So you can be sure it is a real letter.

November 14, 2014 § 4 Comments

Just then the mailman came by Villa Villekulla.

“Well, sometimes one does have good luck,” exclaimed Pippi, “and meets a mailman just when one needs him!”

She ran out into the street. “Will you please be so kind as to deliver this to Miss Pippi Longstocking at once?” she said. “It’s urgent.”

The mailman looked first at the letter and then at Pippi.  “Aren’t you Pippi Longstocking yourself?” he asked.

“Sure. Who did you think I was, the Empress of Abyssinia?”

“But why don’t you take the letter yourself?”

“Why don’t I take the letter myself?” said Pippi. “Should I be delivering the letter myself?  No, that’s going too far.  Do you mean to say that people have to deliver their letters themselves nowadays?  What do we have mailmen for, then?  We might as well get rid of them.  I’ve never in my life heard anything so foolish.  No, my lad, if that’s the way you do your work, they’ll never make a postmaster out of you, you can be sure of that.”

The mailman decided it was just as well to do what she wished, so he dropped the letter in the mailbox at Villa Villekulla.  It had scarcely landed before Pippi eagerly pulled it out again.

“Oh, how curious I am!” she said to Tommy and Annika.  “This is the first letter I ever got in my life.”

All three children sat down on the porch steps, and Pippi slit open the envelope.  Tommy and Annika looked over her shoulder and read.

DARLING PIPPI,

I SIRTINLEE HOP U R NOT SIK. IT WOOD BE 2 BAD 4 U 2 BE SIK. MYSELF I AM JUST FIN. THER IS 0 RONG WITH THE WHETHER ETHER. YESTERDAY TOMY KILT 1 BIG RAT. YES.

THAT IS WHAT HE DID.

BEST WISHIS FORM

PIPPI

“Oh,” said Pippi, delighted, “it says exactly the same things in my letter that it does in the one you wrote to your grandmother, Tommy.  So you can be sure it is a real letter.  I’ll keep it as long as I live.”

from Pippi Goes on Board by Astrid Lindgren, translated by Florence Lamborn

While Pippi may disagree and etiquette books will instruct you differently, the construction of letters is a wide open field of possiblities.  Having a variety of correspondents means encountering different approaches to letter writing and repeated opportunities to expand my own ideas on what constitutes a “real” letter.

I used to rate long letters as more real than any other kind.  Over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for compact letters, postcards, and things that are not letters at all.  In part, I think my new definition of what constitutes a real letter has developed as I changed my thinking on whether letters need to be a 1:1 exchange.

In addition to writing to people I know only through letters, I also like to send letters to people who I know in real life.  Not all of those people are letter-writers.  Sometimes I mail a note to a friend and get a text in reply or a Facebook post saying “thank you!”  I think that’s great, because even though it’s a different medium, it brings the connection started by the letter full circle.  And in my book, regardless of length or construction, the realest letters are the ones that create connections.

How do you define a real letter?

The Most Awkward Note

January 28, 2012 § 4 Comments

Never think, because you cannot easily write a letter, that it is better not to write at all. The most awkward note that can be imagined is better than none…

~Emily Post, 1922

I found this quote on A Month of Letters and it struck a chord.  I sometimes delay writing letters because I feel the need to create The Perfect Letter.  What is The Perfect Letter?  Who knows?!  Despite aspiring to it, I can’t even define what it is I have this notion I “ought” to be creating.  This is why the the idea of an awkward letter being an appreciated gesture appeals to me.  And to take Emily’s thought a step farther, I’d say that the perfection of a letter is likely best determined by the recipient rather than the sender.  Therefore,  any letter has the potential to be perfect…except for the one that is never sent.

To encourage myself not to put writing on hold until the days I feel capable of perfection (they are so few and far between), I’ve signed up for A Month of Letters, which invites participants to write a letter a day for the month of February.  Having done–and loved–a 30 Day Challenge last October (the end result of which was the beginning of this very blog you are reading), I’m looking forward to success and enjoyment with this month-long letter writing challenge.  Intrigued?  Take a look at the details and join the fun if it appeals to you!

Merry Mail to Me!

December 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Look what I found on my desk at work last week!

Baskets are a sweet way to present a gift, don’t you think?

