Why not write a letter?

If you’re a little bored during this pandemic it just might be the perfect time for you to reach out and touch someone with a little love. Send that love in the form of a hand written letter.

Who doesn’t like to find a personal message ‘just to them’ in their mailbox, a message that says someone is thinking of them? Don’t type the letter. Pick up a pen and take your time crafting each word. Your handwriting is a little bit of you. Type is so impersonal. In intimate correspondence the hand written letter will always reign supreme.

You can dress up your letter with pictures. One picture is worth a thousand words. A picture to make your friend smile, a picture to make your friend think of something pleasing. Words and pictures together have delighted human beings for centuries. Why not now?

True, it slows one down to write, especially to hand write, but we need to slow ourselves down sometimes. Streamlining our activities in life may help us get more accomplished, but it’s quality we should be after, not quantity.

“Writing by hand, mouthing by mouth: in each case you get a very strong physical sense of the emergence of language … print obliterates it, type has no drawl”, says American novelist William Gass, and I agree.

If you must type because you have some physical problem, well ok, but most of us should do the human thing whenever possible, not the machine thing. Too many tasks these days are designated away from personal human touch.

Perhaps you’re writing to your friend while enjoying a cup of coffee. Tell them about it. Draw the cup. Take time. Describe where you’re sitting. Imagine your friend is with you and write stream of consciousness style just as though they were with you in person. Dot dot dot, dash, dash, dash. Sure, you could phone them, but maybe they’re busy and don’t care to be interrupted. A letter is always so very polite. It patiently waits to be read. It makes no demands, only offers delight

Turn your letter into a little book. It’s easily done by inserting a few sheets of paper.

Poke holes into the papers and use colored twine or ribbon to tie the pages together. Use your creativity. Turn on your imagaination and GO! Be an artist.

The act of writing is a wonderful discipline. Our minds are forced to send messages to our fingers and our fingers must respond with precision. We can’t be in a rush. We must discipline ourselves to write slowly and carefully so our writing is not only legible, but also handsome. Most of us care how we look. We should also care how our writing looks and if we’re not pleased we should practice. Practice makes improvement!

Writing is like yoga. It forces our bodies to obey our minds. It encourages us toward harmony. A letter should be a work of art that not only touches the heart of our friend, but hopfully also entertains them, and in this pandemic who couldn’t use a little extra entertainment.

Machines have no grace. Hopefully we humans do, and our handwritten, artful letters can sprinkle a little of that grace out into our weary world as we reach out to others in this most personal way.

Speak with your pen! Send the gift of a letter to someone letting them know you are thinking of them. If it’s a heart to heart letter it just might make their day and wouldn’t you feel good about yourself if you could make another so happy. Sure you would.

“More than kisses, letters mingle souls; For, thus friends absent speak.” _____John Donne

Afternoon Tea on the Porch

IMG_9277[1]

Afternoon tea is all about relaxation, enjoyment, and taking time to refresh the spirit.

Creating a daily tea ritual is one way to bring a little grace into modern life and sharing our tea ritual with others only doubles that grace.  Everyone seems to be busy these days but how nice it is to stop the comings and goings now and then to spend time around the tea table with friends and family.  This is a most simple but elegant way to entertain.

We have the telephone, e-mail, text messages and social media, but to sit across from our guests, listening and sharing in person… that’s special.  Hosting afternoon teas is one very nice way to celebrate the importance of relationships.

IMG_9285[1]

And so today I’ve invited three dear friends to join me in my afternoon tea ritual.  The door is open ready to receive my guests.  We could be meeting at a tea establishment, but I think there’s something special about sharing tea in a home. After all, we work to make our homes cozy and comfortable.  These efforts should not be for ourselves alone.  Sharing our home doubles the  joy our home gives us. Sharing anything and everything doubles the joy. Sharing in life is important. What have you shared lately?

IMG_9283[1]

Each of my teas is served in a different setting.  Creating these different sets in different rooms is a large part of my fun.  I choose different linen, different china, different flowers and at least one different food item at each tea.  Today I’ll be serving  on the porch, but as guests arrive, one by one,  we’ll gather in the library, then go out to the porch all together.

