Words, Words and more Words. What would we do without Words?

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“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more or less.”

Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson), Through the Looking-Glass,  chapter 6, p. 205 (1934).  First published in 1872.

Words, beautiful words!  I love words, don’t you?  Big words, small words, familiar words, and those mysterious ones that  have to be looked up in the dictionary.  I think most people take words for granted, but not letter writers.  Letter writers love and honor words taking  great care with them.  Words, born in  thought, constructed with care placed onto paper so that they are not only legible, but also lovely to behold, preserved so they can be shared over and over again – these words are precious and highly valued by those of us who write letters.

Most people are talkers using words freely, but I wonder why all those talkers don’t also enjoy writing their words down as much as letter writers do.  What is it about writing that puts some people off?  Too much trouble?  Too permanent?  Too slow?  I wonder.

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I suspect there are a lot of people out there who would love writing if they only gave it a try without a teacher standing over them criticizing every line.  Writing compositions for school must have their rules, and rules aren’t usually a lot of fun, but there are no rules in letter writing.  In letter writing it’s self expression and creativity that rules.  There is no right or wrong way to express our thoughts in a letter, only “our way”, and the more personal and creative we are the better.

I did my share of writing in high school and college, but my passion for writing did not come until much later, not until I discovered letters. Letter writing offered something special to me, the  chance to express myself freely.   I could write just as I pleased.  Nobody was grading me.  The more I wrote, the more I loved to write.   After a while, writing became a daily thing, and now it’s safe to say I’ve become an avid writer, an avid letter writer, writing letters every day.

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Yet it’s funny; even when I was writing  ten or more letters a week  I didn’t  think of myself as a real writer, not until one day.  Here’s what happened.

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I was writing letters in a coffee shop when a distinguished -looking gentleman walked in.  He carried a briefcase, smoked a pipe, and looked quite scholarly.  He settled in a corner and began to work at his writing.   I too continued writing in my own corner. After some time this man got up to get more coffee, but as he passed my table he paused, looked down at my papers, and asked, “Are you a writer too”?  I thought for a second, then quite delightedly responded, “Why yes, I am”!  And that’s the first time it hit me:  I was a writer! After all, one doesn’t have to be published in order to be a writer. To be a writer one simply must write, and that I do every day.  I know I’m not a Dickens or a Shakespeare, but I don’t try to be.  I can be a writer just like Me.

Of course if we’re to be understood a certain appreciation and understanding of grammar is important.  Ask my pen friend Markell.  Markell is not only one of my pen friends, but she holds a Masters degree in linguistics, teaches English as a second language, is a professional editor, and has an admitted obsession for writing down sentences demonstrating the structure and quirks of American language all for a manuscript she’s working on  called “Phrase Anatomy”.

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It takes a certain amount of courage and gumption to write a person like Markell, but she is very sweet, uncritical, and she actually enjoys my sometimes peculiar sentence structure for she delights in quoting me for her grammar book using my phrases as examples of what not to do.  Does this bother me?  Not a bit.  Even if my high school and college English teachers read of my boo boo’s I care not, for I have better things to worry about than quirky grammar. If incorrect productive verb prefixes or any other grammar issue is preventing you from writing letters I say – “Don’t let those things stop you. Rules are made to be broken.”

Each pen friend you acquire will use words in different ways  and the more writers you meet the more you will see  there are all sorts of ways to write.  You will love words more and more and appreciate how beautifully they communicate.  Markell not only inspires me to improve my English language skills, but she also encourages me to study other languages.

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Another pen friend, Bruce, encourages me and all his other correspondents to discover and embrace fine literature and he does this in a very interesting way.  Let me explain:  Back when my father died I was getting many letters of comfort and sympathy from all sorts of people, but one letter stood out.

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The card

 The words of this letter arrived in a lovely card, but these words  were no ordinary words.  They were penned in a most elegant handwritten script and they read as follows:

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“There should be no despair while nightly stars are burning.  While evening sheds its silent dew or sunshine gilds the morning.  There should be no despair though tears may flow like a river.  Are not the best beloved years around your heart forever?  You weep.  They weep.  It must be so.  Winds sigh as you are sighing and Winter pours its grief in snow, where Autumn leaves are lying.  They survive and from their fate your fate cannot be parted.  Then journey onward not elate, but never broken-hearted.”

I bet you wonder who writes like this in today’s world.  Well, not many people I’m sure, but this message was not composed by a modern day writer at all.  It was composed by Emily Bronte, the famous English novelist of the nineteenth century.

