One of the greatest pleasures I can remember as a girl was the moment when mail came, and I had a letter from a friend, or even from a pen pal. I would go to my room, or outside somewhere quiet, open it with anticipation, and then read it. the longer it was, the happier I was, and, when it was from a dear friend, (usually a school friend during summer vacation), I felt as though we were together, talking in my quiet place.
My letter writing habits continued until well after college, and when each letter came, it was like receiving a present. I loved writing letters, too. Sometimes they were full of news and descriptions of incidents and events. Sometimes they were emotional ventings, usually, I’m afraid, filled with questions, angst and probably way too much self pity. Sometimes I would start by talking about a book I’d just read and go on to somewhat connected thoughts that the book stimulated. Sometimes, they were just a way of reaching out and touching someone I loved.
Of course, I’ve read letter collections, usually those of famous people written to other famous people, but the wonderful thing about long letters is that they always contain (usually accidentally) hints about a person’s everyday life and personality. I think that, when writing a letter especially, the pen (or for me, theBraille or typewriter) becomes an extension of the mind, and words flow from the writer through the vehicle to the paper, without conscious (or at least much conscious) intervention. Perhaps this is because a person writing a letter is speaking, very specifically to someone else, so it is the message and the other person, which are of most importance.
I must admit that I missed writing or receiving letters on lovely, perfumed stationary, and I can imagine how it must feel to see and recognize, familiar hand writing and be delighted, even before reading the words.
So, is this a lost art? Perhaps in the forms I’ve described, yes, but perhaps it is more a changed art. I have received long, leisurely emails from dear friends, and written them, too. No, they aren’t exactly like a tangible letter I could hold in my hands and read with my hands, but when I see a well loved name and email address in my inbox, the excitement is the same, as is the anticipation, and I feel as though I have been embraced by a dear friend, who may be as close as down the street, or as far away as another continent.
So, I will continue to write long, chatty emails, not because that’s all we have left of the art of letter writing, but because emails, and blog posts are, in their way, what the art of letter writing has evolved into. It’s different, yes, but the essential motivations remain the same, and with care, attention and time set aside, the results can be very satisfying, indeed.