They don’t call it the ART of Letter writing for nothing

 

When people talk about the art of letter writing I realize they are usually referring to the thoughts contained in a letter and the verbal construction of that letter.  Just as one would write a novel or a poem writing a letter is a literary act. There is an art to how we spin our phrases and reflect upon ideas, but there is also visual art involved in letter writing too.

Hand writing is an art in itself.  Unfortunately with technology many people are forgetting how to hand write and even worse, many children are not even being taught cursive writing.  How will these children be able to read the great writing which has come before them?  They will be illiterate.  They will not be given the chance to develop their own unique script which is a reflection of  personality and style.

But in addition to the art of hand writing there is also the very real art of stationery, distinctive papers sold in fine stores or those we create ourselves. One very frugal soul I have written to in the past worked cleaning offices after hours. She would raid the wastebaskets in those offices collecting  any papers with a blank side and she’d use those papers for her correspondence.  I must say some of the business matters discussed on those papers was as interesting as the thoughts and activities shared in those letters. The papers we use for our correspondence say a lot about us.

Pens, with their various fine or broad strokes, ink colors, types of paper, our unique hand writing all work together creating a uniquely personal and one of a kind missive.  So the Art of Letter Writing is a combination of verbal and visual expression.

 I do love all sorts of  beautiful cards and letter papers which I find in stores all around town, but it’s  great fun  designing my own stationary too,  using color and design in any number of ways.  Some people tell me they have no ability in art but I don’t believe them.  One doesn’t have to draw or paint in order to have fun with art. We can create bits and pieces of artful objects, arranging these things to create stationery that can be quite delightful. It’s called art play.

Years ago while strolling through an antique shop I found pages from some old magazine with the cutest historic images.  I purchased these old illustrations and now scan them to decorate some of my letters.  Adding a few sprigs of grass or background material makes for a fun looking letter.  At least I think so.

How about writing the name of the month at the top of a letter adding some color.  Perhaps edging the paper with that same color and adding a few polka dots…

… or using laces and/or ribbons, co-ordinating their color with that of the paper.  Such touches may be simple, but they are still artful.  My letter friends tell me they have great fun visiting craft shops collecting all sorts of materials for their stationary construction and letter writing fun.  I do too.

I’ll see some cute illustration in a book and I’ll make it my own by changing a few details here and there.

Did you ever try making flowers by placing finger prints onto ink pads and drawing stems and leaves? . . .

I once saw  boxes of greeting cards for sale. Each card pictured the drawing of a little handbag containing an initial. Now anyone can draw a handbag putting their own initial onto that bag and  presto!  You have monogrammed stationary for pennies a card.

My town of Hudson, Ohio has a clock tower on its village green.  I love to sketch that clock tower on my stationary.   I add a few trees of the season – a Christmas tree in Winter or a deciduous tree with green leaves  plus a few flowers in Summer.  Maybe your town has some famous land mark too.  Did you ever try to draw it?  Go ahead.  Try.

 When I write my sons I like to send happiness and hearts.

And there’s nothing like a little bubble therapy when I’m in need of a pick- me- up. Spreading the idea around to my letter friends is easy in words and in pictures too. Actually I got a card very much like this picture once upon a time. You probably get lots of cards too, cards that would be very easy to make your own.  Why just color in a book? Use those cute cards as models, recreate those images, and then color your very own picture.

I’ve always loved flowers even way back when I was a wee little girl.  I remember creating a little booklet back in the 3rd grade.  Each page had the picture of a flower and a brief description. I enjoyed creating my little book and I was very proud of it.  I remember showing it to my teacher expecting her to shower me with praise, but I was quite disappointed when she made nothing of it only suggesting I use that energy and time on my school work. HA!  I continued to enjoy art class at school but it’s no wonder I stopped drawing flowers for a long time.  Then in high school when given the option of extra art or music classes I chose the music probably  because back in the third grade I was not given encouragement for my art.  Music has been my life and I have no regrets, but when I became a letter writing enthusiast the love of art surfaced once again and now I regularly create stationary with drawings of flowers on my papers.  The artist in me is back and I’m very happy she is.  I missed her.

