“Goodnight and great love to you. We see the same stars.” ~ George Mallory, from a letter to his wife Ruth during the 1921 Everest Reconnaissance Expedition

Mount Everst in the Morning by Bobby Model Nat Geo
Mount Everest in the Morning
by Bobby Model (National Geographic)

“One comes to bless the absolute bareness, feeling that here is a pure beauty of form, a kind of ultimate harmony.” ~ George Mallory, from a letter to his wife Ruth during the 1921 Everest Reconnaissance Expedition

From NOVA Online:

George Mallory . . . the only person to take part in all three British Everest trips of the 1920s, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. Since returning from the Great War he had become increasingly frustrated by the petty restrictions of a schoolmaster’s life and had resigned to join the expedition, with little thought of what he would do afterwards. He wrote prodigiously—to use one of his own favourite words—of his discoveries to his family and friends, revealing far more of his feelings than in his official expedition bulletins. Most of the following extracts are from letters to his wife Ruth.

Mallory with his wife, Ruth
George Mallory with his wife Ruth

28 July, to Kharta
I have been half the time in ecstasy. My first thought on coming down was that the world was green again. A month had made all the difference to the appearance of the hillsides. As we have come down lower, and nearer to the Arun valley, the appearance of greenness has steadily increased. We have crossed two passes on the way, and we have slept near two clear bubbling streams; and all that we have seen of snow mountains has been of interest, but none of that counts with me. To see things grow again as though they liked growing, enjoying rain and sun – that has been the real joy.

I collected in a beautiful ramble a lovely bunch of wild flowers. The commonest were a pink geranium and a yellow potentilla and a little flower that looked for all the world like a violet but turned out from its leaf to be something quite different; and there was grass of Parnassus, which I really love, and in places a carpet of a little button flower, a brilliant pink, which I think must belong to the garlic tribe. But most of all I was delighted to find kingcups, a delicate variety rather smaller than ours at home, but somehow especially reminding me of you – you wrote of wading deeply through them in the first letter I had from you in Rome.

17 September
Wonder of wonders! We had indication that the weather intended to change. We woke and found the sky clear and remaining clear, no dense white clouds drifting up the valley, but a chill wind driving high clouds from the north. I had a good walk yesterday with Morshead and Bullock and I started at 2 am to ascend a snow peak on the boundary ridge between this valley and the next one to the south. We had a glorious view, unimaginably splendid – Kangchenjunga and all the higher mountains to the East were standing up over a sea of fleecy cloud: Makalu straight opposite across the valley was gigantic, and Everest at the head of the valley – very fine too. But the snow was in bad condition and it’s not melting as it should; above 20,000 feet or so it was powdery under a thin crust and it was impossible to get along without snow shoes, and if it doesn’t melt properly on the glacier we might as well pack up our traps at once. In addition to this cause of despair, Morshead was going badly and I must admit to feeling the height a good deal. I’m clearly far from being as fit as I ought to be. It’s very distressing, my dear, just at this moment and altogether my hopes are at zero.

15 September
Pour out your pity, dearest, pull it up from your deep wells – and be pleased to hear that I read myself agreeably to sleep, and slept, slept bountifully, deeply, sweetly from 9 pm to 6 am and woke to see the roof of my tent bulging ominously inwards and a white world outside. It was easy enough to make out that conditions for climbing were entirely hopeless. Every visible mountain face was hung with snow, incredibly more so often than we last were there three weeks ago. The glacier presented an even surface of soft snow and everything confirmed what everybody had previously said – that it was useless to attempt carrying loads up to our col until we had a spell of real fair weather.

