post haste

Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.  – Lord Byron

The age of technology has both revived the use of writing and provided ever more reasons for its spiritual solace.  Emails are letters, after all, more lasting than phone calls, even if many of them r 2 cursory 4 u.  – Anna Quindlen

I was in Paper Source the other day, which has opened a lovely, new ephemeral palace in my neighborhood. Wandering the shelves of letterpress cards, the stacks of envelopes in all colors and sizes, I found myself amongst my people. A sanctuary for the lost art of written correspondence.

For almost a century, the telephone replaced most letters beyond Hallmark cards. But with email, texts, and tweets, it’s as though a lost art is being reclaimed. Which makes a letter-writing girl like myself very happy.

When I was nine, I had a pen pal in England. His name was Philip. All I remember was the delicate paper he wrote on, and that he lived on a street called something like Christmas Cottage Lane. We definitely didn’t have street names like that in Los Angeles.

In my nine-year-old mind, I imagined it was always snowing on Christmas Cottage Lane. And we definitely didn’t have snow in Los Angeles.

(Except February 8, 1989 – the thin blanket of white melted by midday but my parents let me stay home from school and play because it was snowing in Los Angeles.)

Two decades later, my correspondence is a mix of ink well, ink cartridge, and email, but I always love the chance to pick up a pen. I love the whole process from paper to stamp to double-checking that the letter didn’t get stuck in the mail chute. (Why check? Has anyone ever opened up the box and actually found their letter still sitting there?)

My love of epistolary novels began at 13 with the Griffin and Sabine series. And by high school, moved to nonfiction collections as well. How I longed to be a Victorian with the better part of the day devoted to letters. To reading and responding, of news learned and relayed from a stack of envelopes upon a silver tray.

With some friends and relatives, email has become as cherished as time we spend on the phone or in person. In writing, we share our lives in markedly different ways. And therein lies the beauty of a letter (whether it arrives in your mailbox or inbox):

In conversation, you’re always thinking about what to say next.

But reading a letter, you’re fully engaged in what is said to you.

It’s not quite the same settling in at my computer first thing each morning, tea in hand, checking email and my twitter feed, and yet I feel there’s a connection. The envelopes stacked onscreen. The mouse my silver tray.

xo a.


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