Last December, Wiebke Light was browsing through Third Place Books when she stumbled upon an idea.
“There was this art diary,” she says, about artists who had done different art projects each day for a year. Light was especially inspired by “Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?” Kate Bingaman Burt’s collected drawings of everything she bought for three years.
“I was walking home and my mind was spinning,” she says. “I thought ‘maybe I could just do it.’”
Light brought the idea home to her husband, Rabbi Stuart Light, who encouraged her. She only had to decide what to create every day for 365 days.
“What are my values? What would I like to document every day?” Light, 42, asked herself. “First, I’d like to develop more art skills and do it in a way that’s somewhat challenging…something small and simple and doable.” She also wanted to connect it to people, who would hold her accountable. And it went from there.
“We feel strongly about no media, and a simplistic life,” Light says. So she decided to create one postcard a day to send to friends and family. It was sort of “an anti-act to Facebook and emailing and texting and Twittering, to connect with people the old way,” she says.
Light studied art in her native Germany (her first name is pronounced Vib-keh) before studying Jewish art and material culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where she met her husband. After working for many years in the museum world, she currently assists in the art room at the Jewish Day School, where her three children attend and her husband is assistant head of school.
Since January 1, Light has been carving out time every day to design a postcard. But the project has evolved from artistic enrichment and reconnection to a lesson in gratitude, change and acceptance.
Light recalls starting out by opening her address book. “I’ll just go from A to Z and see how far I can get,” she says. But she soon found her address book was outdated.
“I realized after two weeks or three weeks there weren’t any addresses were left.”
It was her first lesson in accepting change.
“Sometimes, when we have a plan, and we want to change something, we think we have to have it all figured out,” she reflects.
Light started “looking for things to thank people for that aren’t so obvious.” So she sent one to her kids’ bus driver.
“His name is Nestor and he’s awesome,” she says. “I take him so for granted, and we all do…he never gets a formal thank you.”
Light also keeps a blog, located at mazecard.blogspot.com, to track her journey. In January, she worked through struggles with time management and perfectionism. But since then, Light says the project has made her “think about the positives in life.” On June 10 she wrote, “Finding myself now on day 148 of my daily postcard project, I notice that I have gained something that I have always longed for, but never knew how to achieve: I am much happier and more content…by cultivating the daily practice of thinking of people in a positive way, I find myself constantly concerned with thoughts of gratitude, love and appreciation.”
While many of her cards go to family members here and in her hometown of Braunfels, Germany, Light sends cards with words of encouragement to community members going through hard times. At the midyear point, she held a party and invited her friends to make their own cards, which she brought to the radiation department at the University of Washington Medical Center. Light sent her first card to her oldest friend in Germany, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She will also get the last card.
Light has also found her project to be a good lesson for her kids, who are 12, 10 and 6. “They see me do something that I follow through with that is kind of crazy,” she says. Her children often join her as guest artists.
Light admits she’s somewhat looking forward to the end of the daily commitment, but she’s thinking ahead to her next artistic endeavor, which may involve holiday crafts, puppets or sewing. She’s making a tallit for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, part of a vision to make lifecycles more meaningful through art.
“We still rely on the ‘Jewish Catalog’ for ideas,” she says.
She would like to create something “out of the box,” whimsical or recycled, to beautify the home.
But, as Light has learned, it’s not about the plan.
“I can start something without knowing where it’s going to go,” she says.