A smooth clean surface. Slices of trees stacked and waiting for your touch. An endless well of midnight that loops and curves and twists in a way that is uniquely yours. Pink canopy of soft petals overhead, gently anticipating the first movement of your wrist. The sun slowly bidding adieu as you settle into the stillness.
The art of letter writing is the moment when the earth stops spinning and the days and weeks worth of thoughts come tumbling forth like a child first learning to walk. It is a quiet time and a loud time. A time to share what is heavy on your heart. A time when the chatter of your own mind stops, filters, announces the most important. A time to giggle, remember, cry, hope. A time to be alone and together–with your sister, grandma, best friend. A one-sided conversation that anxiously awaits the reply from the postman before your own has even a stamp upon it.
* * *
I have had an affair with letter writing since I was very young. It started with moving away from my best friend in the first grade. Then in the fourth grade I met a vacationing Norwegian family and Ingrid became my first European pen pal. I met girls at Jr. High summer camp that I still keep in touch with today. I exchanged written words with friends while they were away at college. I wrote letters to my friend while she traveled all those years–Malaysia, Hawaii, France, Morocco. I even swapped notes with my friend who chose an unfortunate path that led to jail time. A letter reaches across oceans and regrets; pulls you closer to the shore of familiarity.
I doubt that I could recognize any of my friends or family by simply feeling the shape of their hands. But if you were to have each one write out the same sentence, in their own hand, I can guarantee that I’d be able to identify the large full loops belonging to Marj; the beautiful flowing script that came from my left-handed mother; the hurried, artful scribbles of my sister; the European nuances belonging to Ingrid,; the slanted full letters of Garner; the perfectly balanced evenness of Lorna’s hand…
To know someone through the simple formation of letters on a page is an intimacy I do not want to lose. It is all too easy to be satisfied with e-mail, social networking, blogs, texts. Don’t misunderstand-technology has it’s place. But let me ask you this:
When was the last time you received a letter in the mail? A hand-written note from a friend? Did you laugh? Did you cry? Did you feel as though that person reached across an ocean just to say hello?
It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?