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

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!

Country Inn “Service” Day

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This Country Inn “Service” Day takes me to Hower House, a Victorian Mansion built in 1871 in the Second Empire Italianate style.  Hower House is a  twenty-eight room Mansion owned by Akron University and open to the public. Touring this historic house with its lavish furnishings from around the world is one way people of today can experience a bit of yesterday.

Because I am fond of old houses and Historic preservation I have recently become a Victorian, that is to say, a person who supports Hower House and its many programs. As a Victorian I volunteer my service to this house in various ways – helping out in the gift shop, serving at teas, or assisting  at special events.

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You see, years ago when I was searching for my purpose in life I stumbled upon a spiritual book entitled “A Daily Guide to Spiritual Living” by Jim Rosemergy and through this book I came to realize service should be a part of all our lives.  After patiently reading the book’s 365 daily messages and journaling on each  of those messages my purpose (and possibly yours too) was revealed.  I was told the purpose of life is to try to know God, to do all our work with joy (whatever that work is), and to be of service to others.

So, besides doing for others on a daily basis in whatever way I can now and then I like to devote an entire Country Inn Day to service and on this particular Country Inn Day my service is devoted to Hower House.

 

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Hower House is hosting its Artisan Fair and many vendors are filling each room of the mansion with their wares.  Our hostess is ready and waiting for visitors to arrive and I will be posted at various locations  through the day in order to be of service to vendors and shoppers alike.

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What fun for our visitors to enjoy this beautiful house while at the same time admiring the creative efforts of various talented artisans.  There’s the lady who works with chocolate

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 and my friend, Evelyna, who creates the most beautiful and delicious cookies and cakes.

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There are artists who make the loveliest  jewelry

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and another who presses botanicals in all sorts of ways, preserving them forever.  This particular artist  frames flowers and plants, encasing them in trays and boxes, designing note cards … and her choice of color and design is lovely to behold.

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When I wasn’t on duty I did a little shopping myself and these two pictures tied together featuring pressed culinary herbs were one of my purchases.  I think they’re very nice hanging in a kitchen where these herbs are used on a daily basis.

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I also couldn’t resist buying this exquisite cut work bed sheet from one of the antique dealers. They don’t make bed sheets like this anymore,  but I think it will also serve nicely as a cloth on the dining room table of my 1853 historic house at tea time.  Don’t you agree?

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There were all sorts of artisans at this Fair, but I was particularly happy to see the aprons that were created by the Future Story Shop.  This shop creates new aprons patterned after aprons from our grandmother’s closet.  The aprons are made by the women who live at a place called Haven of Rest.  Haven of Rest is a women’s homeless shelter and the apron project is part of ‘Lydia’s Purse International’, a project which teaches these homeless women to sew.

After speaking to the volunteer from Haven of Rest I think I have my next Country Inn “Service” Day in mind – a good thing indeed.

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We don’t generally have the fun of shopping for our bath products in an antique bathroom

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or have the pleasure of  taking in the beauty of  handcrafted art while at the same time viewing the historic art of period rooms, but this can be done at Hower House’s Artisian Fair each Spring.

I was able to enjoy service and shopping simultaneously on this Country Inn “Service” Day making it very easy for me to be of service with a smile and to do do this work with joy as directed by my spiritual book.

It truly is a good feeling to do for others helping out in any way we can.  I might play the piano in a nursing home or pay a visit to shut ins on some other Country Inn “Service” Day or I could work in a food bank, volunteer in a hospital or help out in a school.  I learned a long time ago when we give good things come back to us so giving of ourselves in any way at all is a very good thing to do. I’m sure you’ve experienced how much better you feel about yourself when you’re not only thinking about yourself all the time.

How are you being of service to others these days?  I’d love to know.  Maybe you’ll give me a good idea for one of my next Country Inn “Service” Days.

Sharing Doubles the Joy

and sharing ourselves as we serve others quadruples the joy.

But remember, only Service with a Smile counts!

It’s a Country Inn Day – Culture Day

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The Cleveland Museum of Art

On this snowy Country Inn Day I decided a cultural outing was in order so I left my cozy Inn mid-morning and took a 45 minute drive north to the University Circle neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. This neighborhood always makes me feel more intelligent just by driving through it because genius seems to be in the air here; that’s because University Circle is home to many fine institutions and brilliant minds.  There’s Case Western Reserve University, Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, The Cleveland Botanical Garden, The Natural History Museum, The Cleveland Institute of Music where I went to school, University hospitals, and many more outstanding establishments, but today I’m after Art!