Maybe you liked art as a small child and somehow you forgot all about that love. But even if you never thought about art before, think about it now.  It can be a wonderful therapy.  It can be a most relaxing delight in your day and if you share your art in your letters. . . well you know what I’m always saying – sharing doubles the joy.

“True art is in the doing of it.”

Jean Renoir

Letters warm up a snowy Winter Day

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The weather outside in my town of Hudson, Ohio is frightful.  It’s 32 degrees with snow, then sleet, but though the weather outside is frightful I’m having a delightful day with a number of my interesting pen friends who have come to call to keep me company.  There’s Randall from California, Jenna from Maryland and Margie from Nova Scotia.

Letter writers never need to feel lonely because even if it’s not a mail day, or even if no letters happen to arrive in the mail that day, a letter writer can still have the company of others as she or he enjoys writing a letter to an interesting pen friend.img_27391

And it’s not only the actual writing that’s fun when composing a letter.  There’s lots of fun to be had in creating the stationary for that letter.  I love to draw flowers on my letter paper and along the edge of the paper I tell my letter friend a little bit about that flower.  Just the other day a letter friend told me if she ever feels dreary she draws flowers.  It must be something about the beauty of the flower that gets into our spirit. Of course you could draw whatever appeals to you if flowers aren’t your thing, but I promise your drawing, whatever it is,  will amuse your correspondent.

There’s something about art play.  Lots of people are discovering coloring books for I see millions of them in bookstores these days, but who needs a coloring book?  Just draw and color your very own picture.  I know you can do it!

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Practice makes improvement

But what’s especially magical about letters is how we can share ideas with people far away, people we would probably never meet in normal everyday life if it weren’t for letters.  It’s amazing to think with letters alone you can develop a best friend without ever leaving your easy chair.  All you have to do is join a letter writing group like The Letter Exchange. Then, even if the weather is far too unpleasant for you to venture out and socialize you can socialize from that easy chair while sipping a favorite drink as you sit comfy by the fire.

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 It takes me months to wish all my pen friends a Happy New Year, but what a fun task.  In this world of texts and impersonal emails and Facebook messages I think it’s refreshing to sit quietly and think of one person at a time, writing to them, reflecting on and with them –  one to one.

If we make our letter pretty as well as thought-filled our penfriend will feel honored that we used our precious time to focus  on her.  Our letter becomes a friendly compliment.  Don’t you light up when you find a letter addressed just to you in your mailbox?  I sure do.

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I learn a lot from letters too.  My pen friend Margie from Nova Scotia is married to a lobster fisherman.  Because of Margie I now know a lot more about lobsters and the life of a lobster fisherman.  Margie sends pictures too.  The pictures enhance her descriptions and make her letters even more interesting and enjoyable.  It’s good to keep learning and not only about things, but also about people and how differently their lives might be from our own.  Living in Hudson, Ohio I’d never meet a lobster fisherman, but thanks to letters I now have a personal relationship with one.

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We’re all so different with so many different interests.  My pen friend Randall likes to draw as I do, and he also enjoys writing poetry.  So far he hasn’t gotten me into writing poetry, but you never know.  I might try to write a poem someday.  Randall  is educating me too, as Margie is.

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Randall introduced me to Charles Baudelaire, a French poet of the past, his role model.  Charles advocated writing short poems and walking.  He loved walking through the streets of Paris. Who wouldn’t? I may not be writing poetry in the near future, but I will be walking the streets of Paris like Charles did because I will be spending a week in Paris with my family this May and I bought a book called Walks in Hemingway’s Paris.  I’m sure Randall and all my other pen friends will be hearing about these walks that I take and they will undoubtedly also be getting pictures from these walks.  Why? You know. Sharing doubles the joy.

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Sharing is a good thing.  We humans were not created to live in isolation.  We can share with our family and local friends, but if you are a letter writer you can also share with lots and lots of other people.  Sharing will become a hobby in itself. What will you share? You’ll be sharing all sorts of things in your letters – your travels, your latest shopping adventure and that new swim suit you purchased.  You’ll share your dreams and your creative ideas.

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You can share a picture of that French potato pie you made recently along with its recipe.  You can share anything and everything in your letters.  Others will share with you too.  It’s so fun!