IMG_9284[1]

An afternoon tea party is a little like a theatrical presentation.  Having details in place and a plan of action helps to make things run smoothly.  Also it’s nice to have pretty things for your guests to enjoy –  music, fresh flowers here and there, fragrance… These and other little niceties may not be necessary but they will delight your guests and make their visit more enjoyable.

IMG_9281[1]

Earlier in the day I made scones, my basic recipe.  Over the years I’ve learned it’s not  important that the food served be elaborate or very plentiful, just that there’s something to nibble on. The most important thing at tea is the tea itself and the sparkle of joyful eyes as they share, listen, laugh and enjoy each other.

IMG_9276[1]

Raspberry preserves and clotted cream are a perfect accompaniment to the scones and really all the food one would need for afternoon tea is not only about the food.   It’s about the sharing and relaxing together.  Simple and easy does it.  But if you do enjoy cooking and baking the sky is the limit.

IMG_9280[1]

I decided to add some Caper Deviled Eggs and Cucumber Canapes

with Lemon-Pepper Aioli to today’s tea menu.  Something old, something new.

The ingredients for the eggs are: 6 hard-boiled eggs, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon very finely chopped celery, 1 tablespoon very finely minced capers, 1/8th teaspoon salt and a garnish of parsley.

The aioli is made by combining 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, 1/8th teaspoon of pepper with 1/8th teaspoon of salt.  This aioli is piped atop a thin slice of English cucumber which sits on a thin slice of white bread.

IMG_9282[1]

Scones, deviled eggs, cucumber slices,  simple items, quick and easy to make, but pretty finger foods to present at table.

IMG_9275[1]

And though the food is simple I try to make the place settings special by adding flowers. Simple but lovely, flowers create magic with their beauty and grace. Of course if you love to collect pretty things as I do now is the time to use the embroidered linen napkins, the silver, the cutwork tablecloth and the antique china.  These things shouldn’t be collecting dust in the cabinets.  They should be used and enjoyed regularly.

IMG_9279[1]

Without very much work at all  the table is ready to receive my guests.

IMG_9289[1]

And here they are.  Terri, Carol and Joni, three lovely ladies who make my day and my tea a very enjoyable experience.

IMG_9274[1]

The porch got a going over before the girls arrived… a little dusting and polishing.  Cleaning is never my idea of great fun, but when company is coming I  have a good reason to do that cleaning and then not only is the house nice and shiny for the company, it’s also nice and shiny for me and my husband.

IMG_9290[1]

So I encourage you to host your own afternoon tea. You may think tea parties are a thing of the past, but you’re wrong.  There’s something about an afternoon tea that makes it seem just right for us now.  It’s a complete treat – a physical pleasure.  a social gathering,  a chance for  intellectual exchange and  a spiritual  experience for  we’re sharing  plenty of spirit at tea.

IMG_9211[1]

Most of all the afternoon tea experience enriches everyday life by gilding the moment with importance.  It celebrates life in a most genteel way.  When your tea is over you’ll sit back on your porch remembering all the fun you had and you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction knowing  that you and your creativity brought people together sharing joy.

Only you can loosen your day’s demands.

Treat yourself and your guests to the old world pleasure of

Afternoon Tea.

Letters help us Walk in the Beauty Way

IMG_5533[1]
A letter for me?

William James, the 19th century American philosopher once said, “As long as there are postmen life will have zest” and I completely agree. It’s not that most postmen have such good looks and winning personalities. It’s that they are the ones who deposit delightful treats in my mailbox. Letters! Big ones, small ones, letters in all colors of the rainbow, with exotic postage stamps and cute little stickers. Ah! The pleasure of a letter addressed just to me. There’s practically a radiance to it.

IMG_5518[1]
A rainbow in the sky
The other day I ran across a line by William Wordsworth.  He wrote,  “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky,” – a nicely turned phrase, but for me, it’s letters in my mailbox that make my heart skip a beat, leap up and dance for joy.

IMG_5519[1]
Good mail!
It’s a sad day when my mail consists of nothing but catalogs, bills and material addressed ‘occupant’. Luckily, such days are rare for me because when you give (and I give) good things come back to you. I write a lot of letters so I receive a lot of letters in return. How many letters do you receive everyday? How many letters do you write every day? There’s a correlation, you know.