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The Cleveland Museum of Art is a wonderful place.  It was established in 1913.  It has had a number of additions, but my favorite part of the museum is its original, very classical building. This museum is internationally renowned for its substantial holdings of Asian and Egyptian art, but it also houses a diverse permanent collection of more than 43,000 works from all around the world.  And best of all it has remained historically true to the vision of its founders, keeping general admission free to the public. This is possible because the museum has a $600 million endowment.  It is one of the wealthiest museums in the world.

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The museum has  a lovely lagoon and garden out front.  This is how it looks in Winter, but it’s really gorgeous on a Summer’s day.

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See?

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But since it’s not Summer, today I appreciate the newly constructed Atrium with its glass roof which is now covered in snow.  Better the roof covered in snow than me.   The Atrium connects the new part of the museum to the old part.    It has beds of grass-like greenery at one end.

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This greenery is most interesting.  It has a moss-like appearance, but I couldn’t identify exactly what the plant material was.  Also interesting is the way it grows in slanting hills and valleys.

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The other end of the Atrium is a great place to sit and relax.  Here you might pause for some refreshment purchased at the cafe or read over the material you just bought at the gift shop which is a few steps away.

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Ah, the gift shop!  I always enjoy browsing in this shop and today  I had some delightful conversations with museum employees. Ohioans are so friendly. Even when I go off on a Country Inn Day outing all by myself I always find nice people with whom to strike up a conversation.  When I’m here I always buy museum postcards and note cards to send my many pen friends. But the shop has so much more – books, jewelry, prints,  etcaetera etcaeterorum.

But how ’bout I show you a few things around the museum? Would you like to see the Armor Court?

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Follow me through this grand room with its marble pillars.

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And here we are.  I was told this armor collection, popular with the children, was put into the museum because Cleveland was a steel town way back when so armor seemed to be just the thing to get the museum off and running.

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I happen to love portraiture.  Here we have the portrait of Elizabeth Beltzhoaver Mason .  It was painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1803. Stuart was an American artist who lived from 1755 to 1828.

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And this is a portrait of Hugh Hope painted by the Scottish artist Henry Raeburn in 1810.  Raeburn lived from 1756 to 1823.  I love the clothing of these early times.  How ’bout I show you one more portrait though I enjoyed looking at lots and lots of them.

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This painting is called “Portrait of a woman”  It is quite old.  Rembrandt van Rijn painted it in 1635 or earlier.  You may know Rembrandt was Dutch and he lived from 1606 to 1669.

I know I said just one more portrait, but I lied.  I have to show you another.  It is perhaps my favorite, or at least one of my favorites.

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This is a self-portrait of a Belgiun named Joseph Paelivick.  He lived from 1781 to 1839.  He created this painting in 1812.  I love his pose. I love his clothing.  I love his expression.  I love portraiture.

But as I said earlier there is so very much to see here, 43,000 works.  Each time I visit the museum it’s all almost all new to me.  Of course I always enjoy revisiting my favorite things…

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things like this great doorway from the Issac Gillet House.  It was created by the famous American artist, Jonathon Goldsmith back in 1821. Goldsmith lived from 1783 to 1847.  He and all the other artists I admire are not forgotten when I leave the museum.  I try to get to know these people by reading their biographies. Many become my “dead friends”.

Viewing exceptional art, viewing anything beautiful, becomes us.  Just walking through the elegant rooms of this museum is energizing and uplifting.  Come along.  Look at this!

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And this!

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And this!

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a close up of a Louis XV Savonnerie carpet with royal arms made of wool and hemp somewhere around 1740.

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And these Tiffany lamps dated 1898 to 1910 made by The Tiffany glass and decorating company of New York.


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And when we pass a window don’t forget to look outside at the beautiful snow-covered garden below.

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We pass gallery talks in progress.  This one is all about Monet and other Impressionists.  I stick around for a few minutes, but it’s time for a ‘sit down’.

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I find an empty table in the Atrium, order a cappuccino and relax for a bit with a little letter writing.  I tell my friend in Rhode Island all the things I’ve been seeing.  Sharing doubles the joy you know. That’s why I enjoy sharing my Country Inn Days with you too.

I’m getting hungry. I could stay at the museum longer and have some food in the charming restaurant here.