I ordered the whole party to pack up and go down. We were still pulling down tents and covering stores when the clouds came up with a rush and the sizzle of hard-driving snow was about us again. We sped down the hillside, facing wind and snow, down the long valley, dancing over the stones half-snow-covered and leaping the grey waters of many streams, and so at length to the humpy grass in the flat hollow where the big tents are pitched …

Just now we are all just drifting as the clouds drift, forgetting to number the days so as to avoid painful thoughts of the hurrying month. For my part I’m happy enough; the month is too late already for the great venture; we shall have to face great cold, I’ve no doubt; and the longer the delay, the colder it will be. But the fine weather will come at last. My chance, the chance of a lifetime, I suppose, will be sadly shrunk by then; and all my hopes and plans for seeing something of India on the way back will be blown to wherever the monsoon blows. I would willingly spend a few weeks longer here, if only for the sake of seeing Everest and Makalu and the excitement of new points of view. I would like to undertake a few other ascents, less ambitious but perhaps more delightful. And it will be a loss not to see again that strangely beautiful valley over the hills, and the green meadows dominated by the two greatest mountains.

Of the pull the other way I needn’t tell you. If I picture the blue Mediterranean and the crisp foam hurrying by as the ship speeds on to Marseilles or Gibraltar where I shall expect to see you smiling in the sunshine on the quayside – my dear one, when such pictures fill my mind, as often enough they do, I’m drawn clean out of this tent into a world not only more lovely, more beautifully lit, but signifying something.

29 September
My dearest Ruth,
This is a mere line at the earliest moment, in the midst of packing and arrangements to tell you that all is well. It is a disappointment that the end should seem so much tamer than I hoped. But it wasn’t tame in reality; it was no joke getting to the North Col. I doubt if any big mountain venture has ever been made with a smaller margin of strength. I carried the whole party on my shoulders to the end, and we were turned back by a wind in which no man could live an hour. As it is we have established the way to the summit for anyone who cares to try the highest adventure.


Music by Rod Stewart, “I’ll be seeing you”

For a compelling look at British explorer George Mallory, this Daily Mail article takes a look at why this WWI veteran risked his life again and again.


Small Comfort

Coffee and cigarettes in a clean cafe,
forsythia lit like a damp match against
a thundery sky drunk on its own ozone,

the laundry cool and crisp and folded away
again in the lavender closet-too late to find
comfort enough in such small daily moments

of beauty, renewal, calm, too late to imagine
people would rather be happy than suffering
and inflicting suffering. We’re near the end,

but O before the end, as the sparrows wing
each night to their secret nests in the elm’s green dome
O let the last bus bring

love to lover, let the starveling
dog turn the corner and lope suddenly
miraculously, down its own street, home.

~ Katha Pollitt


New Year’s Eve Poetry

The Letter

It is December in the garden,
an early winter here, with snow
already hiding my worst offenses —
the places I disturbed your moss
with my heavy boots; the corner
where I planted in too deep a hole
the now stricken hawthorne: crystals
hanging from its icy branches
are the only flowers it will know.

When did solitude become
mere loneliness and the sounds
of birds at the feeder seem
not like a calibrated music
but the discordant dialects
of strangers simply flying through?
I have tried to construct a life
alone here — coffee at dawn; a jog
through the chilling air

counting my heartbeats,
as if the doctor were my only muse;
books and bread and firewood —
those usual stepping-stones from month
to freezing month. But the constricted light,
the year closing down on itself with all
the vacancies of January ahead, leave me
unreconciled even to beauty.
When will you be coming back?

~ Linda Pastan

“I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer. My bank of wild grass is majestic and full of music. It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.” ~ Violette Leduc, Mad in Pursuit

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia


“To express the thought of a brow by the radiance of a light tone against a somber background; to express hope by some star, the eagerness of a soul by a sunset radiance.” ~ Vincent van Gogh, from a letter to his brother, Theo, September 1888

Friday afternoon. Sunny and warm, low humidity.

Sunrise over Salar de Uyuni

Massive migraine yesterday, so no writing. Just a dull throb today, so better.

