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

Letters add zest to life!

IMG_5038[1]

William James, the 19th century American philosopher, once said, “As long as there are postmen life will have zest.”  Does your life have enough zest?  Zest is good.  Zest is great!  It’s not the good looks of those postmen or their winning personalities (although having friendly, good looking postmen never hurt anything), but no,  it’s the presents they deposit in our mail boxes that add zest to life…

IMG_5049[1]
For me?

presents that arrive in packages like this 8 by 12 inch package pictured above.  My postman deposited this goodie in my mail box the other day.  It came from my pen friend Tracy who lives in Guildford, England.  The package could have contained a large juicy letter, a very large letter by the huge size of the package, and a large juicy letter would’ve  been just fine with me, but no!  This package contained something different.  I bet you’re wondering just what.   I enjoyed wondering myself, and I tell you, this sort of  wondering  truly adds zest to life.  After all, who doesn’t enjoy a present?

IMG_5051[1]
A blue tit

I opened the package to find this birdie looking back at me, a life size blue tit.  Of course it wasn’t a live birdie.  How could that be?  But it was a very special birdie because when I opened the card it began to sing its unique  and cheerful song for me.  Seeing this beautiful birdie and hearing its music was really quite a delightful surprise, especially for one who  love birdies – and I do.  Do you?

IMG_5054[1]
Tracy’s note to me

In Tracy’s note she explained how she couldn’t resist sending me this birdie card because the blue tit is one of her favorite feathered friends.  These birds nested in her bird box and 6 fledglings hatched out.  I know that sharing doubled her joy and her sharing brought joy to me as well.

Writing letters will present things to us we never expected to see and letters will teach us things we never expected to learn.  From Tracy’s card I learned that the blue tits colorful mix of blue. yellow, white and green makes it one of the most attractive resident garden birds around. I learned almost any garden with a peanut feeder will attract blue tits, and as Tracy said, they breed in nest boxes.  In winter they form flocks with other tit species and a garden bird table with four or five sitting together at one time is not unusual, in fact, you may even see 20 tits feeding at one time.  All I know is I  better get myself a peanut feeder so I can soon see these birdies in my own garden .

All the material goodies used in letters make it a physical delight –  birdies singing, even Tracy’s cute note paper with its very English “Secret Garden”  look – sweet and romantic.  And of course letter writing is social.  I get to know more and more about Tracy in every letter.  Letter writing means learning.  It is very intellectual for letters  teach us things we might never bother to learn any other way.  And there’s a spiritual aspect to letters too.

IMG_5053[1]
My thank you letter to Tracy
I had to create a letter for  Tracy right away thanking her for that birdie card.  I created one of my polka dot letter packages for Tracy.  I placed my written letter inside a sheet of folded polka dot card stock and tied it with ribbon in a matching color.  Now I’ll  have to keep my eyes open for some delightful little gift to send to Tracy, a gift that will brighten her day just as her gift brightened mine.

It’s not about the price of the gift.  It’s about our thoughtfulness.   Just a little bit of joy sent with or even without a letter really can make someone’s day.  It sure made my day to receive that birdie card. Thinking of others and  trying to cheer them is always a very nice thing we can do.  Thinking and caring about others as we write letters and send goodies to each other is a spiritual gesture.

IMG_5040[1]

So I hope you notice whether we’re at the giving or receiving end of letters there’s  a juicy zest that spritzes forth from them making life just a little bit better for everyone concerned.  Postmen (and Postladies too) play a big part in all this happiness.  So I hope you see how William James was spot on when he said,.

“As long as there are postmen life will truly have zest!  “

Resolutions for the New Year

.New Years Day is coming and that means lots of us will be making New Years resolutions. One of my resolutions is to get around to my writing projects each and every day. You may have resolutions, things you want to change about your life too. Some things are hard because they’re no fun, but I love writing. Still, so many things can pop up distracting me away from this work. What to do? Let’s get some advice from a great American psychologist, William James.

William James, one of my “dead friends”, suggests that to change one’s life we must start immediately, do it flamboyantly, and make no exceptions. I’m thinking this is a good way to handle New Years resolutions too. Make the resolution and implement it immediately, adding a little snazz just for fun, to spice things up.

As I think of my resolution, writing, I reflect on the fact that most writers who amounted to anything at all saw to it that they wrote every day, no matter what. That is, after all, the way to get things done. We have to make the important things in our life a priority. Laundry can’t get in the way, nor phone calls, errands, or anything else.

One of my favorite writers, Edith Wharton, created more than 50 works — novels, short stories, poetry and non-fiction. She had to be very disciplined in order to accomplish so much work.  Consistent daily writing was part of  her secret for success. I did find it interesting though that she did most of that writing from  bed. Servants would bring in a breakfast tray each morning and there, in bed, Edith would write till noon every single day– comfy-cozy, enjoying the morning light from her East window, she worked. (She was very particular about her bed facing East and we should be particular about the details in our rituals too.)  It goes without saying Edith’s bedroom was a gorgeous setting in which to work. Mansions are like that and Edith lived in a grand mansion. I saw Edith’s bedroom for myself when I was passing through western Massachusetts a few years ago. I visited her home,  The Mount, and I wouldn’t mind having a Mount of my own , a few servants too, servants who could refresh my coffee and bring me treats as I worked, but this probably won’t be happening soon… or ever.

IMG_2043[1] Still, I could try her approach, for I have a nice enough bedroom  and a breakfast tray too, and if I’m to take William James’ advice about flamboyancy, well, writing in bed till noon each day would do it.IMG_2046[1]The most important thing though is to identify what would make us happy and work toward achieving those ends. Making  solid resolutions is a positive first step toward  achieving any goal, and having goals will help us make our dreams come true. You do have dreams, don’t you?  I hope so.  As another “dead friend”, Oscar Hammerstein II, wrote – “You’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream how you gonna have a dream come true?”

Start backwards.  Identify your dreams and then turn those dreams into resolutions. Once the resolutions are created begin working at them immediately and add a little flamboyance just for fun. Finally, once you plot your course, make no exceptions.

Let’s do it!

We can check in with each other a year from now to celebrate our success. Deal? Deal!