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My penfriend Jenna loves the writings of Jane Austen. I do too.  Do you?  She told me her love affair with Jane’s books began when she was 10 years old and her aunt gave her the book, Emma.  Do you have a favorite author or favorite book?  Most letter writers are also fond of books and books become a regular topic in letters.  Who needs a book club when your letter friends report on all their latest book adventures?  If you are a fan of Jane Austen Jenna suggests you find Jane’s History of England.  She says the book is quite “a trip”!  I’ll have to look for that book. Jenna’s got me curious.

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So I hope you are a letter writer like me, enjoying all the pleasures this lovely old art provides , but if you aren’t, there’s no time like the present to get started.  Write your old auntie.  Write your friend who moved away.  Write a letter to  anybody at all.  Sit quietly.  Doodle a little drawing on the paper,  maybe even write a short poem as Charles Baudelaire and Randall suggest.  Join The Letter Exchange and connect with people from all over the world.  You’ll be glad you did when you go to your mailbox and find lots of letters addressed just to you.  And you WILL find these letters for there’s an old saying – when you give good things come back to you. Give a letter.  Get a letter.

You’ll see.

Letter friends – out of sight but never out of mind

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Recently I was reading a book called “A History of American Literature since 1870”, and in that book Mark Twain and his work was discussed at length.  Upon reading a passage from Twain’s “Old times on the Mississippi” in which he described the home town of his youth, Hannibal, Missouri, my thoughts instantly traveled to one of my pen friends.  You see, my pen friend Greg also makes Hannibal is home.  Greg is very proud of Mark Twain and rightly so.

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Every one of Greg’s letters is marked with  a Mark Twain postage stamp.  He even sent me a sheet of Mark Twain stamps so I too could post my letters to him using these stamps.  Needless to say, anytime the name Mark Twain comes up in conversation, or in any other way, Greg comes to mind.  He lives far away from me.  We’ve never even met in person, but through letters I’m getting to know Greg quite well, better than any of my next door neighbors in my town of Hudson, Ohio.  Greg’s out of sight, but not out of mind.

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How is it we can cultivate meaningful friendships without physical contact?  We can do this easily if we share our true spirits through thoughtful, written conversation. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to get to know the heart of a person if we’re not distracted by physical appearance. Physical first impressions can color what we hear a person saying. For that very reason I don’t ask to see pictures of  my new correspondents met through friendship books ( little handmade booklets filled with names and addresses of people interested in getting to know each other through the mail.  These little booklets are sent from one letter friend to another.) or through The Letter Exchange (an organization which introduces letter writers to each other). Sometimes years go by before I have any idea what a pen friend looks like. Sometimes I never know, but yet sight unseen, I can feel that pen friend is a best friend.  After all, poets tell us Letters mingle souls  and how nice it is to rid ourselves of the physical now and then.

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Friendship is a wonderful thing and there are so many kinds of friendships – school friends, work friends, relatives, neighbors, friends who share our hobbies, old friends and new ones. They’re all great!  But letter friends can become some of the best, and I maintain –  the more the merrier.

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Though we may seldom, if ever, get together with a pen friend in person, we may know them quite well if they’ve shared their personal stories and feelings in their letters to us.

Sark, in her book, “Succulent Wild Woman” writes, ” A story can travel without you and inspire many.  The tiniest story in your life can deeply touch another.  You cannot know the effect your story may have.” But whatever effect stories shared in letters have, we can be sure these stories help people get to know each another.

And this makes me think of a song with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

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Getting to know you, getting to know all about you;

Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.

Getting to know you, putting it my way, but nicely.

You are precisely my cup of tea.

Getting to know you, getting to feel free and easy;

When I am with you getting to know what to say.

Haven’t you noticed suddenly I’m bright and breezy?

Because of all the beautiful and new

things I’m learning about you

Day by day.

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While going through my attic the other day I came upon my old, blue typewriter.  What did it make me think of?  It made me think of my lovely pen friend Amy.  Amy lives in Pennsylvania. Though Amy is quite the modern woman she enjoys typing on her old typewriter now and then just for fun, and wouldn’t you know, Amy’s typewriter is blue just like mine.  Amy writes terrific letters and she’s quite the artist too.  Her stationery is always a delight to behold. Letter writers do appreciate lovely stationery and we love letters that look as good as they read.  Amy’s letters are the best!

