amongst books

amongst books

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

a month of letters

for the month of February, I have been participating in the Month of Letters Challenge launched by American writer Mary Robinette Kowal. I decided to participate because I have always loved corresponding by mail, hadn't done it much in a while, & i realized i missed writing letters to dear friends. There is something intimate about writing someone a letter, something very physical & tactile.

You can write a letter anywhere, in any room, in a café or a pub, even in a moving vehicle, if you have good hand-eye co-ordination. What you need is very minimal. You can write on any kind of paper, using any kind of ink. You can include a love poem, a collage, or just write a few pages of friendly banter. Of course you can do most of those things using a computer, but the act of pushing pen across paper feels less hurried, more focused & thoughtful.

When I'm on the computer, I'm usually doing many different things at the same time, but when I'm writing a letter, it's all I can do. all my attention is on the recipient. Hand writing slows down my thoughts.

With e-mail we're used to fast or almost instant responses. With the mail, you have to expect slow or even no response at all. What is meaningful to the letter writer may have no meaning at all to the recipient. Or like with spam, the letter could get lost in a sea of junk mail.

What I have enjoyed particularly about this exercise, aside from the ritual of daily writing & regular trips to the post office is connection, which is what I am looking for in everything I do, especially writing.

I enjoy reading the correspondence of famous writers, of lovers. letters, above all, feel like a site for revelations & confessions.

So far all the responses to my letters have been via e-mail. People have been happy to receive a personal letter; it has reminded them of the past when this and the telephone were the only ways to communicate with distant friends & family.

I still write letters to my mother. I find it more comfortable, calmer & less distruptive than the telephone. Recently her husband died. I found sending her letters & cards a better way to offer condolences & to read about her grief than e-mails or even the telephone. My mother just turned eighty on Monday. She was born in 1932 in Yorkshire, & lived thru terrible bombings during the war in Sheffield.

I was also born there. I remember when I was growing up the link to the past, to that land of stories more than anything was those thin blue envelopes with thin blue paper & the British postage stamps on them. it was exciting to receive these letters, to find out all the details about my English cousins. Parcels were even more splendid. a kilt, perhaps or a soft yellow sweater, hand-knitted by my grandmother. Brown paper packages tied up with string.

dear Eloise

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