Month of Letters

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.*  


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!


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

Return to Sender

Here we are, in the midst of the Month of Letters.  I thought it might be fun to reflect on . . .

return addresses.

I know that now, in the days of "de minimis gift" pre-printed return address labels from MANY a non-profit organization, it is hard to remember that, once-upon-a-time, we had to purchase our own lables.  Or, perish the thought, write your own return address in the corner of your envelope!

(Brian recently asked me "what's the point" of return addresses on envelopes.  I explained the whole "return to sender" thing.  He was rather stymied.  Oh, The Young.  And their dependence on e-everthing. . . )


In the early years of our relationship, Tom and I went to different colleges.  (He was then at Boise State and - that time - I was at the University of Wyoming).  We wrote letters to each other.  Lots of letters.  Often, several each week.

With that many letters coming and going, you tend to turn to amusement with the mundane task of  letter-addressing.  (And some people more than others.)  Most of Tom's return addresses looked like this. . .


(Yeah.  Dr. Gonzo.)

But sometimes, he got a little creative.


And a little silly.


Tom's letters were never dull.  (Inside or out. . .)


I remember the girls that I lived with in the Tri-Delt house used to love to sort out Tom's letters and display them on the very top of the day's mail pile.  His return addresses were pretty entertaining - for everyone!


Good thing he wrote my name and address so clearly on the front of the envelope . . . because . . . who knows WHERE these letters may have been delivered, had there been any delivery issues.

Return to sender?  Yeah.  Good luck with that!


Communications 101

Take a trip with me in the Way-Back Machine . . .

When communications were basic -- simple, thoughtful, and more leisurely.  (Yeah.  And we also had to walk to school.  Every day.  Uphill.  Through snow deeper than your rooftops.  In sub-zero temperatures.  Both ways.)

Anyway.  Back then. . . we wrote letters.  And sent them through the mail.  And waited for a response.  And wrote back.

Before the advent of email (really, think about it, mid-90s!) and IM (early 00s) and Facebook (mid 00s) and Ravelry (2007) and smart phones (late 00s) . . . we communicated through the mail.  It wasn't even called "snail mail" back then.  Just . . . mail.

I loved waiting for the mail to come every day.  Maybe I'd get a letter . . .

When I was in college, I wrote letters home.  And home wrote me letters back.  We rarely called on the phone -- because long distance was expensive back then!  Tom and I went to different colleges in different states . . . and kept up our relationship with letters.  For a whole year!


(Letters that both of us have saved, by the way.)

I still like to get a surprise card or note in my mailbox.  It just doesn't happen very often anymore, and I really don't pay much atttention to whether the mail has come today . . . or not.

Until February!  Now that February is the Month of Letters, I look forward to the postal truck every day -- picking up my mail.  And, from time to time, delivering some mail for me.


Read about the Month of Letters challenge here -- and think about joining in.  February is a great month for a challenge -- and this one is fun and easy and surprisingly enjoyable!

I'm ready . . .


for a more basic and simple form of communicating!  I call it . . . Communications 101.


Right Now . . . January 2013

Here's what's going on in my life  . . . RIGHT NOW.


Watching . . . Downton Abbey, of course.  (Still in shock over the demise of Lady Sybil. . .)  An episode of Portlandia every now and then, for laughs.  (Put a bird on it . . .)  And movies.  (Lots of movies.)

Reading . . . Alice Munro's newest short-story collection, Dear LifeThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman.  And the poetry of Mary Oliver.  (Don't forget . . . Silent Poetry Reading, blog-style, coming up on February 2!)

Knitting . . . Ei-yi-yi!  We really will not speak of knitting today.  Except to say that my Tinder cardigan is finished (except for buttons and blocking).  It is currently in a bit of a balled up wad in the corner.  There was (ahem) a bit of an issue with one-row buttonholes.  But I had a lot of practice.  And now they're perfect.  PERFECT, I tell you.  I also finished a sock.  And that's all I'm going to say about knitting.

