A Lettered Existence

There was a time when I was quite an avid letter writer. Living abroad, first in England and then in Korea, away from my family before the days of Hotmail or affordable long distance phone plans, it was my main method of communication with home. And conversely, when I was home it was the only way I had to stay in touch with my far-away friends.

I used to sit at my old oak desk in my English dorm room, with a view of a restored, 85-year-old garden (the Herb Garden of Cupid, it was called), with a cup of Irish Cream flavoured instant coffee, a stack of embarrassingly decorative stationary and my cherished fountain pen. I would scribble the goings on of my life abroad to my mum, grandma and sister, and check my mail box twice a day for word from them.

Today, like most people, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a letter. Not an email, not a txt, not even a fax (remember those?), but a real, old-fashioned, pen and paper letter.

I recently learned that the second week of January each year is National Letter Writing Week. And so, despite the fact that I never even managed to send out my Christmas cards with their generic message yet, I am pledging to write (and hopefully send) at least one letter this week.

I’m doing it because I remember the anticipation of opening my post box with a very real potential that there would be something more tantalizing than a gas or power bill or fast food flyer in there. And while checking my email inbox every hour on the hour has a certain, well, addictiveness to it, finding some meandering missive from someone, while faster, cheaper and sometimes (depending on their penmanship) easier to read, it’s a far less personal connection.

There’s magic in snail mail. It’s in the distinctiveness of the handwritten letters, the fold and crinkle of the paper, the carefully sealed and stamped envelope, the physical effort of delivering it to a post box, rather than just pushing ‘send.’

As if that wasn’t enough, my best friend and I used to up the ante by decorating our envelopes – and sometimes the pages in them – with patterns, doodles, and sometimes even watercolours.

I have them all tucked away, alongside the blue air mail envelopes my grandmother faithfully used, the fanciful stationary preferred by my sister, and miscellaneous other cards and letters collected over the years by people I don’t want to forget, in a steamer trunk of memories. I can’t do that with emails. Or at least I don’t.

So excuse me now, while I crack open a new bottle of Quink ink, refill my fountain pen, and partake of an old tradition. With any luck, in a few weeks I might even get to utilize another old friend – my letter opener.

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Giveaway winner announced!

The random winner of the WaterGeeks filtered water bottle is Patti Kilback! Thanks everyone for commenting – check back Wednesday for another resolution-related giveaway. In the meantime, keep drinking that water!

– Words and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier

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5 Comments

  1. I too was/am a fan of the handwritten letter. I used to sign up for pen pals all the time in various magazines that I would read when I was a child and early teenager. Two or three letters would be exchanged, and then nothing… I never did find anyone as fond of letter writing as I. I’ve always wanted a fountain pen, and one of those wax stamps you can get to seal your letters. I wonder how they would fair through the mail these days?

  2. I have all my old letters, too. I wish I still had time to decorate envelopes. I still have the watercolors…tucked away in the vain hope of one day having a chance to sit down at a desk of an evening and drop a few hours on ‘artwork.’

    My sister, always slightly more groovy than me, used to create envelopes out of magazine pages displaying photos of cute babies or Athena Poster Gods.

  3. Ah–a letter writer after my own heart. So glad I stumbled upon your site today: ’tis a blustery minus 20ºC up north. Thanks for bright’ning my wintry day.

    Here’s a thought–please ignore it if it’s too quirky and unexpected!
    If you’re looking for a pen pal in Canada, I’m in. I can’t promise to send artwork your way, but I do have a river of words to share, and I love sending (and receiving) snail mail. I even seal my letters with wax. 🙂 A dying art, indeed!

    In anticipation,
    Elaine M Phillips

    P.S. Let me know if you’d like my postal address, and be sure to send me yours if you’d like to use that (long-neglected) letter opener any time soon!

  4. What a treat to receive handwritten letters via snail mail. I still have a trunk full of letters that I’ve saved throughout the years, the first beginning in the early 70’s when I was just a little girl. Oh how I love to sneak a peak and get lost in the words that were meant for me so long ago.

  5. Letter writing is a dying art, especially with our youth! We have a program at the museums called ‘war time letters’for students and it is amazing to see the kids try their hand with a fountain pen-totally foreign to them! We share letters dating back to WW1,the penmanship and language is beautiful. The idea that these letters were so cherished by our soldiers and are now in our collections at the museum, speaks to the rarity and preciousness of the art of letter writing. Just not the same with emails and texts!

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