I STILL GET LETTERS. Real letters, the kind you don’t often see anymore, like the carefully-folded letters you might once have received from a great aunt. They are written on carefully selected stationery, usually in longhand, but always with handmade elegance. And often with a fountain pen. A personal, handwritten letter has a presence all its own. Sit down, open it, and you draw a curtain on the rest of the world so that you and your correspondent can be alone, here, now, in quiet communion.
Hundreds of daily e-mail notes, wrapped in volumes of spam, take up no space at all. Today’s nervous, spell-checked electronic messages fly around the world in an instant, consuming very little energy over the distance. But even in vast numbers e-mail can only envy the delicious tactile experience, the organic visual appeal of a single handwritten letter. For letter writers the thrill of instant gratification is redeemed by the joy of anticipation. In their creation, real letters expose every grammatical error, every flaw of penmanship, building character and self-confidence within a tenacious writer. The best letters become keepsakes. One American Bungalow pen pal is a Detroit native, or at least a long-timer. He keeps us up-to-date on his town and sometimes takes us to task about the magazine’s viewpoint. The writer knows and loves Detroit, yet his most recent letter thanked us for the Pittsburgh painters article.* The handmade custom envelope contained an image of a splendid Pittsburgh industrial plein air painting, a window into the past he has treasured for decades.
Another important letter, delivered flat in a large kraft envelope and addressed in longhand script, arrived recently from Canada. Over a year ago, in Issue 74, I wrote of a remarkable, instantaneous bonding at Grove Park with a guy from Winnipeg. The letter was from him. He and his wife had been backpacking in Europe, so he didn’t notice the mention of our encounter in my publisher’s letter until taking time one afternoon to plow through unread issues while waiting for family to arrive for a Christmas celebration. The entry door swung open at the same moment the emotional discovery unraveled on page one, so the words were read aloud by one of his children. He said there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Wine was poured and a new dimension was added to an already special holiday.
Real letters can do that. They bond us. They float for a while in a time of their own, then arrive to connect us with undiminished, familiar energy. Letters are opportunities to bring Arts and Crafts genuineness and handmade art to a relationship. Keeping tradition, my new Canadian friend did not turn to e-mail or instant messaging to respond to my magazine letter. Instead, his reply was crafted in a corner booth at a hometown coffee shop where he gathered his stationery and his thoughts and then relaxed to enjoy “the sensations of my fountain pen sliding across the paper.”
Letters sweeten life.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
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