My dear reader,
Today I mourned the death of letter writing.
It came on suddenly, the realization of death and the mourning came zinging through the overcrowded brush of my hiking trail like a lightening rod. I have not received a handwritten letter in more than a year. The thought, literally, stopped me in my tracks and took my breath away.
It was one thing when letter writing seemed to me a romantic and rare art form. It was so genteel and elegant (truthfully, it still is). To this day, practically nothing excites me more than a pen gliding across a piece of beautiful blank stationery with thoughts and sentiments spun out in a lovely prose, like a morning glory vine that swirls across the media around it until, in a moment of early light, blooms into a breathtaking array of color and scent.
But with the realization that I’m the only one writing letters, letter writing all the sudden seems so desolate, like a desert after a torrential rain–still barren because, no matter how thirsty the earth, the sun has baked it so hard it cannot absorb the water.
I am thirsty for letters. I have probably written more than 100 letters in the past two years, but have received less than a dozen in return…and none in the past year alone.
I know because I counted them. I keep them.
It’s part of their charm, you know. Most people keep letters. Did you know, for instance, that much of our history comes from information in letters? Galileo outlined his discovery of planets and the Earth’s rotation around the sun in letters to Belisario Vinta. Our founding fathers practically documented the entire revolution in letters to colleagues, and in magnificent form, more often to their wives. The Wright Brothers ironed out ideas about flying machines through letters with engineers at the Smithsonian.
What if someone were to write history based on the written mail people receive nowadays? I don’t know about you, but all I ever receive are laser-jetted addresses peeking out of plastic window envelopes in my mailbox. And inside, the content shares no thought nor sentiment. Just sales pitches or payment reminders.
It’s just not the same. It’s just not the thing people keep for prosperity. It’s just not the thing people treasure.
I used to say I wanted to be a pirate. Now you know my treasure. As a muse, I used to want my medium to be music. But I know it is prose, specifically the handwritten letter kind.
Francis Bacon wrote that “letters, such as written by wise men, are, of all the words of men, the best.”
I believe that’s true.
And who can deny the beauty of George Bernard Shaw’s defense of his romantic interlude with Ellen Terry when he said “Let those who may complain that [this romance] was all on paper remember that only on paper has humanity yet achieved glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue and abiding love.”
Is there anything more romantic than that? Or more validating to a muse?
As a good pirate, my pride flares up and it says it’s time to quit sending letters. I don’t want to keep giving pieces of my thoughts and sentiments to people who don’t value it, to people who may not value it. Quite frankly, I’m too valuable. And I don’t believe in charity.
As a muse, I know I must continue to write.
I am faithfully true,