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And whenever I make a cup of tea who do you think comes to mind?  It’s my pen friend Kim, also from Pennsylvania.  Kim loves traveling to England and Scotland and she loves taking tea in those places.  She has sent me lots of pictures from her travels – tea houses and the tea goodies she enjoys there. Getting her letters with these photos is such fun.  I look at her pictures and my imagination kicks in.  I feel I’m with her, sharing my tea, not in my kitchen, but in Scotland or England at some cozy tea house. What fun, and I have my pen friend Kim to thank.

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And if I’m out in nature I’m always thinking of my pen friend, Janet.  Janet lives in Virginia. She loves nature as I do and she also loves to photograph nature so every one of her letters is filled with pictures of the things she recently saw when out on one of her nature expeditions.  One picture is truly worth a thousand words, but she adds eloquent  verbal descriptions of those pictures ( she’s a former English teacher so of course Janet’s a great writer.) I’m getting to know Janet quite well, but also the nature world of Virginia, thanks to Janet’s letters.

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There are so many lovely people in the world and I’m so pleased to be writing to many of them … people like Michelle in Washington D.C..  She has the most beautiful handwriting.  When we’re not writing each other we both enjoy intimate sharing in charming places.  No wild parties for us or loud, noisy restaurants where you can’t think or barely hear the person sitting beside you. Michelle and I are kindred spirits.

Michelle is forever kind and shows an interest in many things.  I’m one of those things, as are her other correspondents, and it’s very comforting to know there are people out there who care about me?  I care about Michelle too and all my many pen friends.  Caring about others is a wonderful thing.  We step out of our own lives and concerns, focus on someone else, and return to our own life with renewed contentment.

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Pen friends may live far away but through letters their spirit surrounds us at all times bolstering us up and helping us feel rich.  Our pen friends may be out of sight, but they are seldom out of mind. I hope you have a pen friend, or better yet, lots of pen friends.

Letters shrink the world into a friendly neighborhood.

The Joy of Letter Writing

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When was the last time you wrote a personal letter for no reason other than to let a friend or relative know you were thinking of them?  I wrote two letters a few hours ago.  This is a daily ritual with me.  It feels great to take my mind off my own life and focus on the life of someone else.  I have my regular pen friends, but I also enjoy sending letters off to relatives and local friends, people I like who I don’t have the opportunity to see often or ever!

I enjoy pausing in my busy day to reflect on life for if I  go, go, go and never stop life becomes one long “to do” list offering me no chance to ponder and appreciate those very things that I’m doing. I double my fun by “doing” things and then “reflecting” on those things.  Lord Byron (one of my “dead friends”) had it right when he said, “A life without reflection is a sad affair.”   I think reflection is important.  It gives us a chance to stop and relax in between activities.

I could reflect and keep the reflections to myself, but I truly believe sharing doubles the joy, so I share my reflections in the letters I write to my pen friends.  My pen friends then share their reflections with me.  It’s a wonderful cycle.

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I know I could use the telephone as my way to reach out to others, but I might call at an inconvenient time for my friend.  Just because I’m in the mood to share doesn’t mean my friend has the time just then.  A letter is polite.  It arrives, but can wait to be read at whatever time is convenient.  It can also be kept and read again and again and again.  A letter is lasting.  Why would someone want to reread a letter you ask?   Well, if we write letters full of kind thoughts, compliments and beautiful ideas our friends might like to reread our letters when they need a lift.

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Besides all this, there’s art involved in letter writing, not only the personal art of our handwriting, but also the opportunity for us to enjoy a little art play as we create our stationery. Creativity is very therapeutic and good for the soul.  There are plenty of machine-made items in the world today but how many handmade articles do you encounter daily?   A hand written letter will always stand out because not only is it personal, and handmade, but it is also quite rare in these modern days.

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I love writing letters but I get equal pleasure from receiving letters like this one from my pen friend Sarah in Viroqua, Wisconsin.  With lots of pen friends the whole world becomes your friendly neighborhood.  As you write to all sorts of people with all sorts of interests and experiences your life is enriched.

