I think, when I take the time, my best writing is in the form of letters. I lament the loss of paper and pencil and I lament my horrific penmanship and the tendonitis that makes it worse. Alas.
Maybe what I really mean is that I miss this avenue of exploring adventures, thoughts, feelings, and ideals. I took the time to lay out my life in a way that shared the adventure with someone else far away who was living their own adventure. In return, I always hoped to see a piece of their reality in their own hand, in their own words when their response landed in my mailbox. It is a bit of life past. That sounds so nostalgic.
I am not typically nostalgic.
It is easier, of course, to type out a quick note, fling it through cyberspace, knowing that it will arrive across the globe in someone’s inbox in a matter of nanoseconds and they will know that, in some way, they came into your thoughts. Yes, it is easier. I can let them know what I had for breakfast, what I plan to do that day, what the weather is. It is really no different than old-fashioned letters. Yet…
Yet, somehow, the substance of letters wasn’t just in the written content. Today many of us sit in front of our computers for long hours every day. Throwing a quick note into the email stream is no less routine than brushing our teeth or letting the cat out (or in, or out, or…). Writing a letter was a commitment. It said, “I am sitting down with you and a cup of tea for an afternoon chat” or “let’s have a beer and a late night philosophy session.”
Quick emails, on the other hand, are a way of saying, “I haven’t forgotten about you but I don’t have the time to really engage.” Letters, even those that took days or weeks to finish, (maybe especially those that took days or weeks to finish) definitely required engaging. Responding was something to look forward to. Rereading the letter you received, making time to enjoy the process, knowing that you were about to spend time with a friend. The actual writing flowed more slowly, forcing your mind to slow down and savor what you were writing and to choose words more carefully and with more meaning.
I’ve written letters while backpacking and camping and at random field stations, on countless beaches, rock ledges, and at the kitchen table, and once, I wrote a letter with paper and pencil on the steering wheel while driving across North Dakota. Have you ever driven across North Dakota? Right? Perfect place to write a letter.
Now we can do something similar with our smart phones. We let everyone in the world know how cool we are to be wherever we are at this given moment doing something amazing. It feels more like competition than joy. Definitely not the same.
I started this blog not knowing what direction I would take with it. I have the need to write more, the desire for more interaction, and the hope that if I am going to fling words into cyberspace they will resonate- even a small ripple can change an entire pond.
Consider this blog an open letter from The Road not Taken Enough.