Yesterday was a frustrating day (actually, the whole week has been that way), one of those days in which too many telephone calls had to be made, and no forward motion was made. I’m trying to ascertain whether or not my health insurance will cover Botox injections for my migraines (not for my face). I keep getting told different things with each phone call. I finally spoke with someone in my neurologist’s office who actually was familiar with how my particular insurance covers the shots, and she is going to have the nursing supervisor call me next week (when she returns from vacation) so that I can put everything in place.

I first read about Botox for migraines about five or six years ago, but at that time, it was still considered experimental. Slowly, more and more insurance companies are paying for the shots for people like me who suffer from frequent migraines and for whom normal treatment is ineffective. I’m really hoping this pans out so that I can get these shots. I’m kind of at the end of my rope as far as the migraines go; I mean, I’ve given up caffeine almost entirely, and I avoid triggers, but I still get these damned things at least two or three times a week.

I would like to preserve the few brain cells that I have left. Really don’t think that’s too much to ask . . .

When Corey got home from work yesterday, we spent a few hours in the pool just floating and talking. It was quite relaxing except, of course, for the times when Tillie would jump into the water to get her ball. She’s such a needy little bugger. Even now as I type, she’s sitting in the door whining because I’m ignoring her. It’s like having a toddler.

“The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The World’s Largest Mirror: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Corey and I are both making an effort to get to sleep earlier, so that we can wake up earlier, as in no more 4 a.m. sleep times. Although I am sleeping better, I still wake up at least two to three times, which means the longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep that I get is about four hours. Still that’s better than the two hours I was averaging before. The dogs are still the primary reason that I wake up.

For example, last night, just as I was drifting off, I heard the unmistakable sound of Tillie retching; it sounds very much like a cat with a hairball. She’s been eating grass, so of course, it has to come up. Why do dogs eat grass? They aren’t cows. I just don’t understand how they can eat something that their bodies cannot digest, and then their bodies expel the grass only for them to go back to grazing the next day. Why? Why? Why?

I read a little tidbit from the Telegraph that describes an elk that was ignoring its drinking water. The elk was seen putting its hooves into the water and acting strangely. Then the elk stuck its head into the water and came out with a squirrel in its mouth. The elk put the squirrel down, nudged it to make sure it was alive, and then watched the squirrel scamper off. How cool is that?

How sad is it that the supposedly wild beasts have more humanity than some people? Don’t get me started.

“Now the day is over, the shadows are long on the grass. The new trees hold the light—and wisps of white cloud move dreamily over the dreaming mountains.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, from a letter to John Middleton Murry (May 21, 1921)

Salar de Uyuni at Sunrise

I am finding that I have become quite fond of Katherine Mansfield’s writings, especially her letters. They remind me of Virginia Woolf’s correspondence. Both women wrote such thought-filled missives. I find both women’s prose styles to be quite poetic and vivid.

One of my readers has offered to write me a real letter. I am so excited. Of course, with the drama that has been taking forefront in our household lately, I have yet to send her my address. I am such a poor correspondent even before I get started.

I never had a pen pal as a child, although I know that several of my friends did. I imagine that the notion of a pen pal is quite outdated in today’s virtual world. I mean, first, no one writes with a pen any more, and second, corresponding with someone across the world is no longer something that takes time or effort, really. There is e-mail, instant messaging, tweeting, and Facebook, among other things. If you want someone to know what you are doing or what projects you may be involved in, you can tell them in 144 characters or less. How prosaic can one be in 144 characters?

I gave up Twitter ages ago. Who really needs to know that I’m buying groceries? That’s not to say that Twitter is not a good medium. For example, writer Neil Gaiman uses his Twitter to talk about his writing, his projects, and to promote reading. That’s the kind of information for which Twitter was made. I see no reason to update people every time I leave the house. I mean, who cares really?

I’m reminded of an episode of “Criminal Minds” in which Agent Rossi makes fun of Twitter: “Eating sushi. Yum.” And then he says something like “who are these people that they think their every movement is so important?” The killer in that particular episode was using social networking to stalk his victims. Virtual stalking . . . yep, I can relate.