My pen friend Sarah is a real health food person.  She shares all sorts of healthful recipes with me and whether or not I make these things I enjoy reading about them – things like her snacks of yogurt with carob powder and sorghum. Sarah eats sorghum morning and night.  She says it digests slowly and is a good fuel source.  Did you ever eat sorghum?

Sarah buys grass fed beef hot dogs, chops up 2 eggs right out of the shell, adds celery seed with a liberal pad of butter, some spinach, parsley or cilantro, and cooks it all up to create a lunch she loves.  Well, it’s not exactly a lunch I would love, but I enjoy the subject of  food and discussing it in letters is interesting to me.  Would you find this subject interesting too?

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Sarah said she doesn’t eat much bread but if she does indulge it has to be Sprouted Organic Ancient Grains – The Queen’s Khorasan.  Ever hear of it?  I hadn’t.  It’s made with sprouted khorasan wheat, an ancient grain that entertained Egyptian royalty more than 5,000 years ago. Who would know?  Pen friends teach me all sorts of things about food and about many other subjects as well.

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I may not be able to hop on a plane and travel to far off places, but because I have pen friends in those far off places it’s easy for me to enjoy virtual outings whenever these friends write to me sharing their world.  One such special friend is Joanna who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Besides her beautiful handwriting and her Scottish news I love to see the stamps on her envelopes.

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Joanna also shares picture postcards from her travels.  These post cards always contain lovely descriptions and lots of background information.  I could just read The New York Times travel section (which I do read) or National Geographic, but there’s something special in getting a friend’s personal reaction to a place.   Do you recognize the picture above?  It’s a  picture of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  Joanna visited it recently and found it interesting that in any other Renaissance building most people would spend hours admiring the painted ceilings, the immense collection of classical sculptures and the portraits of European monarchs of the 16th and 17th centuries, but she noticed no one was paying any attention to any of those features at the Uffizi Gallery because they were too busy looking at the other paintings. I too love art and my pen friends help me see things I would otherwise not have a chance to see.

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Did I just say I love art?  Yes I did, all kinds of art,  so you can see why I enjoy finding creative letter envelopes in my mailbox.  This one is from my pen friend Kathy who lives in York, Pennsylvania. Kathy loves cats.  She often draws a cat on her letter envelope among other things). I love seeing her art work.  She especially loves her cat Alice, but Kathy loves lots of good things that I also appreciate, especially her love of  classical music and singing in a choir.

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No, this isn’t Kathy’s Alice, but I wonder if Kathy would  dress Alice up in this way.  Kathy tells me there was a “dress up your pet contest” and this cat pictured was a winner.   I wonder if Alice would put up with a hat and earrings.  My dog would never have heard of such a thing. But to each his own.  I  have some catnip in my garden and I’m planning to send it to Alice via Kathy.  I never had a cat, but I do love animals, and any friend of Kathy’s is a friend of mine, a friend deserving of a little present now and then.

Letters are wonderful.  I can’t imagine living without them. Some letters are serious and others are whimsical.  Some letters educate and others just share simple pleasures.  Letters add so much to my life and I know they would add as  much to your life too.

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I hope you are a letter writer.  I hope you have lots of lovely pen friends as I do.  I hope you enjoy art play creating your very own stationery. It’s all so good!  The Art of Letter Writing is not a lost art.  It still exists.  All it needs is You!  Write your friends and relatives.  Join The Letter Exchange if you need a few new interesting pen friends.  Leave a comment on this post.  I’d love to hear from you myself.

Just Write!

I’ve got Mail

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Yes, I’ve got mail.  I’ve got letters.  I’ve got lots and lots of letters –  letters that come in the mail every day, letters to answer, letters reaching out to new people encouraging friendship,  letters all set to go just waiting for the postman to pick them up and carry them off to places far and near.

It’s funny, but whenever I tell people I’m a letter writer the first thing most of them say is, “Oh, letter writing.  Nobody writes letters anymore.”  Of course they’re wrong.  Lots of people are still writing letters.  They’re just not talking about them.  I’m talking about them because letters and letter writing brings me joy and sharing doubles that joy.

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There’s nothing like making a cup of something delicious (for me it’s a cup of dark roast coffee or Earl Grey tea) and getting all cozy with paper and pen.  I’ve been told I must be an introvert for introverts receive energy from solitude, and letter writing is a solitude-type thing, but I must also be an extrovert for I enjoy people very much.. . so  it’s no wonder that I love letter writing.  In letter writing we have solitude and society simultaneously.  We sit quietly relaxing in our house or in a pleasant coffee shop while at the same time we’re sharing with others.