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Emily Bronte

 Bruce signed Emily’s name to the card because though I’m sure she would’ve liked to sign the card herself that wasn’t possible since she’s dead and  gone –  gone, but not forgotten, especially with people like Bruce keeping her words alive and out there enriching people like me.

It was very kind of Bruce to think of me by sending a card for I certainly appreciated his concern for my feelings, but in addition to that, I was most impressed with the creative way in which he did it. I’m sure authors and poets hope their words will be remembered touching millions even long after they’re gone, and they will be remembered  if we who know and love literature share it in this most personal way.

Naturally after receiving the card from Emily I wanted to get to know her better.  I read her biography and went out of my way to read more of her words.  I got to know her sisters too.  Now, the Brontes are some of my favorite “dead friends” and getting to know them helped me through a rough time in my life.  They had their share of pain and suffering too.  We’re all in this thing called life together and sharing not only doubles the joy, it also divides the sorrow.

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Perhaps you love words, language, literature, and sharing.  Perhaps you are already a writer.  Perhaps you are already a writer of letters, but if you’re not, perhaps it’s time you become one.  Share the good things in your life – your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your ideas, your favorite things.  By sharing, especially in writing, your words will be lasting, words that can help make  the world a brighter, more intelligent, thought-filled, articulate place.

The world of ideas expressed in words

Yes!

“Great minds discuss ideas, Average minds discuss events, Small  minds discuss people.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

A Note to Fellow Letter Writers

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By now you know one of my favorite lines is “sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorrow” and writing letters is a great way to share.  If you’re like me, and I think you are, experiencing something beautiful, amusing, surprising, amazing, or enjoyable, almost anything at all, makes you want to share it with someone else.

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Sharing definitely doubles the pleasure.  Think back to the last interesting thing that happened in your life.  What did you do with it?  Did you sit back quietly and think about it all by yourself or did you reach out to share that news, that surprise, that blessing with another?

Whether you just got a great new job, a snazzy new apartment or a fabulous idea it’s my guess sharing with someone made that joy even better.  Even if you just had a great day, isn’t it fun to tell someone what you did and why it hit the spot?

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Of course life isn’t all rainbows and roses.  Sometimes we get bad news.  Sometimes we have trials and tribulations, but at these times too, sharing serves a purpose.  We let off steam or relieve anguish as we express our feelings to understanding and supportive ears. Once our news is shared with caring people support and encouragement starts coming our way.  But even without support and encouragement we feel better just getting the feelings out.

Having a great group of  letter friends guarantees companionship 24/7.  We may not be able to reach people by telephone or run over to their house for a chat, but we can always pick up a pen and pour our thoughts out onto paper for our letter friend to read. We don’t always need an instant reply.

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Writing and receiving letters has brought me so much delight over the years.  I could just keep writing and enjoying The Art of Letter Writing keeping the fun all to myself, not caring who might be missing out on the pleasure.  And I know a lot of people are missing out because I’m always hearing folks say “Nobody writes letters anymore.” They’re wrong of course.  If only they knew, but how could they know?  People who are writing letters seldom make a big deal about it, talking up their fun.  Do you?

There aren’t commercials on television or in magazines promoting letter writing.  We see only ads for the latest technological invention.  You may have noticed when things are out of sight they are often out of mind too, even wonderful things like handwritten letters, but a person just has to receive such a letter and they begin to see how special personal correspondence is.

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If you are a letter writer as I think you are or you wouldn’t be reading this, I urge you to share your joy wherever and whenever you’re talking to people.  I enjoy this sharing all the time and not only does it awaken folks to the almost lost Art of Letter Writing, but I often pick up  new letter friends in the process.

So as you proceed happily forward enjoying your correspondences be kind and think about the many people who as yet have not discovered The Art of Letter Writing or who have forgotten all about it.  If you ever wondered how you could make the world a better, happier place here’s your chance.  Spread the word about the pleasure of a letter .

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Some people cure cancer, others feed the hungry, but you can do a lot of good simply by sharing your joy, igniting joy in others.  If your efforts only make one other person happy through letter writing that would be one more happy person in the world.  But then they will share their joy and on and on the joy will go.

Join me letter writers everywhere in becoming letter writing advocates.  All good causes need advocates and The Art of Letter Writing needs you!  And your reward for sharing is an increase in joy for yourself because…

Sharing doubles the Joy!

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Talk about Art Play

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An Art Show in Hudson

This weekend Hudson was the scene of an art show at the edge of town.  At least a hundred tents were set up and all sorts of artists were displaying their work.  It’s always nice to see what people can come up with and they certainly come up with a lot.

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Many people were displaying pictures and paintings, serious and silly ones, using all sorts of methods – water color, pen and ink, oil, photography, computer generated designs…  Some work was framed and some work was not.  There were cards galore for those of us who write letters.