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This restaurant has a view of nature out its windows – beauty in art, beauty in nature, and culinary beauty to boot, but no, after my cappuccino I must get back to the Inn.  Once there the magic of Country Inn Days will transform me from Inn Guest into Inn Chef and I will create a masterpiece of my own.

It’s called Dinner

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Tagliatelle with Red Wine Bolognese Sauce

The recipe

Ingredients:  1 onion, 1 small carrot, 1 celery stick, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 tbsp olive oil, 14oz minced beef, 1 and 1/2 cups red wine, 1 cup tomato puree, a small handful of oregano, parsley to garnish, 1 and 1/2 cup beef stock, 1 lb tagliatelle pasta, salt and pepper

Process:

1.  Chop vegetables finely. Heat oil, add vegetables and cook over low heat 5 to 7 minutes.

2.  Add the minced beef and cook 5 minutes.  Stir in wine and mix well.

3.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add tomato puree, herbs and stock.  Salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Cover pan and cook slowly for 30 minutes.

5.  Meanwhile cook pasta.

6.  Add a salad and a glass of wine.

7. Light a candle or two and enjoy!

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I am now transformed once again from Inn Chef back into Inn Guest.  Ah, the magic of Country Inn Days!

And though this particular Country Inn Day held many other delights, I will leave you here, sharing more next time.  So until we meet again, be sure to exercise your own imagination and live richly experiencing much beauty.  Remember

Leave behind ordinary.  It’s not enough!

Letters will tickle you intellectually

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Does this place look familiar to you?  Can you guess where it might be? Well, let me tell you.  It’s Delft, a city and municipality in the province of South Holland, in the Netherlands.  I have not had the pleasure of visiting Delft myself, not yet anyway, but my dear letter friend, James, spent some time there a while back and because he’s a kind and generous soul he shared his trip with me via letter and he bought me a little present from this charming, old city too.

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James bought me this beautiful tea cup.  He stopped at a porcelain factory and chose this lovely hand-cast, hand-painted creation just for me.  Can you imagine my delight when this beautiful object appeared in my mailbox along with the following letter?

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James wrote:

Dear Carol Ann,

Since you are so fond of the tea ceremony, and you are so kind as to include me on occasion, I thought that this would be the perfect gift for you.  It is a hand-cast, hand-painted tea cup from a porcelain factory in Delft that has been making them since the 1600’s.  I bought it for you at the factory when I was in Holland.

I would be quite honored if you might use it to make yourself a cup of your favorite tea when you read my letters once in a while.  Or perhaps you can put out an extra place setting with it when you invite your friends over for tea.  Nobody has to know why it’s there, and that way I can be there with you in spirit.

I am so honored to be included in the special brilliant world of your imagination.  God bless you, Carol Ann.

Love,  James

How would you feel if you received such a letter and gift?  Well, I felt wonderful!  Finding any personal letter in our mailbox is a delight and finding excellent letters from special friends is even better, but discovering exquisite presents sent in friendship along with very kinds words… well, this is pure bliss.

I hope you have wonderful pen friends like James.  Such pen friends inspire us to live richly.  They validate our worth by their caring.  They inspire us with the sharing of their interesting activities and appreciations.  They entertain us with their stories and they teach us things too, all sorts of things.

Oh yes, James is always teaching me things.  He taught me to appreciate a simple pencil like I never appreciated it before. Do you think of the pencil as your friend?  I bet you never gave pencils much thought.  I sure didn’t, that is until I got this letter from James in which he extolled its merits.   Let me share what he had to say.

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“Carol Ann, do you think it is a breach of etiquette to write a letter in pencil?  I really LIKE to write in pencil.  Let me tell you what I have learned about the pencil!  For one,  pencil writing lasts much, much longer than pen writing.  It’s true!  I learned that when I started working in the archives department in the museum. (That’s the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.)  Archivists mark everything in pencil because it is more permanent.  Also,  it is more likely that I will draw you something because I don’t have to put down a pen and pick up a pencil.  So how’s that for a deal?  If you will tolerate my pencil writing, I will draw you more pictures in my letters.  How’s that?”

Letter writers often teach us things because they are interesting people interested in lots and lots of things. Most letter writers are avid readers. When moved by the ideas encountered in a book most letter writers are eager to share those ideas.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles their joy.  I often write letters in my home library.  There I can easily jump up, find the book I’m currently reading, and share a passage with my letter friend.  I can enjoy this sharing any time of day or night too, and this is a real perk, for after all, you can’t always get a friend on the phone when you want to share or pop over to their house whenever the sharing mood strikes, but with letter writing sharing is possible 24/7.