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But it’s not just the writing and sharing I love.  I also love the art play involved in creating my own stationery. Some papers turn out pretty, while others are just playful.   But all art play is fun.  I’m not the only one enjoying art play either.  Have you been to a bookstore lately to see all the many adult coloring books?  Adults must really be enjoying coloring by the looks of all those books for sale and why not?  Kids mustn’t have all the fun, but letter writers have a purpose for their art play.  They can share their art as well as their words – a double sharing proposition.

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Creating  letter papers and writing letters are  wonderful activities, but only half the fun.  The other half of the fun comes when we go out to our mail box and find more than junk mail. Finding personal letters addressed just to us is wonderful fun!  Heartfelt messages just for us.

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The best of these letters share the personal life and the unique spirit of another.  How often do you have chats through the day with people who reach deep into themselves to share the good, the bad, and that which is the essential essence of themselves?  Well, most every day I have these sharing sessions because I’m blessed to have a great number of wonderful pen friends.  You can have wonderful pen friends too.  All you have to do is write letters for good things come back to those who share –  good things in the form of more letters.

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Today I got a letter from my penfriend A.J. who lives in Arizona.  This dear man is hurting because he lost his wife two years ago but he still misses her terribly.  He told me he thinks of her every day because  she was a wonderful woman and a wonderful wife.  A.J. truly was a lucky man to not only have a good companion, but also a wife who cooked delicious meals every day and  took great care of their house. My heart goes out to him.  A lot of people are hurting in this world, but sharing in letters , (and sharing in other ways too) not only doubles the joy, but also divides any sorrow.  I care how A.J. feels. Wouldn’t you care too?  I plan to write him soon and encourage him to tell me more about his wife.  I’m sure he’d like that.   It’s not just A.J.’s spirit that came through in his letter.  I also got a sense of his wife’s spirit as he shared a list she kept on their fridge, and now I’m sharing that list with you.  Here it is.

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Ingredients for a Happy Life

Develop a spiritual outlook on life – Matt. 5: 3

Be content and avoid “the love of money”  1 Tim, 6: 6-10

Keep pleasures in their place 2 Tim,3: 1,4

Be generous and work for the happiness of others Acts 20:  35

Be thankful and count your blessings Col. 3:  15

Have a forgiving spirit Matt. 6:  14

Choose your associates wisely Prov. 13:20

Take care of your body and avoid bad habits 2 Cor.7:  1

Rejoice in the hope set out for you in the Bible Rom. 12:  12

This list is good advice for all of us and it gives me something good to think about today as I’m thinking about A.J. and his wife.

Thinking and caring about people is not a frivolous, unimportant thing and therefore letter writing is more than just a fun hobby. It’s an excellent way to reach out to others in love.  Our letters can make a big difference in someone’s life if we’re thoughtful and careful to address their feelings.  It’s not always easy, but well worth the effort.  Besides, when we take the focus off our own life and focus our attention on other people we often feel all the better for it.

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The next letter that comes to me may be full of joy, or it may come from some far off place and introduce me to  new and  unusual things.  Every letter is different just as every letter writer is different. My life is richer for having lots of pen friends. I hope you have lots of pen friends too.

“Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls.  For, thus friends absent speak. —John Donne

Letter Writing as Art

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The word that is heard perishes, but the letter that is written remains.

A Proverb

And if that letter is a beautiful letter, well, you know what they say about beauty.  A thing of beauty is a joy forever.  I am a great fan of The Art of Letter Writing and it truly is an art.  The words we use,  their construction and style, our penmanship, the stationery, even the postage stamps that grace an envelope,  many elements combine to create an artful letter.

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There are those who enjoy letter writing but think little of its artful aspects.  I’m still happy to hear from these people, I really am, but to me the artistic quality of a letter increases its pleasure tenfold.