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I love to watch each artist talking to perspective customers.  This is just as interesting to me as checking out the art they’ve created.  I like to imagine them at work in their studio, lost in their craft.  What fun they must have and what satisfaction if their work is not only appreciated by the public, but also purchased.

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And it’s not only paintings I saw at the art show in Hudson.  There was plenty of  jewelry, ceramics, dried flower designs, lamps made out of bottles, sweaters made out of alpaca yarn.  People don’t just sit around.  They get busy exercising their creativity.  Do you?  But so much to pack and set up for display at shows like the one I attended today and some of the art is  very fragile, like these glass ornaments.  You know it’s a labor of love making these things, but an even greater labor of love  getting them to market.

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I’m always most enchanted with the unusual items I see, like this wall hanging above.  Talk about using creativity to make something fun and new out of old rejected material.

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Would you have thought to collect outdated license plates in order to cut them apart, reassemble them, and turn them into fun and artful hangings?  This artist was using his imagination all right, and he was exercising his creativity.  His work seemed to be a big hit with many shoppers too. I know I liked it a lot!  Seeing art like this makes me wonder what treasures I’m throwing away, treasures that could be recycled and turned into art.

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Art shows are not about buying things we need.  They’re about buying things that strike our fancy.  How about a snazzy hat?  In a perfect world we should all have a budget set up to provide us with plenty of spending money for spontaneous purchases.  I’m sure all the vendors at today’s art show would agree with me.  If this were the case, whenever we’d spot an item that we appreciated we could buy it and make ourselves happy and make the artist responsible pretty happy too.

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If I had  a ‘fru fru’ budget set up I would’ve purchased these two copper frogs to be of service around  my garden. If you look closely you can see one is holding a tray for drinks and the other is holding an ice bucket. How much would you pay for these little fellas?  You know they must have been a lot of work to make, and talk about the skill involved.  Well the two little frogs (really not so little) were selling for $1000 – that’s for the pair of them, and you’d have to buy both.  How could you split them up? They’re a team.

I give all the artists I saw today a lot of credit and that goes for all artists everywhere.  It’s wonderful to have “your thing”, something you love to do, and will do, even if there’s little money in it.  Do you have such a thing?  Letter writers like me enjoy creative work with paper.  This may be small scale art compared to copper frogs serving cocktails, but whatever our creative work – it’s all good!

So hurrah for art play and for artists everywhere.   No matter what form that art play takes, large or small, complicated or simple, practical or playful, lucrative or not, art play is an activity of joy, and art shows are a place where that joy is shared, and you know what I always say about sharing…

Sharing doubles the joy

Sharing Doubles the Joy

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Home Sweet Home

Here I sit, in my kitchen at my laptop, wondering what we should talk about today.

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I have a smoothie at my side.  It’s a delicious and nutritious Summer drink.  My smoothie today consists of  yogurt, bananas, grape juice, strawberries and blueberries.  A quick spin in the blender and I have an easy and healthful breakfast.  Do you enjoy smoothies too?  They say berries are so very good for us as is all fruit.  I hope you’re enjoying a nice drink too as we spend time together today.

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A room with a view

It’s another beautiful day in Hudson.  I’ve opened my kitchen doors so I can enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of nature as we visit.  I make a point of using all the different rooms of my house.  Do you?

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A room with “another” view

 If I look straight ahead I have the pleasure of viewing a wall of green trees.  They stand beyond our grounds past the dining room and porch.  Nature is so tranquil and refreshing.

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My heroe

 The music I’m listening to is also tranquil and refreshing.  It’s a cd of Glen Gould playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations.   In this, my  romantic old world setting, it’s easy to get lost in all sorts of  lovely romantic ideas and artful activities and as you might guess The Art of Letter Writing is  my favorite artful activity.

So speaking of The Art of Letter Writing let me share something that popped up in a recent letter I received from a new correspondent who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She started her letter to me with these words, “Where shall I begin?  Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

 With a beginning like that I wondered how interesting the letter would be, (Important nothings?) but her letter really was quite interesting, and one of the interesting things I learned from her was that those opening words were first written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra.  My pen friend read and liked Jane’s words so she now uses them in her own letters.  I bet Jane is flattered up there in heaven that people aren’t only reading and enjoying her books, but they’re also reading, enjoying and sharing her letters.  My pen friend’s idea to borrow Jane’s words really charmed me.

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A letter from Gwen

Here’s another thing that charmed me.  It was a beautiful letter from my pen friend Gwen.  Gwen lives in Ohio not too far from me, but we’ve never met in person … not yet anyway.  How would you like to receive such a pretty letter in your mail box?  I bet you would.