IMG_5534[1]

Letters are wonderful, a physical art form and a great venue for social interaction. But besides that, when we write and receive letters we’re enriching our intellectual life for ideas expressed and discussed stimulate the mind and offer us food for thought. In letter conversations we can explore any number of subjects and in that exploration we can inspire others and be inspired ourselves. We can teach and we can learn.

IMG_5526[1]
Make those letters as pretty as possible
Many of my letter friends delight me by sharing the passions dear to their hearts. Some of their passions are my passions too and discussing these favorite subjects is always great fun.   But I’m equally delighted  to hear about whatever makes people light up and come to life.  Life is what it’s all about and letters are a wonderful vehicle in which to reflect upon the life we lead.

Ah life!  We only have one life to lead, but as we meet and get to know a variety of people we can experience, like second hand smoke, a variety of passions.   Even if we don’t share these passions  we are broadened by our awareness of them.

My pen friend, Evelyna, not only shares my enthusiasm for The Art of Letter Writing, but she also shares my passion for The Art of Living. Evelyna “walks in the beauty way” as the Navajo would say.

Though modern life is busy for most of us, and sometimes stressful too, Evelyna and I are kindred spirits in that we try very hard to cultivate rituals which downplay the dreary aspects of  daily life.  We each make a point of stepping out of our work-a-day world at frequent intervals in order to rest, reflect, and focus on whatever beauty might be around us. Not everyone thinks of life as an art form in itself, but art it can be if we’re willing to become the artists of our lives. This requires effort, determination and attention to carefully cultivated rituals.  Evelyna and I enjoy sharing whatever rituals we invent.  Why?  You know.   Sharing doubles the joy.  And though the sharing of ideas is the prime glory of letters, the stationery we create for those letters does add an element of enchantment.  Consider this photo note which Evelyna whipped up for me:

IMG_5522[1]
This Lady of Letters is lovely in Lavender
Evelyna’  celebrated her love of lavender by creating this photograph for her letter paper.  She decorated lavender paper with a portrait of herself wearing a lavender gown.  She added a garland of flowers and ribbons in her hair and posed holding a basket of flowers and baked goods. What fun she must have had creating this cover photo. You might think only 19th century ladies would be seen this way, but Evelyna is a 21st century Romantic.  Romantics might be rare these days, but they do exist.  I know because I am a Romantic too.

IMG_5530[1]

Do you have any Romanticism in your blood? If you do, you would love a pen friend like Evelyna. Not only are her letters beautiful, but because they focus on the beauty of life they are very positive and uplifting.  Also, like any good letter writer, Evelyna makes a point of  showing her appreciation for her letter friends.  Finding one of her letters in my mailbox always has the power to put a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

IMG_5531[1]
One of Evelyna’s lovely letters
I’d like to share a bit of one of Evelyna’s letters with you.  Reading her words will help you understand why my heart leaps up when I behold one of her letters in my mailbox. Imagine this letter was coming to you.  She writes:

“…Do you know what I most enjoy about your letters?  Reading them seems to give me some moments of quiet respite from my interminable deadlines.  Although you are every bit as busy and productive as I am, your days and activities seem to move at a much more relaxed and leisurely pace.  You seem to have more freedom within your schedule to do things you love when you want to, which seems like such a luxury to me.  While reading your letters, I find a sense of slowing down within myself, like a 78 record being played on 33 rpm.  This is good for me.  Of course, it also helps that when I see a letter from you, I don’t just tear it open and start reading it.  I set it aside while brewing a cup of Earl Grey tea in a porcelain pot.  I then sit down in another room or in my garden, open the envelope with my art noveau letter opener, then revel in what you’ve written while sipping and dreaming and reading.  You see, once again, it’s all about creating a ritual, if only for five minutes.  It’s up to us to find moments of peace and beauty in our lives, and if they aren’t readily available, we must create them for ourselves.  On that note I will close with a word of appreciation for our friendship and a wish for moments of beauty throughout your day.

Love, Evelyna”

IMG_5532[1]

p.s. from CarolAnn   Do you now understand why William James and I believe as long as there are postmen life will have zest?

