Bitter Grounds Magazine is all about stamps, conversation and espresso. The format lets me explore the stories and designers behind the stamps we love to collect. History, art, culture, the list is never ending. 

This is the latest incarnation of a long line of blogs/magazines I’ve kept since the early days of the public Internet. My first magazine, written specifically for Netscape (the first) had a grey background, no formatting and a lot of energy. The undiscovered frontier! Over the decades, the content has evolved from simple personal ramblings and an incoherent jumble to Bitter Grounds. Less a blog and more a magazine showing various interests that include photography, art and stamps and not so much frenetic energy.

Over time, ideas coalesced about what I wanted to do with the website. I wanted to move away from a generic one size fits all blog. I took a year off writing and redesigned the site and changed it to a magazine format. Gone was the dated name Catpaw’s Blog. New name, better categories. My interests centred around typography, design, art, photography and tech. Also gone was the politics. I’m still a very political creature but began to find writing about politics a chore and began dreading it. We’re swamped with politically laced news, Bitter Grounds was to be an oasis of non political content.

Covid changed everything

Covid caused a massive shift in how I viewed Bitter Grounds. During the first month of lockdown, my mom’s health gave out and she died. The single most important person, and someone I had been caring for over the years. We had fun together and her death left a massive void in my life. It was mom who got me hooked on collecting stamps. When I was a child, we would wander around flea markets looking for bargains. One day mom plopped down a hard earned $10 and bought me my first stamp album and gave it to me as a surprise. She thought philately was something I might enjoy. Little did she realise it turned into a life long passion. I can burble on about stamps for hours. 

Sitting with mom during that long week she slowly slipped away was just about the worst time in my life. When I returned to our apartment, the night she died, I sat in the dark for awhile and just stopped thinking. When I woke up I decided to just delete the site. She and I had been planning to do some articles together and suddenly the site just seemed too much. It reminded me of her joy of life too much. Thankfully a friend threatened me if I deleted the site. I remember her words “don’t you dare!”. So I put it aside and just poked at it for months. 

Sometime between October 2021 and Christmas I realised how much joy I got out of writing about stamps. Just what’s new, what I like. It came so easily. I was still playing around with the other content at that time, but it all seemed to remind me too much of mom. Spring of 2021 brought a realisation that made me smile. Not only did I love writing about stamps, but it brought back a sense of joy to me. I remembered rooting around flea markets with mom looking for little bundles of stamps to sort through, or the usual Christmas gift of a stamp block she picked out for me. It took a number of attempts, but I reconfigured Bitter Grounds to reflect my new focus – Philately. 

Yes, gone was all the old content (some may return) and up went article after article. And yes, life started to feel normal again. Being alone during a lockdown without stamps to write about might have been too overwhelming. I relearned the childlike pleasure of looking at stamps & learning about them. Sharing this with an audience brings me a sense of joy that never leaves. 

Mom would be so proud of this site now.