a blue butterfly and sad tuesday...
a postcard and envelope from a ham radio station operator from new zealand, posted to someone in chicago in 1938. these cards are called 'QSL' cards, and were sent as a confirmation that the two distant stations could hear each other's signal. most operators seemed to have posted the cards they received on their station walls, along with vast maps, as a way of visualizing the distant reach of their signals. you can see a nice collection of french ones online here. i don't collect these cards in general, although i have a few with real photos of amateur radio operators amidst all their gear in their tiny 'radio stations', usually a basement or corner of a bedroom.
anyone who frequents the blog will probably surmise my attraction to this one is related to the butterfly image (you can read a recent post on aby warburg's 'seelentierchen' a few weeks ago as a start...), and in particular i was attracted to the fact that this card not only contained a butterfly, but is also colored red and blue, a relationship to butterflies and color that i keep inside me.
i am guessing c.o. pepperell decided on the butterfly and birds motif as a metaphor for helping his radio signal fly through the air to distant lands, and indeed he seems to have gotten at least as far as chicago! i wonder what kind of sounds his birds and butterfly carried through the airwaves.
the interesting thing about collecting objects that for the most part were kept as part of a person's personal life, is the notations and details within which one begins to detect an intimate moment in another person's life. on the envelope that pepperell sent to chicago, he wrote the words "sad tuesday, august 2, 1938". i googled this date and other than the first experiment using a yellow baseball in a major league baseball game, i could find nothing else of note. unless pepperell was a fantatical baseball purist and hated the idea of a yellow ball instead of a white one, i would imagine something in pepperell's personal life must've happened around that time.
it's strange to relate all this back to warburg, who at times told his troubles to butterflies. i can imagine an amateur radio operator in chicago receiving this envelope with a butterfly inside, and the words "sad tuesday" written on the envelope being a bit confused. like warburg's seelentierchen, pepperell's butterfly and birds must've also been the recipients of shared sadness, and similarly then flew away. the image and the object are keepers of someone's pain and sadness; a butterfly and an envelope, both containing echoes yet unable to speak. they are only listeners, and unlike radio stations with strong signals, they broadcast only a small a bit of solace in their silence, as if the station has gone off the air, and it's weakened signal a tiny stream of quiet static.
because today is also tuesday, i send good thoughts to c.o.pepperell in the hopes that the sadness of that tuesday 70 years ago didn't last too long, and didn't hit too hard; and that a certain small happiness was found perhaps, on wednesday, or thursday morning the latest...