The Art of the Letter ©

A letter to you from Will Jones

letterDear Readers,

Remember the thrill of going to the mailbox and finding an unexpected letter from a family member or friend?  Or maybe it was the letter you’d been anticipating for weeks?  Remember actually seeing the mailman approach the house and sprinting to the front door expectantly?  Those were exciting times.  Sadly, the “art of the letter” days are all but over.

No one can deny the convenience of email, texting, skyping or just plain picking up the phone and calling.  But for those of us who have lived through the transition from “snail mail” to high technology, some of the romance of communication has been lost.  Not to the mention loss of personal, family, national and world history that was a by-product of good old fashioned letter writing.  Adams and Jefferson!  Barrett and Browning!  Miller and Nin!

In an old manila envelope I have a collection of letters from the 70’s from a friend in Colorado and my from my brother who was living in Germany.  In a shoe box I have letters received over a period of twenty years from a friend who moved around the country and raised a family during those years.  In another box I have letters from my father, now deceased, an excellent writer with beautiful handwriting.  I know it’s possible to keep a history of emails, but it isn’t the same.  So what am I doing to keep the art of letter writing alive?

My first grandchild, Saskia, was born last February.  I wrote her a letter and mailed it on the first day of spring.  It was a letter about life and what she might expect as she grows up.  Today, the first day of autumn, I wrote her a letter about writing letters and about a gift that her father, my son, gave me ten years ago.  He took his brothers and me backpacking, which reawakened my love of the wilderness, and I’ve gone every year but one since then.

Spring and autumn are my two favorite seasons.  My plan is to write Saskia a letter on the first day of those seasons for the rest of my life.  My hope is she’ll return those letters with letters of her own when she is able and ready.  In that way I hope we will grow and age together and keep the art of letter writing alive in our family for another generation.

Sincerely,

Will Jones

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12 Responses to The Art of the Letter ©

  1. There’s a feel to paper, more than the touching of it, there’s the impression of something more than just the words. And this is true of letters, that can be cherished anywhere, any time. ~ shinazy

  2. I still receive handwritten letters from my mother, which I cherish and keep in a drawer so I can reread them whenever I choose. I can see her beautiful handwriting and hold the paper in my hands.

  3. It’s a heart touching moment to thumb through the archives of a few letters written by deceased family members, including a few greeting cards. I believe that snail mail will never change in some respects, that said, holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries included.

  4. I applaud you for you insigh. Your granddaughter will truly cherish those letters from you. Recently I started working at a stationary store and I will say that being around all those wonderful cards is heart warming. I know there a many, many people who will soon see a card in their mailbox and it will touch their hearts.

    • One of the nice things about the letters to my granddaughter is that I get to indirectly compliment my son and daughter-in-law. As she grows up she’ll know how much I admire them as people and as parents. As a friend says, cool beans.

  5. Edie Thornton

    I loved your article on writing letters. It is an art that I cherish and I am so inspired by your writing to your grand-daughter! I too have many letters that i have saved over the years. I love the story that those letters tell of the lives of the writer and how I felt at that time in my life. It celebrates the thoughtful process not often associated with our rapid, out of breath emails of today. Did you know some people cannot even take time to email, but only text? This would be funny, if it weren’t so dreadful! Thank you for writing.

    • Dreadful, indeed. Easy communication equals shallow communication, in my opinion. It does not promote closeness or any kind of reflection. Hit and run.

  6. Malati Marlene Shinazy

    My grandfather, a Merhant Seaman, taught me to write when I was 5 years old, so we could communicate while he was at sea. It seemed it took forever for him to go to Hawaii, then Japan, then return home via Hawaii again… But we kept our special relationship through those letters. I would even take them to bed with me, so I could hold him close while he was away…. Thanks for reminding me, Will. oxox — mms

  7. Malati Marlene Shinazy

    My grandfather, a Merchant Seaman, taught me to write when I was 5 years old, so we could communicate while he was at sea. It seemed it took forever for him to go to Hawaii, then Japan, then return home via Hawaii again… But we kept our special relationship through those letters. I would even take them to bed with me, so I could hold him close while he was away…. Thanks for reminding me, Will. oxox — mms