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So sweet

I could just imagine Gwen’s creative mind working overtime when she discovered this pretty paper napkin with all its lovely cut work.  Gwen likes fairies too.  She told me she has created a fairy garden in her yard.  (Gardeners know fairy gardens are quite the thing these days.)  So Gwen took one look at the shape of this pretty napkin and decided she had to use it for a letter.  She  fit letter paper within its square center using a fairy sticker to create a cute little letter package.  So sweet!

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Such a pretty letter
More fairies adorn each page of Gwen’s letter, and her neat handwriting and cheerful, positive thoughts combined to create a most beautiful and uplifting  present (the gift of a letter)  which added immeasurably to the delight of my day.

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My letter to Gwen

Today I finally had the pleasure of responding to Gwen’s letter.  I do wish I could answer all the letters I receive more promptly, but I keep thinking of what Robert Louis Stevenson said long ago, the  words that I recently shared with you.  Remember?  Robert said. “If I wrote all the letters I ought to write, and at the proper time, I should be very good and very happy; but I doubt if I should do anything else.”  I guess through all of time men have never had enough time for those things they love the most.”

And so speaking of the crunch time places on us, I must run along and attend to some music planning for the children’s choir I direct.  But I’ll be back with you for another visit before you know it because sharing doubles my joy and I hope my sharing adds to your joy too.

Share Joy

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Carol Ann coming to call

I’m gonna wrap myself in paper

I’m gonna dab myself with glue

Put a stamp on top of my head

And I’m gonna mail myself to YOU!

Wishful thinking I know.  but as a Lady of Letters with a highly cultivated  imagination, it’s fun for me to think about doing just that, mailing myself to you so we could have a little visit over a cup of tea.  As it is, I have to be content writing you this post.

 The little poem  I’ve shared with you is actually lyrics to a  song  I used to teach  the children in my music classes at  schools in Boston and Cleveland.  It’s a Valentine’s Day song and Valentine’s Day is tomorrow.  Are you ready?

 Wouldn’t it be fun if we really could send ourselves  to everyone we cared about, all on the same day, the way Santa gets around?   We could bring along a present for each person  — a sentimental, beribboned, and flowery present.  I’d love to come over to your house with my pot of tea and  some of the Valentine cupcakes I’m making.

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Maybe I could bring you some flowers too.  Everybody loves fragrant  fresh flowers, don’t they?

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But if you’re one of the rare people who doesn’t like flowers, I bet you’d like a box of chocolates!

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These are for my husband  – mums the words – but I’d be happy to get some candy for you too, if only I could pop over to your house tomorrow… but I can’t.

I should be sending you a greeting card.  Cards and letters are always nice when you can’t visit in person.  I was delighted  to receive this pretty card from my pen friend Joy.

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 Joy is the perfect name for this lady for she shares joy with me in every one of her letters.  But how does one send cards to all the people they care about?  Daily life gets so in the way for these thoughtful  things we want to do.

Some of my friends even make their own special greeting cards.  That’s what my pen friend Gwen does and she sent this card to me.

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She’s getting so good at making her cards, they hardly look home made.  They’re beautiful – just like Gwen.

Most people love holidays, but as nice as they are, I have to admit holidays frustrate me.  That’s because I’d love to make every holiday very special, celebrating each one with every person I care about, creating all the pretty things I imagine or see  in the glossy pages of magazines.  But I can’t manage it!!! … just as I can’t wrap myself up with paper, dab myself with glue, put a stamp on top of my head and mail myself to you — and  it’s so FRUSTRATING!

All I can do is  keep a song in my heart (and that I can manage because, after all, I AM a  music teacher)  and let my little light shine, sharing love and joy in bits and pieces with everyone I meet…  not just on holidays, but every day.  A smile here,  a greeting card there, an invitation to tea, sending a friendly letter, giving compliments, paying visits …little things done with love.   It’s not just Valentine’s Day and other holidays that should be special.  Everyday should be special and everyday we should share joy in some way.  If we all do this our world would be a nicer place for sure.  And this reminds me of the lyrics to another song.

I’m gonna make this world a better place

I’m gonna make this world a better place

I’m gonna make this world a better place

Just by being me

I’m gonna care about others not just about me

Gonna make a difference you will see.

There’s got to be more to life than things

And I’m gonna find out what that means

So have yourself a Happy Valentine’s Day, but if you can’t get around to everyone you love on this one day, or on any other holiday, don’t fret, there’s always tomorrow.

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SHARE JOY

How did you share joy today?  I’d love to know.  Please leave a comment.