A closer look at the contents:

write back soon is a letter-writing zine created by Phantom Limb.  The neat brown paper envelope you see here was stuffed with nifty little letter-writing encouragements and ideas.

Address Unknown is a slim volume of fictional correspondence, which the introduction explains was inspired by a handful of real letters discovered by the author, Kressmann Taylor.  I have not yet read it, but it’s in my book queue.

The quotations are lovely and they go several steps up in awesomeness when you know that they were letterpress printed by a talented Lady of Letterpress.

Christmas day added to the letter love, bringing me this fantastic set of notecards courtesy of the combined creativity of my sister and one of my nieces:

The woodland scene is a photograph taken by my sister and the others are all photographs (also taken by my sister) of artwork created by my niece.  The photos are mounted on blank cards, producing greetings-waiting-to-be-sent.

I am particularly smitten with the alien family:

I like it so much I might have to use it to write a letter to myself.  Tell me, wouldn’t you love to find a card like this in your mailbox?

I am looking forward to the new year and hope that you are, too.  Despite the coming USPS postage hike, you can rest assured that I’ll be continuing to scribble.

Legacy of Letters

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lakshmi Pratury neatly sums up how I feel when she says:

I’m all for email and thinking while typing, but why give up old habits for new?  Why can’t we have letter writing and email exchange in our lives?

Like pretty much everything else in the world, it’s a matter of finding the balance that works for you.

And I love what she shared about the handwritten legacy she received from her father.  There is something about the tangible nature of scraps of paper that doesn’t, for me, have an electronic equivalent.  Have you ever visited a famous place and had the experience of realizing that you are in the same space where history was made?  That always makes me feel like I’m seeing the past from a slightly different and more personal angle.  The physical connection just makes it more real.  With letters, knowing what I hold in my hands was touched by the person who sent it is just as cool as realizing that Frederick Douglas, Shakespeare or the Marquis de Lafayette most likely stood exactly where I am standing.

Thanks, Mom, for sharing this video!

The P. O.

October 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

“The P. O. was a capital little institution, and flourished wonderfully, for nearly as many queer things passed through it as through the real office.  Tragedies and cravats, poetry and pickles, garden seeds and long letters, music and gingerbread, rubbers, invitations, scoldings, and puppies.”

from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, chapter 10, “The P. C. and P. O.” 

•••••

In case you’ve never read Little Women, let me provide a bit of context for this quote.  The “P. O.” in question was a martin house repurposed as a small post office and set up in the hedge between the March family’s home and the house of the boy-next-door, Laurie.  With padlocks on the doors and each household in possession of a key, the P. O. became a place where “letters, manuscripts, books, and bundles” were exchanged between the denizens of the two houses.  I was enamored of this idea when I read (and reread) Little Women as a child.

♥I still love it.♥

What’s not to like about a post office designed to deliver missives (not to mention fascinating bits of miscellany) from dear ones?  No bills.  No junk mail.  No ad fliers.  Nothing but mail that makes you smile, laugh, blush, get a bit teary (in a good way), and know you’re loved.  The idea of a personal P. O. delights me in the same way that Little Free Library makes my book-loving heart go pit-a-pat.  They are both intimate institutions that bring people together to connect with each other, with ideas, and with a sense of fun.  Excuse me for a moment while I skip around with great glee over the mere thought that such things exist.  What joy!

If you love the idea of a personal P.O. and just cannot wait until the idea catches on, you can capture the coziness of the experience by hand-delivering a note to someone who lives close by.  Don’t panic.  I promise this is easy as pie and won’t take much of your time.

To illustrate:

When a friend recently ran her first 5K, I slipped by her house on the morning of the race and left this on her porch:

I could have sent her the same message as a text with 100 characters to spare, but it seemed to me that her effort and accomplishment deserved a little extra effort of my own.  The beauty of it is that while it took slightly longer than texting, it was so simple to pull off.  The note was written on a piece of scrap paper and the flowers (snipped from my garden) were arranged in an old mustard jar.  Easy-peasy!  Now it’s your turn to give it a try!   Just scribble a note, drop it off, and make someone’s day a little bit brighter.  Let me know how it goes, okay?

Oh, and if anyone wants to help kick-start the personal P.O. movement or become a benefactor and fund a Little Free Library, my front garden would be an ideal location for the establishment of such institutions.  Hey, who knows what dreams might come true if I put the idea out there, right? :)

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