Dena Hawes

Hanging by a Thread

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Still Point Theatre 01

I lived in a small apartment building that was built in the early 1940s, and the original small, narrow wall mailbox units were still used. Over the course of decades I gave monetary donations to few select charities, and over time my name and address were traded or sold to other charity list serves, which made my daily mailbox experience increasingly more challenging. By 2008 I was receiving solicitations from over seventy charitable organizations.

On a daily basis I received letters and large envelopes with written solicitations that also included gifts such as return address labels, window and bumper stickers, wrapping paper, gift bags and calendars as well as boxes with umbrellas, rain jackets, lined food coolers, fleece blankets and gloves each with the organization's logo. Many had cartoon images of the endangered animal they are representing such as polar bears and wolves.

There were days when so much mail was crammed in my mailbox that envelopes were literally shredded to pieces in my attempt to pull all the mail out at once. I often had cuts on my knuckles caused from the sharp edges around my mailbox as I tugged at the mound of envelopes before me. There were days when the mailperson forced as much mail into my box as possible, and then dumped the remaining heap of mail on the floor below.

Once I was vacationing for two weeks and put my mail on hold. I had requested that all accumulated mail be delivered upon my return. Weeks after my return an enormous bundle of mail was piled up on the welcome matt at my front door, spilling over into the hallway.

My mailbox became a metaphor for the desperate situation that non-profit organizations face. I was solicited by organizations that provide much needed humanitarian services, endangered animal rescue, human and animal rights and ecological services. "Hanging By a Thread" is an expression of desperation caused by an increasing need for funding and support to service providers during the extreme economic downturn of 2008.

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