Anticipation and the Hidden Art of Letter Writing
I do believe that letter writing has become a lost art. When I was a young, I wrote letters continually to friends and cousins. One of my most frequent gifts was stationery, and I loved it. I still have a box full of my favorite handwritten letters and sweet cards received from others. I am transported back in time the moment I unfold the pages of an old letter, and know who the sender is just by the handwriting.
Recently my mother shared a book with me, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The book is written as a series of letters from the various characters in the book. By these letters, I have fallen in love with the characters and emphasized with their place in history in a very fresh and real way.
This book has also rekindled that joy of letter writing. This past week I’ve written two letters with no intent other than to share a bit of my life with the recipient. I could share the same information by phone or by email, but there is a joy in receiving a letter from a friend. My hope is that I will form a new habit, or rather reform an old habit, because I found as much enjoyment from writing the letters as I’m hoping their receipt will cause.
I loved receiving letters from my grandmother when she was living on this earth. When I was younger, I found it odd that she always wrote of the weather as a prominent portion of her letters. It wasn’t until later speculation that I realized how much a farm wife’s life and activity would depend on the weather. What she accomplished each day would be determined by how hard the wind was blowing or by chance it might be raining. Now when I look back over her letters, I can understand so much more of who she was. I have a record in her own words.
One joy I distinctly remember from my letter writing days was the anticipation of receiving a letter in return. And yes, that is how we used to communicate. I didn’t call my friend from Colorado, or my cousins in Oklahoma. Each day would bring the hope of a letter in the mail for me. Ah the sweet pleasure of anticipation.
There is so little that we have to anticipate these days with communication links so instant. With Facebook and Twitter, I now can know not only what little things are going on in hundreds of lives that I really hadn’t been connected with before, but I can also contact and get a response from someone within moments. If I have to wait a day to receive a reply, I think something must be wrong.
My mom always likes to wait until Christmas Day to open gifts. We used to beg and plead to open just one on Christmas Eve (when I say used to, I mean every Christmas since our birth to present day). She often allows it, but doesn’t want to open any of her own, not until Christmas. She enjoys that sweet pleasure of anticipation. I may be on the brink of understanding.
So from my enjoyment of writing these two letters last week, I propose a challenge to you. Write a letter to a friend and mail it, even if you see or talk to your friend regularly. For all you artists, send mail art, but also add a sweet handwritten letter somewhere on that art. Use one of your favorite pens and some nice thick paper, or your very favorite scratch pad. Talk about the simple details of that moment of your life. Enjoy.