“A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.” ~ Isabelle Eberhardt

Salar de Uyuni (can be downloaded as wallpaper)

The pictures in today’s post feature one of the places on my list of places to see before I die: Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa).

Salt Mounds on the Salar de Uyuni

This place, which at times can appear to be the world’s largest natural mirror, is actually the world’s largest salt flat. Located in Bolivia near the Andes, the Salar (Spanish for salt flat) is covered by a flat salt crust atop a brine lake. This brine lake, rich in natural minerals, contains 50 to 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves. The Uyuni salt flats contain over 10 billion tons of salt, 25,000 tons of which are harvested annually.

The Salar is a major transport route, even during the rainy season when it is covered by a thin sheet of water, which produces the mirror effect. Because it is a prime location for photographers, the Salar attracts tourists from around the world. Many Bolivian tourist sites use the phrases “where the earth meets the sky” or “the border between heaven and earth” in their promotional hype.

I found out about Salar de Uyuni completely by accident when I saw a photograph. The image was mesmerizing, and I looked closely to make sure that it wasn’t photoshopped. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was a real place and that people can actually go there.

I have lots of places on my list for lots of different reasons: the castles in Scotland, the reefs in Australia, the ruins of old churches in Ireland, the Maldives while they still exist.

One day . . .

Salar de Uyuni: Walking on the Boarder between Heaven and Earth*

More later. Peace

Music by Shawn Colvin, “Never Saw Blue Like That”

*Access used to be limited to hot air balloon, but this is no longer the case. Access is usually via 4×4 vehicles.


City of Lavender

I had everything I ever wanted to say to you organized in my head
but forgot it all when you took my palm in your hand and with
your index finger wrote “disaster.” If you were to ask me how I
ended up here, I don’t even know. Every night at 8:25 I can’t
believe it’s already 8:25 and I’m so happy it’s only 8:25. Sometimes
I find tragedy reassuring. Sometimes the cat licks my neck. I don’t
want to think about where I’ve been or where I’m going anymore.
Sometimes I just want to cry. Sometimes I just want to sit in a
quiet space. It’s within me to rip my own head off. Let me tell you
about the city. It’s a city of lavender. I can’t remember its name.
There aren’t enough bank holidays. Someday you’ll read this and
understand what type of person I am.

~ Jason Bredle

“You have to sweep the temple steps a lot in hopes that the god appears.” ~ Dean Young

Winter Time by Piotr Krzackowski

“What does the new savagery
require of me? If I pound a nail
into the wall, the wall is my heart.” ~Dean Young

Poet Dean Young needs a heart transplant as a result of a degenerative heart condition: congestive heart failure due to idiopathic hypotropic cardiomyopathy. Please visit the website listed and share this information where you can:  National Foundation for Transplants: Fund for Dean Young.

Fellow poet and Young’s best friend Tony Hoagland posted an appeal letter on the National Foundation for Transplants website in which he praises Young’s work and refers to his “reckless and uncompromised vision of what art is.”

Seth Pollins recently shared a letter that he once received from his uncle Dean during their ongoing, sixteen-year correspondence. I asked Seth if I could reprint the letter, which appeared on Pollins’s blog The New Savagery, and Pollins graciously gave me permission.

I had wanted to post this letter as it is the kind of letter that so many of us who aspire to work with words would love to have received at some point in our lives. Young’s words to his nephew are heartfelt and honest; they acknowledge the doubt that plagues those who try to create, while still imparting a sense of hope and belief in possibility: “In my experience, the people who become writers are the ones who keep writing through the yards of silence and the years of discouragement . . . you can’t sustain inspiration, you can only court it.”



