As the weather toys with getting cooler I think about the activities I like to do in front of the fireplace. I am always looking for the interesting around me. I enjoy recording these sparks for stories later, whether it is for my fiction or non-fiction. The non-fiction tends to be the blog and fiction tend to be short stories in my life. Sometimes, they bleed over into my verbal world as limited as I try to make it.
Yesterday I remembered that I used to write letters. I had pen pals starting in elementary school. It started with a family friend’s granddaughter that lived several towns over. To a 9-year-old, a 30-minute drive was worlds away. There was excitement in writing about my daily activities and putting those treasures of words into an envelope and sending them off and then anxiously awaiting the response, which was never quick enough for me.
Soon, I found out about the concept of mail art and started making my own envelopes. I played with shapes and writing letters on different types of paper. It was not unusual during the month of October for me to cut out the shape of a large ghost and write a letter on him. I started shopping with my allowance at the Hallmark store for the fanciest paper I could afford. I am pretty sure I was the only 10 year old getting the Crane Stationary catalog in the mail.
One time, I sent my German grandmother a letter and put glitter in the folds of the paper. Not until it was safely in the mailperson’s hand did it occur to me that my very CLEAN and TIDY German grandmother may be upset with me when glitter fell all over her freshly cleaned floor if it was Wednesday…luckily she called me laughing after she had received my prose. The explosion of glitter had delighted her in the most unexpected and surprising way – THANK GOODNESS!
In late high school, I found Alexandra Stoddard’s book The Gift of a Letter and was amazed that someone else felt about letter writing the way I had for years. It was validating and a book I had reread numerous times.
I wrote to several friends in college and was always aiming for a full mailbox.
When I graduated college I read in a newspaper, maybe the New York Times, about The Letter Exchange: a magazine for letter writers that connected people with security in place.
As I took my letter journey I knew I had to pay attention to my life so I could write about it later. I really do wish I had copies of some of the letters I wrote. I thought of them as gifts to the person I was sending it to – just for that one person. A snippet of my life that I would share only with them.
The noticing I did for my letter writing has helped me now as a writer. I observe and record with abandon the experiences around me. The difference is I am writing and sharing the pieces in a much more formal way. Email just isn’t the same.
I am thinking I am might need to revisit letter writing…I may have to get back on that Crane stationary mailing list.