Of Postage and Letters

Letters and Postcards in a Cigar Box

It seems strange, in an age of instantaneous communication via the internet, instant-messaging, email, and phones, that sometimes the best – or at least most memorable – form of correspondance makes use of none of those. It instead relies on an almost antiquated system that costs a great deal more to use (in monetary terms) than it does to send an email, and it’s neiter as fast nor as reliable. And despite all this, I find myself becoming enamored with the hand-written letter.

Since Lauren left for a month in London, we’ve been keeping in touch over the phone and internet, yes, but also via letters. And I believe that if I had to pick only one mode of discourse for the month she’s gone, I would choose the written word, sent in a paper envelope (thankfully I need not actually choose just one). There is something about letters that seem more real, and less transitory, than email or phone calls. Of course this is partly because they exist physically as more than electronic signals and bytes of data. But I’m coming to believe that there is something more of a person in a letter than there is in an email. At any rate, letters by post seem at least more romantic and memorable than the other means of communication.

I’m certain that some of my affection for letters is coming from my conception of the letters of Great Men of previous times (witness, for example, the correspondence by mail between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; or John Adams and his wife Abigail, for that matter); sitting down to write a letter requires more thought and preparation and work than sitting down to type an email (or a post on a webpage), so the result generally ends up being something of more significance. But even though at first I imagined that writing letters would involve far more ardor than I have found they actually take, I looked forward to writing them all the same.

And, of course, recieving them. For in addition to all the rest, recieving a letter means that you have something that your sender had not too long ago. You have a bit of whomever wrote the letter with the letter. For me, that means that I have a bit of Lauren here with me (and I keep her bits in a nifty old wooden cigar box that seems to be made for the task :P), even though she’s a continent and an ocean away. And even though just a bit is never enough, it’s more than I would have were it not for a very simple and all-too-slow method of communicating. And when it comes to this, I’ll take every little bit that I can get.

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Date: Wednesday, 20. July 2005 12:46
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6 comments

  1. 1

    How long did it take you to finish the cigars?
    I hope your letters are starting to arrive.
    Nice picture, btw. A hand written letter… wow.

  2. 2

    lol – I don’t smoke cigars (though if I were to smoke anything, it would be cigars). I’ve had that box laying around for probably 5 or 6 years; I don’t remember when I picked it up. Probably at some garage sale or something.

    Handwritten letters are great! I’ve been writing one to Lauren at least once every other day (often once per day); it took a while to remember how to write in cursive, but it came back pretty well. And, of course, I’ve been getting letters from her as well. 🙂

    An interesting side-note: Letters sent from the UK seem to arrive in California in 3 to 4 days (4 days being the longest it’s taken so far); letters sent from California to the UK seem to take 6 days or so to arrive. One would think it would take the same ammount of time, but I guess not. I suppose that might be because the time of arrival at a hub ends up working better going east than west (ie plane from England gets to New York at 12:00 PM, mail is sorted, plane from New York to California leaves at 5:00 PM; where Plane from California to New York arrives at 5:00 PM, plane from New York to England leaves the next day. This is all speculation, but it makes some sense, I think (at least in my own mind’s eye :P)

  3. 3

    I used to write letters a long time ago. And then I picked it up again a year ago.

    It’s such a drastic ordeal for me, mainly because my thoughts aren’t organized. However, the person who receives them claims to love the randomness of my letters. And I love receiving her letters as well. It is a wonderful thing to send and receive handwritten letters as you have mentioned. And it’s even more fun to read them 10 years later. I have before me the letters I wrote in 1991 and 1997. I was cute as a button with no spell check built in my brain.

    -FORM the vilagge eediot.

  4. 4

    Lack of an easy spell check is somewhat annoying… I’ve really just been guessing on the words I don’t know. Reminds of when I would take tests back and school, and not know if a certain word used, say, an e or an a. Except then I would just kinda make a letter that could look like both an a and an e. Pretty clever, eh? 😛

  5. 5

    Oh yes, definitely clever!!

    I did that a lot too!

    😉 The cunning ones succeed!!!

  6. 6

    I love your post on letter writing. At first I also thought that it would drive me mad sitting down to write a letter every day, and that I would never, despite my best intentions, have the patience and resolve to do it. However, after almost two weeks and only one day missed– I didnt do enough to merit a letter that day– I have found letter writing to be extremely enjoyable. More thought is put into phrasing experiences artfully than in email, and certainly over the phone where diction is at its most relaxed. Also, though it takes more time than other forms of communication, I think letters reveal an elevated self because more thought is put into their writing, and there is the ever-present idea that letters are permanent physical pieces of paper– they are special.

    I confess that before I left for London, I went online and looked up famous old letters, such as those of the Adams. They were so beautifully composed; each idea developed eloquently, and the handwriting was lovely. It was an art form, now commonly believed to be lost– but I think we are slowly finding it again.

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