Take this little bit, for instance...
But with all this I am a weak man and a fool; weak, that I should be caught in the midst of my grave purposes by the gilded dust of a butterfly's wing.
From a letter written by Elisha Kane to Maggie Fox, c. 1853
Not that everyone needs to fill their letters with poetry and mush, but there is something infinitely more personal to a hand-written note, something so deeply connected. The writing itself is often lovely to behold. With the advent of computers, email, and the effortless keyboard, however, it's a wonder that any of us can remember how to sign our names to the mortgage payment! Aside from beautiful penmanship, there are the other elements of this life that only a letter can bring, bits that simply cannot seep through the computer screen. The feel of the paper in your hands. The scent of the writer--perhaps a little chocolate, or lilac, or something muskier. The sound of the envelope giving way to whatever device you choose to extricate the precious contents from their protector. The marks of its journey--stains and stamps and smudges. A letter gives you the whole sensual experience.
I'm scolding myself as well. About a year ago, I started a pen-pal relationship with a fellow writer who was looking for a pen pal via SCBWI's discussion boards. Absolutely! I love to write letters. Of course when the whole job kerfuffle began, I lost all sense of time and space and pretty much evaporated from the correspondence pool. (Sorry, Christine...hope you got my letter a few weeks ago!)
I have spent most of my life staring wistfully at mailboxes, praying for some little treasure (these days that would include a book contract!) to open and savor with a cup of tea. When I lived in Ireland, I ached for letters from friends and family across the pond, but the crippling can't-write-a-letteritis had already seized a generation and left my poor mail slot empty and unfulfilled. What dejection! The letter carrier whistling as he skipped right past my lonely old letter slot. May as well stuff it full of wool to keep the cold wind out!
It is so rare to find something other than bills or crappy invitations to steal my identity in that precious box standing guard at the end of my driveway. No matter how much I talk about it, however, I still need to do more to perpetuate the art of letter-writing. So...I've got my fountain pen and my stacks of interesting papers, and a proper "thank you" is on its way to a generous friend who loaned me her couch for a few nights...