Dear Seth,

I was very happy to get your letter, and my mom sent me your story which I want to get to but things have been so busy lately, what with school here and all those demands, and I’ve been flying around doing readings, and always feeling that I’m not devoting enough time to anything, even my cat, I figured I’d better write you soon, even if it was before reading your story, because I guess you’re off across the seas soon. I don’t know if I can really help you through your uncertainties, but I think I understand what you’re feeling, and wondering, and maybe doubting. As far as missing out on life because of devoting your time to writing, I don’t think you need to worry about that: life will happen to you no matter what you do. There will be joys and celebrations. There will be nights crossing bridges you don’t know the name of when some unspeakable beauty envelopes you. There will be nights looking from windows upon the staggered lights of some town when some unspeakable sadness envelopes you. There will be people you love who you can no longer find your way to. There will be new discoveries, new clouds that resemble strange and terrible things, tangerines and hangovers, and long, long telephone calls made of almost entirely silence. There will be enormous pains and small pains that are almost pleasurable. There will be haiku that suddenly make sense, and the feeling that something has been taken from you, and songs, always songs. So don’t worry about missing life, it’s like missing the sky, you can’t, you’ll always be under it and in it and sometimes high in it, but often just on the ground, moving from thing to do to, needing, crying, making people laugh, although it’s hard to tell what they’re laughing about because it seems you were just talking about how terrible life is. But one thing that won’t just happen to you, like life, is teaching yourself to write well. So whatever time you spend doing that, can stand to spend, and need to spend, all that time that seems wasted and those rare moments that seem volcanic and so sure, is the time that must be spent, otherwise you’ll never become the writer you want to become. And there’s a funny thing about that, too. One is that you’ll never become the writer you want to become. You’ll never be satisfied, never really know if you are any good. You’ll never be certain. I mean to you it probably seems I have some sort of certainty, I’ve published some books which sometimes show up in used bookstores right down there with Yeats and John Yau (who?) and just in the last couple of years or so people have started to hear of my work, of me, and now I’m teaching at this la de da writing program and poets who I think of as giants are treating me as a friend, which is, I admit, great, but there is flattery and there is the truth and one can never tell where one stops and one begins. My own sense of my my own writing is what have I done lately? It’s the writing-nowness of it that matters, and in that we’re all equals in the fog, each of us with a single flashlight with the batteries only lasting so long and we’re not sure if we should signalling to some landing airplane or is that the galloping of horses we hear coming our way, or should we be just trying to find house again, that place where we were born, where some huge, beneficent force would lift us from our groggy tatters and fit us into a voluminous bed. So don’t worry, Seth, you’re feeling what you have to feel, and as John Ashbery says, The reasons that religions are great is that they are founded on doubt. So you have to be the religion of yourself, which surely Walt Whitman said somewhere, and it sounds like you’re finding your way. Because it has to be YOUR way. Certainly there are teachers who can help you with things like dependent clauses and plot formation and run-on sentences (yikes), but all the hard play and work you must do yourself, which means above all else doing it. In my experience, the people who become writers are the ones who keep writing through the yards of silence and the years of discouragement. I think you may be worrying about things more then I did when I was your age. At least about writing. I knew it was a thing I did. I started writing poems in the third grade, and although I’m disappointed I’m not a lot better, it is something I do and therefore part of who I am, and cannot be reft from me. Perhaps I was too stupid or stoned or drunk or distracted or comfortable, or it was another world of skinny-dipping in the Bloomington quarries with a group of friends most of whom were trying to write well, with stupid jobs, and reading Frank O’Hara. I guess it was something I had faith in. It was later, by the time I was in graduate school, that the real ambitions (and poisons) of trying to get published and all that came into play. By then, well, it was too late. It was what I did. Remember, Seth, you can’t sustain inspiration, you can only court it, and here’s the thing: it happens WHILE you work. It’s not something to wait around for. You have to sweep the temple steps a lot in hopes that the god appears. Go back to college. It is a good place to try to teach yourself to write and to be surrounded be fellow blockheads that love books. Now I must get back to working on a poem I have no hope for because it is important to keep writing even when you aren’t writing worth shit. There’s a lot of luck involved in being struck by lightening, so you you want to make sure you’re holding a pen when it happens. Write again soon, dear nephew. Allow yourself to be uncertain, but don’t let your uncertainty turn to despair. It can be wonderful to write when you’re sad and full of the dark bouquet of doubt, but misery leads itself to silence and one must get out of bed every morning and prepare for the great celebration of one’s own imagination, even if it doesn’t happen that day.




