February 29, 2012

A Post to the Letter

Just a while ago, the mailman carried away my last batch of letters and postcards for #LetterMo, aka  A Month of Letters. (Correction: I’m still waiting on an address for the very last postcard I’ll send this month, but since it’s ready and waiting to go, I’m calling this thing done.) I should point out that I didn’t follow the rules of the challenge. I didn’t mail a letter each day. I started out that way but soon fell behind and ended up sending letters out in batches a few times a week. I still ended up with twenty-four letters, though, one for each day the mail ran in February.

So, what have I learned and all? Well, my cursive is crusty. I tried to write several of my letters in cursive, even though typing and printing them would have been fine, and while I succeeded in getting words on the page, I’m not sure all of them can be read by anyone other than myself. But you know what? My print isn’t all that pretty either, so really, what had I to lose?

I can’t say for sure why I was compelled to write in cursive, but I know I was drawn back to it last year when Eva was in Montessori school. Montessori starts out with cursive writing, and at the time, I read about how much more easily-flowing cursive comes to the hand. After writing several letters in it, I can agree. (Of course, being out of practice as well as self-conscious disturbed my flow—but only every second word or so.)

I also wanted to revive my cursive because cursive itself seems to be fading in our culture. I’m not one to insist we hold to outdated conventions, but there is something about the beauty and the intimacy of cursive that I would be sad to see us lose. Cursive words are more like units than are printed words; in cursive the word itself is distinct from its individual letters. Letters are made differently depending on the word and how they must connect with other letters in order to form it. I’m not certain why this seems an important point to me, but perhaps because as a human, and especially as a wordy human, my entire conception of life relies upon the unit of the word. After all, humans learn words before they know their letters.

Anyway, enough of that. Another thing I learned is that I can tell things in letters I can’t tell in person or over the phone. No…not secret, scandalous things (although I wish I had some of those to tell!). I mean things that don’t come out unless I’m writing. I have always been better at writing than at speaking—any form of speaking, whether it be on a stage or to my best friend in the driver’s seat on a road trip. I second guess thoughts and lose thoughts and dismiss thoughts as too sappy or too stupid or too smarty-pants. I don’t do that when I’m writing, or if I do, I have enough sense to get over it, push on, and, with luck, improve on my thoughts. So, in my letters I can share quotes I love. I can tell someone about stories I’m writing. I can say a thing I’ve remembered about a person from long ago that makes me happy in this moment. In short, letters are a unique way for me to express something to a friend or loved one, something that would most likely be left unsaid if I weren’t writing it in a letter.

You might think, “Yeah, but you could just write an email.” And you’re right. I could.

But this month, I wrote letters. And they’re different. I’m not claiming mail is superior to electronic communication, but it is different. Letters are objects carried by hand, truck, plane, from one person to another. They have been chosen, created, and sealed by one person especially for someone else. You can tear letters open and hold them in your hand.

This month, I realized how automatic I’ve come to expect communication to be. I’d write a postcard. It would still be sitting on the arm of the couch, waiting for the next day’s trip to the mailbox, yet in my mind, the intended recipient had already mentally digested it—as if I’d texted them or posted to their wall.

This month, whatever news I told was a little old by the time my readers read it, but I found that most of what I was writing wasn’t news anyway. It was often simply a thought or two I wanted to tell the one person to whom I was writing.

Here is a rundown of my #LetterMo:

  • I mailed something to 22 people/families. (I mailed to 2 people twice.)
  • I sent 14 letters/notes on stationery.
  • I sent 10 postcards. (4 of them featured lusty romance novel covers!)
  • I mailed the same recipe (Squash Pie!) to 2 people.
  • I mailed the same quote, by Mary Oliver, to 2 people.
  • I mailed bookmarks to 2 people.
  • I mailed Eva’s school picture to 2 people.
  • I mailed magazine clippings of polar bears to 1 person.
  • I mailed the first 5 pages of  A Mathematician’s Lament to 1 person.
  • I didn’t have to buy a single new stamp! (Although our stash is now considerably depleted.)
  • I wondered often about what my mailman* must have thought about the sudden increase in outgoing mail.
  • I received 2 letters, 1 postcard, and 1 Muppets Valentine.
  • I still have many people to whom I’d like to write.

So now I’m done. But I hope to write more letters, even though I probably won’t take so many pains to get them out on time. If you’d like one, let me know. But you’ve been warned about my handwriting.

*He’s a nice mailman. He has to bring stuff up to our door quite a bit, and he always checks on Eva—remarks about how much she’s grown since the days he first saw her swinging under the tree out front. We ran into him once at The Village Bakery. To Eva, it was like seeing one of her teachers out in the real world.





Oh! Great recap! I kept almost as good track of what I sent – 86 pieces, abt 1/3 Valentines cards, 1/3 notes, 1/3 postcards.
I would love your squash pie recipe? :)

by Care on February 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm. #

Hi Care—Wow, 86 pieces! I feel like a letter-writing woos!

I can mail you the recipe, or if you prefer, I can post it here or send it to you via lettermo.com. Just let me know. I’m registered at lettermo.com as otherwendy (although I’ve never posted anything there), so you should be able to send me your address that way, if you want another letter. ;)

by wendy on March 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm. #

I had a similar experience with this project, I think I sent over 24 letters total, but in batches. I’m mailing the last of them tomorrow. :)

by Dorothy on March 1, 2012 at 1:06 am. #

I want to write you a letter Dorothy! Send me your address, if you don’t mind.

by wendy on March 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm. #

I just want to add that I’ve since received two more letters in response to letters I mailed during #LetterMo. I like getting letters.

by wendy on April 17, 2012 at 11:42 pm. #