Saturday, April 28, 2018

write myself a letter

I love to write.

My blog, of course. Those periodic essays make me a better observer of life.

And then there is a major writing project I have been working on for several months that may or may not creep into the Library of Congress catalog. Today, I would put my chips on "00" of the roulette wheel on that prospect.

But, what I really love to write is letters. Not that I write many these days.

Like most people in search of the error of immediacy, I rely on email and Facebook to keep in touch with my family, friends, and acquaintances. No one will ever mistake any of those for the Jefferson-Adams correspondence.

And there is good reason for that. In the belief that we must immediately share whatever it is, we skirt difficult analysis in favor of superficiality. Any of us could take a look at our "sent mail" file to see how painfully true that is.

Before someone points out that, even in the days of hand-written letters, most of our words would never end up in a collection of the world's deepest thoughts. And that is because we write to others to keep in touch. Often with nothing more than the humdrum of our daily lives. Of course, that is the grist for many a blog.

Most of what I receive as email can be quickly answered with a few words. I call it abbreviated twittering.

But there are exceptions. Now and then I receive an email that makes me want to pull out my fountain pen and start writing on a fine sheet of stationery. There are two examples in my inbox that have remained unanswered.

I received the first from a resident of Canada and Yucatan who I originally met through her well-written blog. She sent me a very thoughtful email at the end of March about an essay I had posted. It was so well-done that I wanted to take time to think of a response. The type of response that used to require ink and linen.

The other email was from my friend John in Salem. He is a good friend. But, more than that, he is always erudite. And his message reflects his skill.

His birthday was in the middle of the month. One tradition I have maintained from my "write your thank you notes" upbringing is sending birthday cards. They do matter. And I had sent one to him. But I also called him on his birthday -- something I rarely do.

Apparently, my birthday card arrived two weeks late. John took time out of his day to thank me. But, also, to tell me a bit about what was happening both in his life and his head.

He and his son had been hit with a very nasty virus. "Three days into the experience, I was more than happy to succumb, but, alas, as it turns out, the virus was cough and no death.  It appears that we have survived its microbial assault." Writing like that is as rare in email as John is.

He then shares a summary of a book his is reading about Ivan Ilyin, Putin's favorite philosopher. His insights were pointed, but analytical. Not the usual fare of email.

When I left home for the Air Force, I regularly corresponded with a college friend, John Crooks. Over the years, we must have written hundreds of letters -- consciously emulating the Jefferson-Adams correspondence in our twenties naivete.

Somewhere along the line, I lost contact with John. But our friendship survives in those letters.

Even though I am tempted to write letters in response to my two serious correspondents, I will probably give into electronic seduction. It is easier. But, at least for me, my writing will be far less thoughtful than if I had uncapped a pen and wrote a physical letter.

As I write this, I am preparing for a week-long trip north. For a wedding. At Disneyland. I will give you the details later.

Or, maybe, I will just write each of you a letter.

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