This month I am mourning the loss of what I consider a most exquisite art form ~ letter writing. That gem that comes by post, beautiful paper or an artful or funny card wrapped in an envelope which travels to me by way of a small square depicting art or culture or history pasted to the right hand corner. I can’t describe the excitement I feel when I get a card or letter in the mail. Almost as much as the excitement I feel when I send one to a friend or a loved one. It can often look travel weary from it’s trip over many miles but inside it holds a treasure trove of thoughts and wishes and laughs that cannot be duplicated.
When I lived in Los Angeles in the 1980’s, I was introduced to the unique practice of letter writing to people who lived in the same city. I don’t know why that seemed so amazing but it did. After all we had phones and…..well in the 80’s we just had phones, the kind connected into the wall, not the ones you could carry in your pocket. The answering machine attached to said phone made sure to record a message from a caller so we all felt so much more connected then a mere few years prior to that. Still, I just thought that writing a letter to someone you could most likely meet for coffee within the next couple of hours or so was such a lovely indulgence. It felt so…Victorian!!! Getting the mail was always an adventure and I confess it still is to this day although now we mostly get ads and bills. But sometimes mixed in with those dull pieces of mail are beautiful cards and letters whose words had been written to me a week or more prior. The emotion and sentiments folded into the pages of that missive were carried across miles, holding their lovely greeting until anxiously opened.
I’ve been thinking a lot about letter writing. It takes time to write. Your brain is engaged. Your heart is engaged. You have to be fully present to put thoughts into words and transcribe them onto paper. Maybe if we all had to sit with a pen to write a response to an event or a person rather then quickly shooting off a text or a tweet we would have time to think about the situation better and more deeply. And respond in a better way. I fear for the loss of this art form as people have forever mourned the loss of an old way giving into a new. Time marches on and we have to keep up. Electronic words and symbols now take the place of writing flourishes, although I must admit there are a few who have asked if I could write clearer. My handwriting doesn’t always keep up with my brain, which is my point about writing. You need to slow down.
I do admit that I enjoy being able to text and tweet and respond quickly to a question or a statement. I am not saying we should go back to our phones in the wall with the answering machine attached. But I do find it sad that in making room for all of our new inventions, some of the old good ones are falling by the wayside. Sort of like the electronic reader replacing a good old fashioned book. But that sentiment is for another blog post.
It’s a scary time in history right now. One continent is burning. Another is on the brink of war. Still another continues to change regimes as drought and famine and violence send masses of people fleeing for refuge somewhere else. It’s so hard to stay positive. It’s hard to find the good and the meaningful in so much suffering. Any letters and cards I get have a destination, which means I have a home. I am blessed, I am privileged. I do not take this lightly. I cherish any missives I receive, taping them into the pages of my journals, not willing to let their beautiful intent go into a landfill or recycling center. We need to put more of that out into the world. More well wishes, more love, more compassion, more understanding.
There have been dark times before and humans have prevailed. I think of my parents and what they must have hoped for when they married at the end of WWII. For certain they had hope because we are the proof many decades later. We must keep hope too, coupled with action, to solve the problems of our generation. Thoughts and prayers are not nearly enough. I fully believe the energy and actions of many together will foster change. Our children are reminding us of that every day.
Bruce Springsteen wrote that we all need just a little of that human touch. He’s onto something. Humans cannot thrive in a vacuum or in silence. Writing a letter to someone is a beautiful human touch. So is picking up that phone in our pocket and making a call. I hope we will always write cards and letters but like the librarian I always wished I had been, I will keep this archive alive for as long as I am able. I will send words out into the world and hope they land in a place where their sentiment is much needed. I will keep hope alive as much as I am able and take action when I can. And seal it with a kiss.