Sunday, November 8, 2009
The Joy of Letters
The sky is as steel colored as a gun barrel, the air is chilly, and my November is looking more like a harbinger of winter than the colorful leaf quilt of autumn I so love. It is a legal holiday and there will be no mail delivery which adds to the feeling of gray isolation. However, I don’t get much real mail these days because people have changed to emails rather than use the pen these days.
Not only do I miss face to face contact by replacing conversations with emails, the joy of reading letters is eliminated. In letters folks take the time both in the writing and the reading. Writing used to mean choosing the right stationary, color and paper weight, picking a fine pointed pen, maybe even selecting a shade of ink. Then the thoughts were chosen with equal care, mulling over words and expressions, taking the time to capture our lives for sharing with another in just the right way.
Ah, and to receive a letter! Carrying it in from the mailbox, I hold an envelope with expectation, one I can identify by penmanship as a greeting from a friend carrying news or simple chat! It means pouring steaming water from a kettle for a cup of tea, a sit down in the kitchen, a few quiet moments for reading and re-reading the letter. Still the letter can be saved for yet another read, maybe kept in a ribbon tied box. Emails don’t urge me to save them in anything other than maybe a stiff manila folder.
I have two letters my Dad wrote his mother from Ft. Knox right after World War Two had ended and I was not even a thought in his head yet. But I can glimpse what he sounded like as a young man, his loneliness for home and family. I have other handwritten letters from people who no longer walk the earth. Yet, when I miss these people the most I can pull out the letters and “hear” their voices tell a story or share some news. I can see the way they looped their letters and curled their signatures.
Now I think I will turn off my You Have Mail button and dig my letter box out from the bottom desk drawer. I will go light a candle fragrant with cinnamon and apples, pull my sweater tighter across my chest, and put the kettle on for tea. I can come back to the cyber world later, but for now, I want to read a real letter even if the mailman doesn’t come today.