And if you happen to write to artists like my friend James you’ll delight in receiving illustrated letters.

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Just imagine finding drawings like this one scattered through the letters you receive.  How would such drawings make you feel?  They make me feel treasured.  Now don’t get the wrong idea.  My letters to and from James contain no hanky-panky.  James knows I’m a married woman not interested in anything beyond pure and honorable friendship.  I often read his letters to my husband who approves of this and all my letter relationships.  The above illustration simply captures the joy a letter writer experiences when an interesting person and skilled writer becomes a new pen friend.

Naturally the best correspondents are kind and good people who have something to share and are skilled in expressing themselves in words and/or pictures, but remember, practice makes improvement.  If however you feel you really have nothing to share, it could be time to explore some new interests.

Letter friends will provide us with lots of ideas that spark imagination and increase our zest for life as they share their adventures and favorite things with us.

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Here’s another fun example of sharing from James.  When he was planning a trip to Belgium, all excited to be leading  a tour of the Flemish and Dutch masters, he inspired me to visit my local museum so I too could view art from this period and place.  That’s how the power of suggestion works in letters.

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And what’s this?  It’s a Belgium waffle.  James said it was the only item he could think of to appropriately decorate the stationery for his letter about his upcoming trip, and yes, seeing his drawing prompted me to dig out my waffle maker and experiment with some recipes.

Letters will be as intellectual as you and your letter friends are.  They will help you think about new and different things.  Letters will help you grow. They will provide a vehicle for reflection and sharing.  Many of my elderly correspondents are thrilled to relive their life stories in letters, sharing those stories with new and  interested ears, but no matter how old or young we are, sharing in letters doubles our joy, and, if we can’t get out often, or even if we can, letters offer great opportunities for stimulating interaction.

Though the physical and social aspects of letter writing are delightful, the intellectual aspect of letter writing is equally delightful and equally responsible for making this art form a Complete Treat!  You may already know this, but if not, you’ll see as you write more letters and collect more interesting pen friends, friends like James.

So what are you waiting for?  Write a letter!

The wonderful Art of Letter Writing

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Today I started the day by writing a letter to my pen friend Jennifer in Delray Beach, Florida.  I hope you also had some letter writing fun today.  After all, a day without letter writing is like a day without sunshine.  Don’t you agree?  And if we add art play to our letter the experience is even more enjoyable.

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Today I decided to create a floral note card for Jennifer’s letter and to help with that I pulled out a  book for inspiration.  This “Flower Sticker book” designed by Fiona Johnson contains pictures of garden flowers with notes regarding their size, blooming time and characteristics.  I don’t use the stickers in the usual way, but rather as models for my own drawings.

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A page of Fiona’s book
I’ll choose a flower from Fiona’s book, a flower  that is currently in bloom, take out my watercolor pencils, and go to town.  You don’t have to be a great artist to enjoy drawing.  Think of the fun little kids have. Well, you can have that fun too.   I always make a note in the book as to which flower design my correspondents  receive for there’s  no point sending the same design over and over when there are so many flowers to choose.

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And after a little art play I have a one-of-a-kind card to use for my letter writing.   Fun, fun, fun!  The price is right too because I have a great source for purchasing paper.  It’s Hollo’s in Brunswick, Ohio.  (hollospapercraft@yahoo.com).   I figure each of my handmade cards costs about 10 to 20 cents to make, but I don’t make these cards because I’m frugal.  I make them because art play is so much fun!

Today I decided to draw the Clematis flower for Jennifer’s letter.  Are you a gardener familiar with this climbing plant?  Clematis loves to cover walls and fences.  Its flowers can be purple, blue, pink or white, and as you can see, its leaves are oval.  I love flowers, don’t you?  Well, if you try to draw them you will love and appreciate them even more for you’ll be forced to focus on their details, details you may never notice otherwise.  Like they say – to really love something you must know it, and if you’re like me, you’ll get to know and appreciate flowers even more when you attempt to draw them.

I don’t think it matters at all how great an artist we are, What matters is that we’re exercising our creativity and enjoying ourselves, then sharing our joy.  You know what I’m always saying – Sharing doubles the joy.  And one of  the perfect ways to share our joy for art is to send our artistic creations away in the form of  letters.

