The spirit of an October letter

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Any time of year is the right time to enjoy the beautiful Art of Letter Writing but when temperatures fall and leaves begin to turn those rich colors of Autumn it’s especially nice to cuddle up in a cozy corner with paper and pen and write letters.

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 At this time of year my correspondents often choose stationery that reflects the beauty of the Season adding to my pleasure in receiving their letters.

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I too consider the Season when choosing or creating my stationery.  I’ll often draw  sunflowers or Autumn leaves on my letter papers.  Stationery and art play can be a large part of letter writing fun.

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Did you ever make faux postage stamps for your letter envelopes? It’s easy using your camera and a computer.  In October I like to create these stamps picturing my house with its dogwood tree in Autumn color.   Also, just for fun, I add little pumpkin men to the envelope.

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Some times in October I use a rubber stamp picturing an old spooky house.  I’ll add a tree or two, a ghost, a bit of chalk, and presto – Seasonal stationary.  There are so many possibilities.

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Then there’s color!  With Halloween around the corner it’s not unusual for me to receive letters on bright orange paper along with the talk of ghosts and goblins.  Color is fun! Some people enjoy decorating their houses for the Season, but letter writers often put that effort into the look and subject matter of their letters.

My letter friend Kim’s recent orange letter shared interesting information about the Celtic roots of Halloween –  how some 2000 years ago people thought the division between this world and the other world was at its thinnest nearing the end of October so at this time family ancestors were honored and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off.  People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves from the evil spirits thus avoiding harm. Interesting, huh?

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Kim’s envelope was very “Halloweeny”. and besides containing a good letter it was full of goodies for me.  How nice is that?  What fun to go to the mailbox and find letters, but letters with gifts inside?  Yes!

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See?  The decorated tissues held lip gloss, little packets of body butter and the most delicious-smelling soaps. Don’t you wish you had a generous letter friend like Kim?  Hopefully you do.

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Well I like to share in my letters too.  I share all sorts of things.  In October as Halloween approaches I like to  share a little something to do with old houses.  You see, I love old houses. I enjoy living in this old house. To me old houses are romantic, gracious and mysterious for they witnessed lives and times that have come and gone.

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 I used to live in an 1829 house, but these days I live in a newer house, an 1853 house built by Jeremiah Brown, the half-brother of John Brown, the famous abolitionist.

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In Autumn, especially when Halloween is near, my thoughts wander back in time and I like to think about the people who lived in my old house and what life must have been like for them back then.  I love so many old world ways – letter writing, afternoon tea, chamber music, candlelight, things undoubtedly enjoyed by people of the past… actually I often wish I lived a hundred or two hundred years ago. but by living now I’m able to encourage these and other old world pleasures that modern people seldom consider today.

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There’s a ghost flying outside my house in October and though I’ve never actually seen any other ghosts on the property I have a feeling they’re there.

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One of my “dead friends”. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote a poem about all this and I like to share this poem with all my letter friends each October because it captures my feelings about spirits and old houses. Like Kim’s envelope this poem is very “Halloweeny” too.

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I’ve known Henry for years, first meeting him when I lived in Boston.  I met Henry at a Country Inn and I love Country Inns just as much as I love old houses.  Originally this Inn was named ‘The Wayside Inn”, but it was renamed Longfellow’s Wayside Inn after Henry wrote his “Tales of a Wayside Inn” while being a guest there.  The Inn has a lovely perennial garden and in that garden is a statue of Henry.

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Then later I discovered Henry’s beautiful house in Cambridge, Massachusetts and while there I really sensed his spirit all around me, especially in his study where he did all of his writing. I revisited his house often while living in Boston and even when I moved to Ohio I would return to Boston and pop in at Henry’s place because it was just so nice.  Funny too how one time after visiting there Henry followed me home.  You see, I decided to spend a night at The Red Lion Inn in the Massachusetts Berkshires on the way back to Ohio and whose picture was hanging outside the door to my room?  You guessed it.  It was a picture of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Henry’s house is kept up beautifully by The Department of National Parks and within his house is a little shop which sells materials by and about Henry. It’s because of these materials which I purchased there and studied  carefully that I now feel I know Henry quite well.

These days he is a frequent companion on my Country Inn Days.  His spirit keeps me company at afternoon tea. With the help of his biography, his writings, and other books I feel we’re together, at least in spirit.  “Dead friends” are wonderful.  I hope you have some of your own.

I like so much of Henry’s work but his poem entitled “Haunted Houses” is my favorite and that’s because he puts into words all the feelings and love I have for old houses.  So here I share Henry’s poem with you.  Enjoy!

Haunted Houses

All houses wherin men have lived and died

Are haunted houses.  Through the open doors

The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,

With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them on the doorway, on the stair,

Along the passages they come an go,

Impalpable impressions on the air,

A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts

Invited; the illuminated hall

Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,

As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see

The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;

He but perceives what is; while unto me

All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;

Owners and occupants of earlier dates

From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands.

And hold in mortmain still their old estates,

The spirit-world around this world of sense

Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere

Wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense

A vital breath of more etereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise

 By opposite attractions and desires;

The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,

And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar

Of earthly wants and aspirations high,

Come from the influence of an unseen star,

An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud

Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,

 Across whose tremblng planks our fancies crowd

Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends

A bridge of light, connecting it with this,

O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,

Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

I’m sure Henry is happy that I’m writing about him and sharing his poem with my letter friends and with you for no one wants to be forgotten nor have their work  forgotten.

So when you see an old house think of me , think of Henry, and think of all those who have gone before us.  Say a little prayer.  We’re all in this life together, but someday we will all be together with Henry, off in the spirit world wherever that may be.  I’m in no hurry to get there, but it will certainly be interesting meeting Henry and others face to face or shall we say spirit to spirit.  Till then let’s celebrate life, letters, and sharing.

And as Henry used to say, “Look then in your heart and write.  I will answer.”

I’ll answer too if you leave me a comment.

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7 thoughts on “The spirit of an October letter

  1. Another beautiful blog post!! I, too, love the fall and all the wonderful, bright colors. It is so much fun when the stationery fits the season. My home is mostly pastel colors but in the fall, I use bright colors whether they “go” or not. I use to just decorate the outside with fall colors but it just wasn’t enough. So now, my whole place sports the lovely, happy fall colors.

  2. That was a very interesting and informative post about Halloween and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I did not know of the timing of Halloween as being the time when, long ago, “people thought the division between this world and the other world was at its thinnest nearing the end of October,” as you explained. Very interesting. I’ll be carving my Jack-O-Lantern for my front porch around the 27th as I have done for many years now.

    I always enjoy your posts, Carol Ann, and have a great Halloween.

  3. Greg, thank you for your nice comment. I’m so glad that you enjoy my posts. I certainly enjoy writing them and I’d probably keep writing them even if no one ever read them (as a writer yourself I’m sure you understand) BUT it sure is nice to have one’s work appreciated. So once again THANKS. You’re very kind.

  4. Carol, it’s always good to read your blog and connect with you. I owe you a very long overdue response to a couple of letters you wrote me. Life has been busy, very busy. You sent me a postcard recently with no address. Please send your address so I can respond to your mail. Too much time has passed. Jennifer

  5. Carol … a November letter is on its way to you today. What a treasure to have discovered your blog. Your reflections resonate with me because I love so many of the same things you write about. The world needs people like you to remind us of the joys of simple pleasures that bring peace in a too-often frenetic world. Reading your reflections helps to ground me inside where I live and to remind what is most authentically me when so much tries to pull me in another direction.

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