One of the joys I’ve discovered lately is receiving letters. I’m not talking about bills or ‘personalised’ notes from politicians up for re-election. No, I’m talking about opening the flap of that mailbox and seeing real, honest-to-goodness letters from people who actually know you.
I’m talking about seeing a decorative envelope that has your name and address written on it by hand. I’m talking about eagerly opening the letter while you’re still standing beside your mailbox, because you simply cannot wait a moment longer to see what’s contained within. I’m talking about that reverent moment when you draw out a sheaf of folded papers covered in ink, and knowing that they are about to allow you a peek into another person’s world; another person’s joys and sadnesses and musings and silliness.
I’m talking about something you can hold, something you can bury your face in and smell, something you can clutch tightly to your chest.
It’s hard to know what to write in a letter. I’ve already told my friends about the big events in my life, and they have returned the favour. What’s left? What does writing a letter offer that Facebook, email, or the phone does not?
I’m going to steal a comment from my friend (written to me in a letter, no less!) and posit this: Each mode of communication has something different to offer in terms of facilitating a connection between two people.
Letters may lag behind the other forms when it comes to sharing news or firing off whatever though happens to be on your mind at the moment (imagine sending letters of no more than 140 characters!). But when you are forced to slow down, you begin to think beyond the obvious events that present themselves. You realise how much you experience in life that you don’t give much thought to—all those trivial details that usually go by unnoticed, yet make up such a big part of life.
In one letter to a friend, I described a particularly beautiful outback sunset. The sky ranged from brilliant reds to deep blues, and the sparsely scattered trees and bushes were silhouetted against this canvas in all their stark beauty. And when I received her response, containing her own descriptions of life going on around her, I realised that I wanted to share more of these seemingly insignificant facets of life. I also want others to share them with me. Sure, I could have sent the description by email, but would I have done so? Would I pause my fingers (that fly so quickly and easily over the keys) that I could give this scene due consideration?
Such small discussions naturally expand and grow, until they have a life of their own. For with a letter, there is that period of time between sending it and receiving a reply, where those seeds of thoughts and ideas have time to germinate. They have the time to be enriched by other events in your life, so that when you finally read the response, you can send off those thoughts in full bloom.
I wish I could send such a letter to each of you reading this, but alas; limited by technology, I shall simply have to ask you to imagine such a thing, and that this is, in fact, a physical letter written to you. Imagine that I have pulled out my good paper, and have penned this missive to you. Imagine that I have folded it up, sealed it in an envelope, carefully written out the address (Magnificent Nose, The Internet, 184.108.40.206), stuck a stamp neatly in the top right corner, and placed it in the nearest post box.
I hope that receiving this “letter” makes you long to write some of your own. I hope it will bring you to dust off that letter set and your fountain pen, and connect with an old friend (or friends!) in a new way. I hope you’ll open your letter box one day soon, and find a treasure waiting for you.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.