Today, I will sit down and write a letter to respond to an invitation long overdue. Instead of texting, tweeting or messaging, I will write a proper note on beautiful Florentine stationary. I will use the ink pen my husband gave me long ago as a Valentines gift and write in indigo blue. Once I have made my greetings, I will try and write an appropriate letter suitable for the time elapsed. Writing at my own pace, I will scribe whatever comes into my mind and simply let the words flow.
Whenever I take the time to sit at my desk and compose a letter, I feel like I am paying homage to those women in the past who lived cut off and isolated waiting months for news from family and friends. I feel like I am honoring their patience by continuing to take the long way round to get in touch. I like nothing better than to spend a rainy afternoon scrawling letters, cards and postcards to friends around the globe. Their nostalgia for news from home is still as strong as centuries of travelers before them and their heartfelt thanks for getting something through an often erratic postal service, makes it so worthwhile. A friend in South Africa recently pinged me in May to thank me enthusiastically for her Christmas Card, which she had received that morning!
I am also a romantic at heart and love the idea and symbolism of a love letter. I can totally understand why Carrie Bradshaw in silk and pearls gets completely carried away with a library book of love letters. I often wonder how many attics or chest of drawers have faded love letters still preciously tucked away, seldom opened but committed to memory. I wonder about letters that got lost in the post. Or letters that never got sent.
My love for letter writing almost led me to decorate a feature wall in our house with elaborate wallpaper printed with large calligraphic envelopes. In the end I settled for a slightly more discreet mosaic of red postage stamps instead. Not because I am a stamp collector but because I like to study pretty stamps on envelopes and love the nostalgia of my husbands childhood stamp collection which he shared with his grandfather. Postage stamps nowadays seem to be more humdrum, with family friendly images of otters, badgers and birds. I crave the old elaborate stamps, the kinds you only find in fading monarchies or newly emerging countries where the stamps almost eclipse your flimsy postcard. I love to think of the joy of a child receiving a postcard from a foreign place or my little brother trying to figure out where in the world I am.
And so it seems that while some things come and go, letter writing as old fashioned and out of date as it might seem still manages to persevere. Ultimately I think its about the time and effort that goes into a letter that make it special. The choice of paper and pen, the hunt for a postage stamp and the trip to the post box. The whole process signals to people that they matter. Sure, it would be so much easier to send a text or maybe not bother at all, but why not give someone the gift of a letter.