Silently
I Am . . .

The Art of Letter Writing

February brings the Month of Letters -- a challenge to write (and post . . . by regular mail) one letter or note or card each day in February.*  

Envelopes

This challenge is fun for me . . . because I love Real Mail.  I love going out to my mailbox and finding a letter or a card inside.  (This doesn't happen very often anymore, so it's especially wonderful.)

Thinking about letters . . .makes me think back.  To those days before the "personal computer."  Before email.  And Facebook.  And texting.  And all the myriad, instant ways we can communicate now.  Back to the days of the humble . . . letter.

My childhood and adolescent years were filled with letter writing.  Back then (which wasn't really all that long ago!), writing letters is what we DID when we wanted to stay in touch with people who didn't live nearby.

I remember the first time I went to camp - when I was 11 - my Mom packed stationery and stamps right alongside my carefully-labeled clothing.  We campers had a quiet break every day after lunch so we could write letters for home.  There was a special camp post office - and mail call every day.  I was at camp for 2 weeks -- and I remember writing letters home most every day.  (My Mom made sure I always had something at mail call, too!)  

My letter writing became especially prolific when my family moved across the country to Wyoming when I was 12.  I kept in close contact with my school and neighborhood friends and my cousins for many years. Even during my college years, I took time to write frequent letters home to my parents and friends.  (I've already written here about how Tom and I kept in touch by mail for an entire year while we finished up at our separate colleges.)

I love looking back at the letters I've saved.  Handwriting.  Doodles.  Cards.  Funny enclosures.  There's such a HISTORY there in those letters!  A history and a passion and a sense of connectedness that just doesn't revewal itself in the pithy Facebook status update or in a quick text.

Now, I love using internet-based communication; I'm totally hooked on the instant satisfaction of a text conversation, the efficiency of email, the personal billboard that is Facebook.  It all works for me!  But.  I still appreciate and enjoy handwritten, delivered-through-the mailbox notes and letters.  I would hate to lose the sense of history that comes from the written word.

Here's a quote from a book by Simon Garfield called To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing:

"Letters have the power to grant us a larger life.  They reveal motivation and deepen understanding.  They are evidential.  They change lives, and they rewire history.  The world once used to run upon their transmission -- the lubricant of human interaction and the freefall of ideas, the silent conduit of the worthy and the incidental, the time we were coming for dinner, the account of our marvelous day, the weightiest joys and sorrows of love.  It must have seemed impossible that their worth would ever be taken for granted or swept awide.  A world without letters would surely be a world without oxygen."

If you enjoy writing and receiving notes and letters -- the old-fashioned kind written in real ink on real paper and sent through the mail with real stamps -- consider joining along for the Month of Letters.  Let's preserve the art of letter writing!

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* The irony that the Month of Letters challenge is communicated and tracked via internet delights me!

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