Feeling Misty for the Missing Missives

November 10, 2008 at 2:00 am (Uncategorized)

I miss letters. I wholly miss writing them, and I sorely miss receiving them. I love letters, I love everything about them, and I’m going to start writing them again. It’s been far too long. I should never have let them go.

I love the intimacy of a hand-written letter. I was reading author Andrea Goldsmith’s meditation on her own love of the letter in the latest issue of Meanjin last night, and I was sighing the deep sighs of pure longing and regret, the kind of sighs Flaubert evoked so well in the heroine newly plunged into romantic ennui. Oh, I thought, flinging myself against the pillows, I want one! I need one! I must have one! And then I swooned. 

I was a prolific letter writer for many years. I know why I stopped, too: email. Email, Facebook, and yes, even this blog. The speed of web-based verbal transactions, the pure immediacy of it, is very appealing to an efficiency junkie. I am addicted to communication, and the web is a pure hit in many ways. It’s A-grade Colombian in communication terms. And yet something is missing. It leaves me feeling a little empty. Slightly bereft. It’s all so flashy and fast, and no one ever remembers the details once it’s all over. And the truth is that sometimes I want something a little more languid. I like to slow things down and spend time, more time than the web encourages, really getting in the mood. I guess when I reach for an equivalent that extends my metaphor, letters are the opium den of the word trade. 

I’ve never used opium – or cocaine, for that matter (with the exception of some undergraduate pot smoking, drugs in general always had a big, flashing sign across them saying WRONG WAY, GO BACK where I was concerned… I always refer to it as the invisible forcefield that saved me from myself) – but I like the idea of an opium den, I always have. It’s all those films that have done it to me. The plush cushions, the exotic fabrics, the slowing of time, and the profound unburdening of outside cares; the lithe flappers, tormented poets and silent, whiskered Chinamen… yes, that all speaks to the letter writer in me. The self, rendered utterly vulnerable, that is accessed and shared in an environment like no other. 

I have not stoked this addiction for many months, but the temptation has never left me, and now, like the true addict I am, I find myself drifting once more toward my beloved, secret den. Letters await.

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2 Comments

  1. Pete said,

    I hadn’t thought of letters like this before but you make them sound like forbidden pleasures. Maybe these letters will have a faint scent about them (of opium dens) and the paper is luxurious. You’ll have to take a picture and blog one of them for us 😉 Incidentally, letter-writing brings back painful memories of my first love (who returned to the UK) only to finally send one of those ‘Dear John’ type letters. They’ve never quite had the same appeal again. LOL at the heroine swoon!

  2. doctordi said,

    Oh yes, Pete, I think that’s it exactly. Letters are forbidden pleasures, for me certainly. There’s something so decadent about taking the time required to self-pen a decent letter. I love stationery, too – although I’m probably a bit of a purist. I like plain white china when I serve food, and I like plain white paper when I dish dirt. Truthfully I’ve never had a preferred paper, a suitably ceremonial stock, I’m always too broke so end up writing on plain ruled pads, but perhaps this is something I can pursue as I reawaken my inner letter writer. What a delicious idea: only writing letters on gorgeous paper. It adds a whole new dimension. One of the Darklings had us in raptures at Varuna over the possibility of her MS – a novella – being printed on feather-light sheets of onion skin…

    As for the Dear John, ouch! And first loves smashing the heart apart? Double ouch! I think we all remember that pain well – and hey, you’re lucky you even got a letter! But don’t let her get away with that – reclaim the perfect writerly space of the letter as your own. Now there’s a love affair worth fighting for.

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