To make a donation to NFT in honor of Dean, click this link. If you’d prefer to send your gift by mail, please send it to the NFT Texas Heart Fund, 5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Please be sure to write “in honor of Dean Young” on the memo line.

More later. Peace.

The Art of the Thank You Note

Thank You cards from PaperCrave

Sample Thank You Cards from Papercraft.com


“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” ~ Cicero

I haven’t had time to post anything new in several days, but by this time tomorrow, 11th grade will be over for Brett. Can I get a big hallelujah from the chorus?

Next big item: Graduation for Eamonn at 3:00 on Monday. His announcements finally arrived a couple of days ago, and I got all of them addressed and mailed yesterday. The deal is that he cannot have (as in take possession of) any graduation presents until the Thank You note has been written. I hope that he realizes that I’m serious. He needs to learn that thank you notes are a must.

I still remember that Alexis never sent out all of her thank you notes for her graduation gifts, which I was very unhappy about, but that was a very bad time in her life, so I suppose that I should just be grateful that we made it out of that dark period. But I’m a firm believer that sending out a short note is the least that you can do when someone takes the time to think of you, to remember you, regardless of the circumstances as to why they are thinking of you.

I was appalled when I read in one of those advice columnists about how someone had received a generic e-mail as a thank you for a wedding present. The writer wanted to know if this was the “new way of doings things.” Not in my world. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but weddings are a significant event, and the people who buy wedding presents usually (except for regifters, of course, but it’s still a gift) put a lot of thought into getting something special for the new couple. To send out an e-mail thank you is better than nothing, but not by much. To send out a generic e-mail to an entire list of people is just plain lazy, and boorish to boot.

Yes, our lives are full and busy, and there never seems to be enough time to do all of things that need to be done. But taking pen in hand and writing two to three sentences in a card does not take more than a few minutes at the most. And a handwritten thank you note or card still means more. At least, I think that it does.

Perhaps I am really revealing my generational influences here, but it pains me that we are raising children who rarely put pen to paper. From the moment that children begin to write, they are on computers. Now that part I agree with. Keeping our youth up-to-date on technology is good for them and good for our country.

But learning how to form letters, how to write words—nothing can replace that.

Besides, how did those newlyweds respond to people who don’t use e-mail? There are still people out there who don’t, anachronisms though they might be. There is a generation that for the most part knows little to nothing about computers. I’m thinking of my mother’s generation. My mother doesn’t even know how to turn on a computer, let alone open an e-mail.

Did the tech-savvy couple just ignore the people without e-mail addresses, or did they deign to send along a one-size-fits-all form letter?

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John F. Kennedy

I love that we are connected to people everywhere through today’s technology, but I hate that we have an entire generation of young adults who don’t know how to write letters. It concerns me.

Just think of all of the wonderful revelations we have had throughout the years when someone stumbles upon a box of letters written by someone of note: Hemingway, Kennedy, Whitman, Woolf . . . Personal letters reveal so much about the letter writer, and they are a wonderful piece of history. I, for one, am always impressed when I see the penmanship of past generations, the swooping cursive capitals, the care with which the writers crafted their missives.

 I suppose that it is my romantic self that cannot abide electronic communication, but of course, I am just as guilty as everyone else of using e-mail all of the time because of its convenience. But nothing beats receiving something in the mail with a cancelled stamp. And few things beat a thank you note, handwritten and full of gratitude.

