. The writers and poets we read have all shared some essential part of themselves. Understanding THAT helps us understand ourselves, and the thoughts that shaped the past, and the ideas that led us to where we are today.”
They walked on, and Alice added, “It’s the thing that makes me really happy. It just seems like studying literature is what I need to do.”
“I was reading a book by Alan Moore, and he wrote ‘On dream’s foundation matter’s mudyards rest. Two sketching hands, each one the other draws: the fantasies thou’ve fashioned fashion thee.’ Stories are more than just stories, Alice.”
The two continued onward, each one commenting on the beautiful scenery in the park. At one point, Evelyn asked Alice what had drawn her to this place, and Alice simply replied that it felt like the sort of place where one might find marvelous characters. She felt as though, around any bend, she might find the Cheshire Cat, or the Mad Hatter, or even the Queen of Hearts herself.
So they walked along and talked about whatever came to mind until Alice spotted a sign post ahead. They could continue to follow the Ice Age Trail by turning left, or go straight ahead to a natural spring. “Oh, let’s go to the spring,” said Alice excitedly. “It sounds so much nicer than ice and snow.” Evelyn agreed, and the two walked along, over planks and walkways, until they came to the edge of a small, clear pool. Tired, they sat down on the first bench that they came to. After resting for a moment, Alice looked over her left shoulder (at an angle that just happened to equal a bearing of about 160 degrees), at a tree that seemed to lean slightly towards the spring. She looked back at Evelyn, her face showing her excitement and astonishment. Evelyn smiled, knowing what Alice was about to say.
“It’s crazy, but I think I’ve found my place. It’s the perfect place to curl up with my books, and try to learn as much as I can.”
“It’s not crazy at all. It makes more sense than I can say. It feels right, just like the bookstore is right for me.” Evelyn wrapped her cousin in a warm embrace, and wished her well. Then Alice walked over to the tree’s base and lay down in her new home, eager to immerse herself in tales of Wonderland…right after a brief nap.
The Great American Pin-up series is, first and foremost, a celebration of the style, femininity, and fun of pin-up art over the years. While great care was taken to select images that would not offend, it’s worth noting that some letterboxers, including those traveling with younger children, might find the images to be “rated PG”. That said, we hope that you enjoy the images as much as we’ve enjoyed selecting and carving them.
Please note: The stamps are a bit large, and will require a 4”x 6” space for stamping. We also strongly recommend inking pens, to bring out the full detail of the stamps.
Note about the park: In 2008, the daily fee to enter the park is $7 for WI residents, $10 for non-residents. Annual stickers for all state park areas are $25 (residents) and $35 (non-residents). Reduced rates are available for people 65 years and older.