My friend Laura and I have been exchanging handwritten letters for twenty-eight years. The first is from the summer of 1988. I still have it. The last was from over a week ago. I read it and reread it. My friend Laura is an excellent artist and writer. She is a storyteller like no one else I know.
When email started being a thing I was afraid our letters would stop. She lives in L.A., I live in Northern California. Email was so easy.
We can’t write too many emails, I warned her. I shouldn’t have worried. Now we message several times a month, often in order to announce the advent of a letter. We still write letters. We write more letters now than ever.
Letters are great. I save up things that are wonderful or puzzling or magical and put them in letters to Laura. The day when there is a letter from Laura in the mailbox is the best day, always.
How wonderful to have an entire friendship forged in letters. I handwrite. In letters I say silly things and profound things. Things uncluttered by anything but the urge to understand and the longing to be understood.
I used to write letters of appreciation to authors I admired in the days before email. A few authors I deeply respect have recently abdicated all social media so I went back to sending heartfelt cards in care of the agents or publishers to authors of books I’ve loved. I don’t know if the letters arrive. I hope so.
Opening envelopes is wonderful. The moment before I open an envelope is also great. I must write letters in order to get letters back.
Laura is not my only pen pal. I have a card with a fox on it staring at me from across the room. I propped it on my dresser. The fox card is from my friend Lora. She writes letters that are like diamond hard gems of greatness.
Letters are old-fashioned. Thank-you notes should always be on paper. I get a touch of anxiety letting a letter go into a mailbox to send it off across the valley or country. Will it get there? Sometimes they don’t. Will it be the right thing to say? Sometimes it isn’t.
I picture my letters to Laura and Lora flying on the backs of snow geese under the Central Valley moon. That’s probably how they get there.
Advice to myself: Write more letters this year than ever. Letter-writing is part of who I am. Put as much appreciation for authors and artists and friendship across the valley as possible.
The snow geese are happy to do it.
Instead of a journal entry, write a thank-you letter to someone you wish to appreciate and put it in the mail. If you don’t know what to write, just start with a simple “thank-you” and explanation that you are writing to say the person’s work or action was important to you and why. Short thank-you notes can be great too, so don’t think you need to write a big long thing.
Write a list of living authors, artists, actors, musician, athletes, etc. that you admire, with a short phrase or two explaining why. Consider writing a few of these people letters.
Write a list of ten people to whom you are personally grateful, noting why. Consider writing a few of these people letters.
Note: Visit the website Girls Love Mail if you love writing letters. This organization generates and delivers handwritten letters of encouragement to women with breast cancer. Isn’t that cool?