July 2014 = by hand

Dear you,

It seems ages since I last wrote to you.  Our correspondence is such lifeblood to me.  It is the very act of love.  It is silence written, my silent thoughts spelled out, letter by letter, in a moment of quiet.  It is a form of written meditation. 

I write to you, but aren't I writing to myself and for myself as well?

Aren't I writing to show faith in us, in you, in our bond?  A letter is a connection across distance and time.   It's a different vocabulary than what I'd use on the phone, or at dinner together, or on a walk with you.

And handwriting – of course there's that aspect to our letters.  The space I have created for my thoughts are made visible, measured out by the movement of my hand across the page forming each letter in a slanted, looping, too-large, slightly drunken script.

We've heard about the writers who still insist on writing long-hand and how they prefer the pace of handwriting to the quick skip and tap tap of the keyboard. 

For me, the joy of letter writing is the slow, unmistakably personal, very quirky way of communicating.  Think of the visual oddness and strange comfort of seeing someone's handwriting, especially someone whose handwriting you know well.  It is an immediate recognition, an inner-knowing, a primal response.  Your mother's note on the kitchen counter outlining your chores; from across the room you knew she wrote it by the shape and slant of the script.

You could be in another room, in a stranger's house and magically a note from your mother is sitting in a box under a small wooden table, along with bills, newspaper clippings, and dust, and still you'd know it was your her handwriting. The feeling is disorienting yet comforting.

That happened to me.  I was in Key Biscayne visiting a family friend that I had never met before, and I went into a guest bedroom to fetch something and I saw that box with my Mom's letter in it.  Actually, what I saw was my Mom's handwriting, then I saw everything else.  The writing might as well have been in neon ink it stood out so much.  It glowed.  

And just last week, I took a book from the stack next to my bed to donate to the free library.  As I went to put it in my bag, a letter fell out.  It fluttered down, and as it fell, I caught the shape of three words and knew immediately who’s letter it was. The angular, Victorian-era writing is as familiar to me as my own name.  

Has this happened to you?  What do you still do or write by hand?  Make a grocery list?  Write checks?  All month I will be exploring this theme.  What handmade thing do you treasure the most?  

Tell me.  Show me.  Write to me.  Leave a comment below or try your hand at the Postcard Project. 

I remain yours,

P.S. What is lost as we write by hand less and less ...

Edwin and the Big Scroll

Edwin the faithful.

That's what I call my penpal Edwin from Surrey, UK.  He's been with me since the start of the Postcard Project. 

Right now, I am WAY behind on my correspondence with him.  He's got three letters on me, including this beauty -- written on a tiny scroll:

I'm in the midst of writing the first of the three letters I owe him.  But until then, I wanted to share this story with him about Jack Kerouac's Famous Scroll.

Kerouac typed about 100 words a minute and replacing paper on his typewriter was a nuisance, so he came up with the idea of the scroll. 

On that scroll of a letter Edwin sent me, he announced that he had just finished writing 12 songs all in one session on a big scroll of butcher paper.  Twelve songs!  On one big scroll of butcher paper!  Kerouac's smiling at you, my friend!  You should put that scroll in on a wall.  Frame it.  Make a few more and have an art show and at the opening, play all the music on all of the scrolls.  Just an idea ...

Hey Edwin!  Send me a photo of that 12 song butcher paper scroll in your next letter, will ya?

And Hey Everyone else!  Send me some postcards and letters.  Find out all the deets at the Postcard Project FAQ.

Why postcards work

Because they HANG AROUND.

In a wobbly stack of old photos in my childhood bedroom, two layers deep, I found this:


I've been feeling low: not much practice, not much songwriting; a lot of grocery shopping, a lot of cooking, a lot of taking care of Mom.

Practicing not scales and tunes but humility, patience, suffering, service.

So unearthing this postcard -- from April 18, 2010 -- was a balm for these days of deferral, and, yes, sometimes, discouragement.


Why Postcards?  What do they mean to me?  See the Postcard Project FAQ.