The Kindred Spirit’s Mailbox-by-the-Sea
August 18, 2017
Coastal shorelines change and shift with the tides and storms, but some things manage to stay the same – with a little help from their friends.
A black mailbox staked in the dunes on the North Carolina side of Little River Inlet has withstood the assaults of Nature for over 38 years while it continued its unique mission. It has been on my wish-list to visit for a long time.
So a month ago, I hiked the long stretch of white sand beach beside Bird Island Reserve toward the inlet in search of this mysterious mailbox with its red flag always up. It sits among natural dunes separating the beach from the scrub oak-covered wetlands of the reserve. The only sounds were from wind and sea, wading birds and gulls.
The Kindred Spirit is more than a mailbox. It’s a wishing well, a treasure chest, and a psychotherapist, all in one. You can tell it anything and leave some of your heavy thoughts among the sand dunes as you walk away feeling better.
I brought paper and a pen to leave my message but didn’t need them after all. The mailbox is stuffed with composition books, with some pages still blank. Locals speculate that over 100,000 people have left messages here over the years.
I opened one notebook and read some of the entries written just before I arrived. A man assuring himself that life was still good since the recent death of his wife. A woman returning many times to ask for guidance. A child’s hand describing a great vacation. Everything from tears to cheers fill the pages and draw a vivid picture of our shared humanity.
I’ve written here before about the power of an Unsent Letter. Here you see a living example. The Kindred Spirit invites anonymous writing to relieve psychological pressure and untangle difficult decisions.
In a June 2015 article in North Carolina’s magazine, Our State, writer Katie Quine described, “Much of the mailbox’s magic is that those who write in its journals can remain as anonymous as they’d like to be… A blank page is an immeasurable gift in life, and the Kindred Spirit has journals filled with them. Redemption clings to the air like salt here, where friends of the Spirit trust it enough to confess wrongdoing, admit mistakes, and seek forgiveness.”
Some still think that the people responsible for this mailbox remain a mystery, but that’s no longer a secret. How else would we know about the special collection of journal pages conserved at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington library, its Facebook page, or published magazine and television news interviews?
It seems that 90-year-old, Frank Nesmith, was in on it from the beginning, although he gives credit to “Claudia,” a girlfriend from his youth with whom he kept in touch until her death in 2013. Her vision of a mailbox by the sea in the sand, inspired the two friends to plant their first mailbox at the north end of Sunset Beach. The shifting coastline forced them to move it to Bird island in 1983 where it has been ever since even though, at an earlier time, people had to swim across a tidal creek or wait for low tide to reach their destination.
It was also Claudia who named Kindred Spirit. In a letter to Frank, Claudia explained, “The Kindred Spirit is a way of being – not a person” and she signed it from “Your Friend, K.S.”
Do you want to know more? Go to Facebook’s page, “Kindred Spirit Mailbox,” and search Trip Advisor’s 100% ratings from visitors who have shared their thoughts with K.S.
And don’t miss this CBS News interview from June 23, 2014, with Frank Nesmith and his helper, Jacqueline DeGroot at http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/uncovering-the-mystery-of-the-kindred-spirit-mailbox/
It just might make your day!
Susan’s next journal writing groups begin September 7th. For information and to Register, click www.susanhendricks.com/events/new-fall-writing-groups-2017 Meetings are held in downtown Columbia, SC. Susan is a local Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Journal Therapist associated with www.wholistictherapyandcoaching.com