Art can be a type of therapy too.  After a busy day I find it very relaxing to pull out my water color pencils and design stationery for my letters.  Lately more and more of my pen friends are beginning to realize they’re not too old for art even if they never dabbled in it before.  Have you heard about the adult coloring books becoming very popular? Well, coloring in a book is nice, but it’s even more fun to design the creations you color.  These creations (no matter how simple) can have a purpose too – they can become your very personal, one-of-a-kind stationery.

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 I have a few of my own coloring books like this one, A field Guide to Wildflowers.  It’s filled with 146 wildflower designs along with  notes about each flower’s growing habits,

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but instead of coloring the pictures in the book I use these pictures as models which I sketch onto my writing papers.  Once the sketches are complete I then enjoy the coloring. It’s fun!  And in trying to draw a flower or any other thing I’m forced to really notice its detail  thereby appreciating that thing all the more.  

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Whether the flowers I draw and color grace an 8 by 10 piece of paper

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or a card which holds a letter inside,  it’s all pure fun  and very creative. This sort of thing just might be fun for you too.

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Of course there’s all sorts of things that can be drawn to grace letters.  Because I am a fan of afternoon tea almost as much as letters I’ll often draw tea cups on my stationery.  What are your favorite things?  Try drawing them.  Let them dress up your letters.

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Each Season offers so many ideas.  In Winter how about drawing evergreen trees and animal foot prints in the snow?

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But any simple artistic touch can jazz up a letter, even a stenciled “Happy Day”…. add a few polka dots and you have art.

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 But if drawing is just not your thing perhaps photography is.  Why not create greeting cards using your photographs.  My Dad grew up in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of Groundhog Phil, the famous weather forecaster.  I know Phil well  so I like to make and send Groundhog Day cards to celebrate the occasion.  Groundhog Day is just around the corner too. (February 2nd)  Any picture is worth a thousand words after all so let pictures  jazz up your letters, especially if those pictures are meaningful to you or your letter friend.

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If you’re lucky you have lots of letter friends who write their letters using all sorts of artful details,

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letters that not only have a lot of interesting things to say, but that are visual treats for the eyes –  like this letter from my pen friend Joy.

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And sometimes a personal artful letter sent at a time of loss will  be just the thing to soothe a mourning soul.  Years back after my father died I received such a letter containing a verse that was very comforting to me.  It was a verse about after life. You see I had just been asking my father (now in heaven) questions about death never expecting any answer, but an answer did come.  The answer was scribbled on a little piece of paper which was tucked into the envelope of a letter I received later that day.  The words were so comforting to me I now share them with friends who’ve lost a loved one.  I write the words neatly with care  gracing  the paper with flowers and a heart.

And here’s that hopeful message.

“Death is nothing all.  I have only slipped away into the next room.  I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other that we still are.  Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used.  Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.  Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.  Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.  Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.  Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.  Life means all that it ever meant.  It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity.  Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?  I am waiting for you for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.  All is well.”

Henry Scott Holland

(1847-1918)

Canon of Saint Paul’s Cathedral

A personal letter at any time shows that we care, but at times of sorrow that caring is especially important. I was impressed to see this message over the entry to the main post office in Washington D.C.

“Messenger of Sympathy and Love, Servant of Parted Friends”

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So write some letters.  Make them beautiful.  Make them artful.  Express  yourself. Share your joy.  Comfort the depressed and downtrodden.   Delight yourself and others with your creativity.  Letter writing is not only an art.  It can also be a ministry, an artful ministry.  Virginia Wolfe once said, “Life would split asunder without letters”  and Kate Spade said, “It’s uplifting to get a letter – – –  like an ‘ooh!’ in your mailbox”.

I say they’re right.

What do you say?

Let’s talk about Christmas Cards

It’s the middle of December and the Christmas cards are starting to arrive.  Goodie!  I love them. I like to display the cards we receive on  our library shelves  amidst the books.   They’re great, one of my favorite things about Christmas.  Sure, I like the Christmas music and I get plenty of it teaching piano and directing a Children’s Church choir.

And I enjoy all sorts of  other Christmas things…

things like baking Christmas cookies and decorating the dining tables with crystal reindeer and Pomegranetes.  I like pulling out a Teddy Bear in his December sweater, decorating the Christmas tree and setting out another lit tree to brighten up the foyer.  I enjoy all sorts of Seasonal plants, setting paper whites on my secretary desk and  trimming the mantels with fresh greens, but being a letter writer there’s nothing I enjoy more then  sending and receiving Christmas cards.