Having a pen friend, a  kindred spirit, helps us focus on, and be true to, the way we want to live.  Articulating our ideas to each other helps us define and refine those ideas.  Sharing offers support and encouragement.

IMG_5528[1]
Another beautiful letter from another beautiful kindred spirit
Whether we share information on our favorite subjects or discuss and describe favorite ideas, the writing, the reading, the musing over words contained in letters, stimulates our thinking and as a result, enriches our intellectual life. What subject would you love to discuss in letters?  There’s probably someone out there with the same desire. What are you waiting for? Find that person.  Join The Letter Exchange and start sharing.

                              http://www.letter-exchange.com

Slow down! You move too fast

IMG_5157[1]

Have you noticed how the tempo of modern life seems to be moving faster and faster?  This is especially true in the area of communication.  I’m all for new inventions, but must we throw out everything old in order to enjoy the new?  Most people will say they don’t write letters because letters are just too slow!  But what’s wrong with slow?  People dashing around fast and furiously would do well to slow down now and then.

IMG_4605[1]

Many people enjoy hiking or taking  leisurely walks through a park.  I sure do, do you?  I suppose you could drive through a park quickly, but that drive certainly wouldn’t be as satisfying and sensual an experience as a walk. When we walk we see nature up close.  In walking we’re more able to appreciate the beauty around us.  We enjoy the fragrance of nature.  We stretch our legs and wake up our muscles.  Our thoughts run freely as we walk and in this peaceful state creativity flourishes.  We don’t need to take these walks, but if we partake in them our life is richer.

Well, just as no one is telling us we must take walks, no one is telling us we must write letters either, but people who have discovered both activities are surely richer for experiencing them.  Both walking and letter writing give us great exercise, the kind of exercise we modern folks need to be at our very best. Walking gives us a healthy physical workout and writing a letter, though also physical,  gives us  social, intellectual and spiritual exercise as well .

IMG_5154[1]

Both walking and letter writing are truly work, but pleasurable work, and this work is good for us.  But you know how work is.  It takes a little effort.  Also,  if a person hasn’t  tried either activity they don’t know what they’re missing AND if a person is out of shape, either physically or intellectually, they will struggle a little at first, but that struggle is worthwhile.

No pain no gain

We all know why sitting around too much makes us fat and lazy.  Well, never thinking, never reflecting, never sharing our deeper thoughts with others, makes us intellectually sluggish and inarticulate.

IMG_5153[1]

To slow down and sit still now and then is good for us, especially if while we’re sitting we’re doing more than watching television.  If we choose to write a letter we’re using physical skills, social skills, intellectual skills and spiritual skills.  I’ve told you before that  letter writing is a complete treat, well, it’s also a complete workout.  It’s healthy!

Writing a letter may be a slow activity, but nothing is good nor bad.  Tis thinking makes things so. Where some people think a letter’s  slowness is a fault, I know it’s a blessing.  I don’t mind the time it takes for my letters to reach their destinations and my letter friends don’t insist I rush to answer their missives. Speed is not the most important thing in all personal communication.  Thoughtful expression trumps speed.  Caring and sharing trumps speed.  The personal touch trumps speed.  Art play trumps speed. Having  a chest full of  lasting, intimate messages tied up with ribbon trumps speed.

IMG_5163[1]

 Hand writing a letter is a slow, pleasurable physical activity. It is certainly not instant messaging.  It is so much more than that.  Handwriting is art.  When we slow down and take our time to write a personal letter the process for the writer is like an intellectual massage, or doing slow physical yoga, or enjoying  a long friendly chat with a friend over coffee. or spending time in prayer for our penfriend.   If we limit our venting in a letter (though a little is sometimes good for the soul) and focus instead on positive, beautiful thoughts, we come away from our letter writing time refreshed and inspired.  I know I do.

So, if you’ve not been writing letters, thinking they were too slow and old fashioned an activity for modern you, well, just think of these words from Robert Frost.  He says,

“There’s absolutely no reason for being rushed along with the crowd.  Everyone should be free to go very slowly.”

IMG_5144[1]

Modern man thinks he loses something – time – when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains – except kill it

Erich Fromm