On Letter Writing
A friend recently wrote me a letter, typed on an actual typewriter. These days when we text way more often than write, this felt like a treasure. He mentioned that he gave his 9-year-old daughter a typewriter of her own for Christmas. He told her, “There, now you can text all you want.” Best parenting ever. Thanks JF.
I used to write letters all the time. They are such a joy to write, to receive and to keep as a record of our lives. I would write from my tent on trail crews, from farms in Belize, from aspen stands in the Rockies. I wrote to old college buddies, Outward Bound instructors, and occasional fellas on whom I had crushes.
More recently, my letters are from mentors, festival fans, and even the late and great Ivan Doig. Talk about a keepsake. And yes, I framed that one.
It certainly takes time and a shift of priorities to sit down and write a letter. Something about knowing that the writer touched the paper with ink and penmanship brings a connectedness that is unsurpassed by most means of communication.
For me, putting pen to paper unlocks a part of myself that allows me to process, reflect, and record. It is an attempt to understand where I am in my own life. Although, I’ll admit I do often write through a rose-colored lens.
It was Hemingway who said, “I was trying to write then (speaking of his apprenticeship) and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened.”
In the late 1990’s, my father was going through his parents’ attic cleaning out the farm house. He came upon a trunk that contained piles and piles of letters written between my great, great, great, great grandparents, their children, and extended family. All 831 letters were bundled by ribbon and bits of string, organized chronologically. It was an incredible primary documentation of life in New England between 1820-1879. Dad spent over 13 years reading, interpreting, and transcribing these letters. To be fair, his typing skills involve a lot of ‘hunt and peck,’ but he succeeded and even had it bound into a book. What a gift.
So, here’s to more letter writing, more letter receiving, and more life recording.
More honesty about what we actually feel, not what we are supposed to feel.
More catching up with friends and family, old and new.
More penmanship, and even more typewriters.