When I’m ready to write out our cards I put some Christmas music on, make a cup of coffee or tea and spread out the cards I’m planning to send so I can hand pick different cards for different people, but I can get a little frustrated because I know I’ll never have the time to write everyone I care for at Christmas … not in the busy days of December… not writing  cards with personal messages the way I like to write them.

I remember watching my Mom write out her Christmas cards.  Mom was a lovely and very caring person, but the task of sending out lots of cards to a huge family put her in an efficient work mode not a holly jolly Christmas mode.  She approached the job in an assembly line manner. Mom first signed her name to all the cards, she then stamped all the envelopes, then  penned all the addresses.  Her heart was in a good place but not with each person she was writing.

I can’t write Christmas cards or any cards that way.  To me each card is an opportunity to think about the person I’m writing.   This takes time, but it’s delightful time spent!  It’s not a job to me.  It’s pure fun!  I like to write a note inside the card or maybe a long message.

Sometimes I like to draw a little something on the card and if I’m writing to one of my friends I always use sealing wax with my personal “C”stamp for Carol Ann. If the card happens to be from both my husband and me I’ll use a stamp with our “M” initial for McCarthy.  Christmas cards going to my pen friends rate a letter inside the card (and I have a lot of pen friends) so unless I go off to our outbuilding and hide away for a few weeks everyone I care about can not possibly get a Christmas card.  Oh dear.

What to do?

I guess we all have to come up with our own solutions.

Some good people, like my dear pen friend Greg, take the time to write a holiday letter to everyone on their list.  It’s typed and copied. I’m sure composing this sort of  letter takes a lot of time and I’m honored to be on Greg’s Christmas list and the list of other people as well. I really am, but I’m not fond of most Christmas letters.  Greg’s letter was different, better, because he wrote a paragraph in that letter about me and our pen friendship.  That personal touch left me with a smile and a good feeling. Greg’s Christmas letter brought me joy and isn’t that what we want our Christmas cards and letters to do?

Unfortunately many Christmas letters fail to offer any kind and loving words to their recipients. They’re filled with me, me and more me.  I may care about the person who is writing this letter to me (and a million others), but such Christmas letters don’t make me feel warm and fuzzy in any way. In fact, if those letters are filled with only the great accomplishments and good fortunes of the writer’s last year, well, they can be a little depressing. I can begin to wonder how my year measures up to their year.

So how will I handle the subject of Christmas cards?

There’s no way I can send  a personal card or letter to everyone I care about in the  month of December and I’m not about to create Christmas letters all about me and my family.

But this is what I can do.

I can enjoy making a list (and checking it twice) to be sure everyone I care about gets their name on that list.  Next I will declare one day each week as the day to send a special card containing a letter (or at least a special note) to someone on that list.  I’ll keep a log of who gets what when.  In the course of a whole year I should be able to reach 50 to 100 additional people.

Each week a  card may go out to someone with a birthday or anniversary.   I may hear of a friend or relative who is feeling poorly, someone who has had an operation or lost a loved one, someone who needs encouragement or congratulations.  These would be the people to get an extra card or  letter that week.

 A holiday may be approaching – Easter, Halloween, Memorial Day.  Why not send a few greeting cards for each holiday?  Why should Christmas be the only holiday when cards are sent to friends and relatives?  That’s silly.  We can care about people all through the year not only in December, the busiest month of all.

And even if there’s no special day coming up who needs a special day to send a card and letter?  Any time is a good time to think of others and let them know we care about them.

So

Though I wish I could send a zillion Christmas cards out this month, I can’t.  I will however enjoy writing and sending cards and letters all through the year.  I have my regular pen friends, but so many other people are also important to me and deserve to be remembered.  Spreading joy and love is a twelve month proposition.  And when we give (love) good things come back to us. (More love).

We all have our own approach to Christmas cards.  I don’t expect everyone to do as I do, but I hope you enjoy spreading the cheer by sending some cards out to those you love.  It would be a shame if this gracious old world custom went by the wayside.

May I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

(just in case I don’t get a card off to you this month)

But maybe  a card  will arrive when you least suspect it. 

Till that time

Cheers