Some of my most treasured possessions are the letters and cards I have received over the years. Nothing quelled the homesickness I felt my freshman year quite like the notes and trinkets I received in the mail from friends, like pressed flowers from Ohio (welcome in a city basically without plants) or a hokey little ninja figurine. Once a month or so, I make an effort to send out a few notes and letters of my own.
People sometimes ask (with a laugh, occasionally) why I don’t just shoot an email or type out a quick facebook wall post. The answer has to do with investments of time as well as the inadequacy of screens. Most of the people I write to are those I don’t see on a daily basis (not even close), but they are people who once saw my handwriting on an almost daily basis, in the form of those square folded notes passed between school desks or in the form of assignments over which we pored at our local Panera. The reverse is also true–one of my close friends has the most beautiful, distinctive handwriting, and seeing it in my mailbox is always a tangible reminder of the affection we share for each other. It’s very different from seeing a post on my wall in the blank-canvas facebook font, even though that wall post is, of course, also meaningful and welcomed.
Sitting down with a blank piece of stationery and an envelope means that I have time to think about what I want to send–unlike facebook, it is unlikely that this letter will be made public to the hundreds or thousands of people who are our facebook friends. Yet this letter will also be kept, perhaps for many years to come, just as I have saved the letters I received in high school. It’s something precious, and it’s an act of creation with a meaningful piece of art at its conclusion.
Of course, shopping for stationery or drawing my own is also part of why I enjoy sending and receiving snail mail! And since I will be passing my purchase on for someone else’s enjoyment, it’s a little less guilt-inducing than shopping for clothes. Maybe? Sure.