Listening to . . . Respighi, Ben Harper, and Motion City Soundtrack.  Also. . . Macklemore*.  (Thanks for the introduction, Brian!)

Thinking about . . . Being open to SURPRISES in my life.

Dreading . . . Wallpaper removal.  And how it's really the only thing holding me back from a having a cool bathroom.

Humming . . . Sweet Emotion.  Aerosmith.

Planning . . . A special birthday celebration for my special friend, Sandie.  A little trip with my sister (to Not Europe).  And how to get everything ready to deal with my recalled iMac (Still.  I don't want to do it.).

Celebrating . . . Another 6-month oncology check-up under my belt.  All is well.


Drinking . . . Chai latte.  I got hooked on this great mix from a local coffee/tea company.  Like. . . really hooked.  And now, I can't find any more.  So sad.

Itching to . . . Plant something!

Needing to . . . Get straight with what YEAR it is.  Here it is, the end of January, and I'm still having a hard time writing 2013!!!

Organizing . . . My address book and letter-writing tools.  Tomorrow begins the Month of Letters.  Join in -- click on the link in my sidebar and learn more.

Inspired by . . . The Dreambird Shawl, Scandinavian design, and the succulent planters I saw at the greenhouse last weekend.


Delighted by. . . My new - and practically-perfect-in-every-way bag for work!  After years (seriously. . . YEARS!), I have finally found the most wonderful work/laptop bag in the world (and fairly reasonably priced, too).

How about YOU?  What's going on for YOU . . . right now?


*  See for yourself. . .


You've Got Mail!

I'm busy this week.  Too busy to blog, actually.  I even missed Ten on Tuesday yesterday.  But I did want to just pop in to say. . .


I'm loving this Month of Letters thing!

I love sticking a card (or two) into my mailbox each day.  (And I've loved picking up a few notes and cards, too!) 

To make things easier, I assembled all of my letter-writing paraphernalia (stamps, pen, address labels, notecards, thank-you cards, birthday cards, old-school address book)  in one handy basket.  Now, it's quick and easy to jot a note or send a card!

I think I may just continue this Month of Letters thing indefinitely. . . (although maybe not EVERY day).  It's been fun; it doesn't take up much time; and many of my letter-recipients have been downright delighted to get a note! 

Win-win. . . all around!

Please, Mr. Postman!

Soundtrack. . .


In times gone by, before email and instant messaging and Facebook and texts, I used to love writing letters.  I always had a stock of cards and stationery and stamps at hand.  I kept my address book up to date.  I sent birthday cards and Valentines and long letters.  I looked forward to the mail arriving every day.

When I was 12, my family moved across the country.  I kept up a healthy letter-writing relationship with my cousins and Grandparents and childhood friends for years.  When I went to summer camp, I wrote to my parents every day.  When I went away to college, I sent letters and cards to my friends on other campuses and to my family back home. 

Tom and I went to college in different states.  We wrote to each other nearly every day!  It's hard to imagine the lack of correspondence "options" back then!  No cell phones.  No computers.  No Facebook.  No texting.  Just letters.  (And the occasional, expensive Long Distance Phone Call!)  So we wrote.  I had boxes and boxes of his letters and cards, but eventually, I just pulled out The Very Best Ones to save.  Here's a little sample.


(I have a couple stacks of his letters, still.)  (And he has mine.)

But I rarely write letters any more. 

So when I heard about the Month of Letters challenge, I signed up right away!


I'm really excited to return to a slower, handwritten style of correspondence.  (At least, for a little while!)

I dug out my notecards, gathered some greeting cards, and bought new stamps (roses!).  I updated my address book and located some festive return address labels (compliments of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, I believe).  I used the Month of Letters calendar to plan (at least initially) my letter writing strategy.


And so it begins! 

Oh, Mr. Postman. . . deliver the letter. . . the sooner the better!