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Jennifer’s letter

Of course the ideas we share in our letters are the main event.  Jennifer and I were discussing creativity in our correspondence and let me share with you some of her fine words on the subject.  She writes:

“Creatively I’ve tried many things but of late have found an interest in making handmade  greeting cards and note cards.  I’m thinking this is an endeavor I can enjoy for years barring any physical or mental incapacity.  I just have to give myself permission to ‘let go’ and let my hands guide me rather than my mind as I have a very strong and active inner critic. “

(And don’t we all?)

Jennifer then went on to tell me what her mantra is.  Her mantra, which she repeats to herself over and over, is a quote by Kelly Kilmer.  Jennifer loves these words and so do I.

It’s all about the journey.  Make.  Create.  Don’t worry or over think.  Make art for you and your own sake.

So what have you created today?  There are so many ways in which to be creative.  You probably guessed  two of my favorites are writing and art, and when you put the two together what do you get?

The Wonderful Art of Letter Writing

The Personal Letter

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I love the artistic and personal aspect of letters, don’t you?  The one-to-one… Some messages can be posted on Facebook or written up in a blog and that’s fine, but other messages are meant to be shared with only particular people.  There’s something magical about writing and receiving personal letters – where you know the words are meant just for you or for one special friend.  As I like to say in the talk I give on The Art of Letter Writing –

“The pleasure of a letter written just to me… why there’s practically a radiance to it!”

I can’t help but relate the subject of personal touch to the very different kinds of in-person conversations we might have. Talking to a group of people at a big party, as opposed to an intimate dinner or tea, suggests very different talk. There are many subjects we just wouldn’t want to bring up in a large crowd.  Not only do we have to generalize our topics when lots of people are participating, but some information we would want to share with only certain people.  And so it is with our writing.  If a letter isn’t personal, if it’s just a lot of general chatter, it’s not nearly as special to write or receive.  And it’s this Personal Touch that’s suffering in our modern age of electronic communication.

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 Today I spent part of the morning at a farmer’s market in my town of Hudson.  I had a wonderful time strolling around, looking at all the goodies I might purchase.  In the next few letters I write I’ll go into some details of my shopping experience if the particular correspondents enjoy this sort of thing, but other letter friends not interested in farmer’s market shopping won’t be bothered with these stories. That’s the thing, each letter we write (hand write I hope) and all our topics of conversation should be tailor-made to interest each of our correspondents. To make each letter we write unique, one-of-a-kind, (not like those carbon-copied holiday letters ) aimed at the interests of our correspondents, that’s one of the secrets to making a good  and personal letter.

IMG_4650[1]You might enjoy walking past farm stands set up with produce, olive oils, candles, fresh bakery, etcaetera etcaeterorum

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feasting your eyes on vegetables and flowers which you might buy and place in your own garden

IMG_4652[1]or maybe you are the kind of person who simply likes hearing about beauty and reading descriptions of garden -like settings, with a few pictures inserted in the  letters you receive, pictures to give you ideas for your own garden .

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Maybe you’re an animal lover and you would like to hear about the people I met at the farmer’s market who run an Alpaca farm in Hudson called Whistler’s Glen Alpacas (www.whistlersglen-alpacas.com or http://www.alpacastore.com).  Those Alpacas are so cute!

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 Maybe you’re a fashionista and you’d like to hear about the sweater-coat I bought today at the farmer’s market.  It’s made from Alpaca yarn.  (Shopping is funny.  I went out today planning to buy only wax beans, but I came home with a whole lot more.)

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or maybe you’re a knitter like me and you’d like to hear about the Alpaca yarn and pattern I purchased

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in order to make this Twisted Shrug which converts into a hood or cowl scarf.   It’s worked up on size 15 needles using only one skein of Alpaca yarn (approx. 150 yards).

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But maybe you’re not like my wonderful pen friend Amelia who I wrote today.  Amelia would enjoy all the above topics.  You might not enjoy any of the above topics.  That’s ok.  If these topics bore you I’d try to find different topics you would enjoy.   After all, I don’t write friends with the intention of  boring  them to death, and I hope you don’t either.

My “dead friend’ Robert Louis Stevenson said,

“The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings”.

And because there are so many things to talk about and share in our personal letters we should have no trouble picking and choosing those topics which delight both our friends and ourselves. Don’t you agree?

So till we meet again, enjoy writing and receiving  lovely personal letters.  Enjoy some reflection and then some sharing.  Hand write.  Add some original art.  The world has plenty of electronic chatter already, but what the world needs now, besides love sweet love, is more  communication with the personal touch.

Let’s Get Personal!