The ability to say thank you to those who have given of themselves for our purposes: that is a talent that every child should be taught as soon as he or she is able to write.

Much more later. Promise. Peace.

Mr. Postman

I never thought that I would miss my computer so much, which leads me to the subject of this blog: my dependence on computers for writing and how little I actually put pen to paper any more. In the past two weeks, I have had my annual bout of bronchitis, which, if any of you are sufferers know, makes typing quite hard as coughing fits plague you every two minutes or so. I’m down to the occasional annoying lingering cough, and I opened my laptop only three days ago two catch up on e-mail and Blackboard for school since I was facing a midterm in my much-maligned E-publishing Infrastructure course. Having survived last night’s midterm, of which we shall not speak, I can now get back to the business of blogging.

So these are my thoughts: Writing, I mean actual writing, as in putting pen to paper, is a dying art form. I love to look at old letters and see the beautiful script of our predecessors, how it artfully loops and slants across the page. You will find no hearts or smiley faces above the lower case i’s. Each letter is carefully crafted and adjoined to the next, a marriage of letters and words, the page itself a thing of such beauty that at first glance it is wondrous to behold, even without the reading. But then with the reading: people of letters hundreds of years ago wrote of even the simplest things with such meaning. I remember reading excerpts from Samuel Pepys diary, which told so much about life in 17th century London, but his writing was full of character, even when writing about the mundane. People don’t write with character any more. I don’t believe that they know how. I think that it’s because we are such an abbreviated society: email, text messaging. Who actually writes in complete sentences? I hate statements such as r u 4 rel? It makes me shudder. I know. The English instructor in me is showing. but is that all?

Am I alone in bemoaning the lack of words in our communication? Am I the only one who misses receiving printed mail in my mailbox? I remembr receiving my first real letter. It was from a friend of mine who had moved away in the 8th grade. Her name was Jan Farber, and she wrote to me once her family was settled into their new home. I have no idea what the letter said, but I remember receiving the letter with my name on it, in an envelope with a stamp. It was a momentous occasion. Correspondence via U.S. mail with handwritten addresses, pre-typed labels was lovely. Stationary that you bought in boxes and didn’t run through printers was lovely. I remember one particular present that I received from friends that I loved, and they knew that I would love: a Cross pen set and a box of heavyweight cream stationary with a hunter green border. Maybe some of you might find that to be a truly lame present, but those of you who know my ongoing love affair with paper realize just how much that present meant to me.

Why don’t we write to one another any more? Why do we settle for email? I know that I am one of the worst offenders of my own accusation. J’accuse! My reasoning is purely for physical reasons, and I should try harder: it taxes my wrist to write with a pen; I could rest my wrist, though, couldn’t I? My handwriting is slovenly, and I am embarrassed by it, though. When I look at those old letters, even when I look at my father’s handwriting, I am embarrassed by my generation’s penmanship. The free-spirited 70’s produced a generation of counter culture people who wanted to do everything differently from their parents, right down to the way they wrote, so we all tried to write uniquely. In my parent’s generation, their is a similarity in the penmanship. Even my mother and father wrote similarly, even though my father spoke English as a second language. That generation was schooled in penmanship. Not us. For us it was a free-for-all, and my left-handed penmanship reflects that, so typing was my salvation. Hence, my awe of old penmanship.

I owe a very dear friend of mine a long overdue, long letter. He wrote to me and shared something last fall, and has been very disappointed that I did not respond. That I did not respond had nothing to do with his confidence but with the timing of it. I have been keeping him in the back of my mind for months now, promising myself that I would write when things in my personal life settled down. Obviously, that is never going to happen. So now I will promise myself to find a quiet moment this weekend, and to sit down with my new pens and some of my lovely writing paper and to write him a long, reflective letter so that he will know just how much he means to me and how he has never been out of my mind.