16 January 2012

letter writing

I don't know if it's the snow falling outside The Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek or how I've been reading a book where letters play a vital role, but I've been curled up on the couch in my room here, writing letters to friends at home and feeling slightly nostalgic about a time when letter writing was so much more important than it is now.

There is something to writing on hotel stationery, isn't there? It makes me feel as if I've travelled back in time, back to before I could communicate with everyone instantaneously. This reminds me that I should write more letters—going through boxes of family documents reminded me of that, too.

Before, communication became its own treasure trove, preserving emotion and a way of life in a spidery hand.

Now, we have impersonal fonts and emails that are stored where? In the cloud? How will anyone ever know what life was like for us, if they don't have such physical documents?

Although I suppose that question contains its own answer: by our lack of documentation, people who come after us will know that life, for us, was more about quick, ethereal communication. We could communicate in the moment—anything we wanted from the very mundane to the very important.

It's hard to imagine a scenario like the one I stumbled upon when going through my family history:
My dear Anna,

Thank you so much for writing to Mother. You always were a faithful niece to her.

I'm sorry to tell you, dear Anna, but Mother was taken from us on the Monday after Easter. It comforts me to know she went peacefully, with all of us around her, but how I wish you'd been there, too. She asked after you in the end...

The news of Mother's death wasn't known to dear Anna for days. For days, she went about thinking her aunt was alive and that she hoped to hear back from her soon and oh, she must remember to write her a letter about this little thing that happened.

But her aunt was gone, and it's hard for me to imagine opening a letter like that now, eager in anticipation of news from the family, only to see those words: "I'm so sorry to tell you..."

It's not that Important Communication has gone by the wayside, simply because we've stopped writing so many letters in our own spidery or determined or illegible handwriting.

But when faced with a stack of stationery—when overwhelmed with things to share—it is easy to look back in time and say, "Part of me still wishes it were like that."

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