Ever think about how weird it is that we use the phrase “keep in touch” when “keeping in touch” never really means touching?
When I spent six months in England without Meg, we spent a lot of time “keeping in touch.” Lots of e-mail and instant messenger. But the best thing we did was write letters. Real letters, handwritten, with ink and fancy stationary. Envelopes and stamps and waiting. Waiting was what the whole period was about. Waiting.
Nobody waits anymore. It’s the electric age. It can be some comfort, I suppose, not having to wait for word from your loved one, but it takes a lot of the poetry out of it, for sure.
Those letters we wrote to each other would make you bawl. But think back: any letter written to you can make you bawl. Because every letter sent is a little organic piece of the person who wrote it. You can pick up the paper and smell the person. Maybe they smudged the ink and you can see a fingerprint.
And the greatest part is that you can keep them around. You can hang them on your wall, or put them under your pillow. You can hold them in your fingers. Touch them.
We have our old letters in a box in the closet. Many of them have little doodles of the parks in which we wrote them. Many of them became quite elaborate in design. With each one, we would try to trump the other, to see just how beautiful we could make them.
I have typed maybe one or two beautiful e-mails in my life. But every letter I took the time to write was beautiful.
So the other day I was playing with my watercolors and decided to write a letter in comics/watercolor. It was beautiful, spontaneous, and straightforward. I was so pleased with myself that I wanted to hang it on the wall.
But I didn’t. I scanned it in Photoshop (better than carbon copy paper), put it in an envelope, and sent it into the world.