On Letters

 “More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” John Donne, To Sir Henry Wotton

There’s something about a letter, isn’t there? Written words, chosen just for you, by someone who cared enough to commit their thoughts to the page.  It feels very…personal?  Yeah, I think that’s the right word. Personal.

If you are the luckiest recipient of a written letter (rather than an email, for instance) then there’s the added bonus, the tactile part of the experience–the slant of the handwriting, the texture of the paper, the way the inky words soak into the fibers. It adds another layer of awareness and intention.  And then, over time, the paper fades, the creases begin to fuzz and tear from being unfoldedfoldedunfoldedfoldedunfoldedfolded. Above all, that’s the part missing from an email in your inbox.  You can’t fold it.  You can’t feel the way the pen pressed into the paper.  But, it doesn’t mean the words weren’t chosen carefully.

Of course, not all words chosen carefully.

We get lots of “noisy” letters and emails.  Quick quips, mass messages, and the like.  But doesn’t that make the receipt of an actual letter feel that much more significant? When my Dad had access to a computer, he would often forward chain emails with right-wing political jokes, or gifs of bald eagles in flight and the american flag waving majestically above a severely photo shopped field of waving grasses. But he also really liked sending emails that, while rambling indications of man coming undone in old age, often contained memories he wanted to share.  Memories like cutting the cord when I was born and holding me “still wet from the womb”.  His words.

We all have a store of them somewhere, in a box–or many boxes, in my case.  (Organization has never been a strong skill of mine.)  The ones I know I can find are letters from old friends, relatives that have passed, words I thought were important to keep.  Experiences I want to keep close.

Again, so deeply personal, right?

Let’s also not forget about the letters we write but never send.  If the letters we get we keep in boxes, drawers and dark corners of closets, where do the letters we write but never send live?  Where do you keep yours?


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