Let’s Go Postal (The Letter’s in the Mail, Man!)
Interactive part one: Who has received a letter in the mail (raise hands)? I mean a personal letter, not a bill, or admail, or current resident/occupant promotion.
Interactive part 2: How did you feel? Think for a minute. You’ve taken your key to the super box and the weather is yuck – snowing and blowing the Arctic/Polar Vortex is in full force. Or maybe you heard the letters slip through the mail slot in your door and land in a gentle phish onto the floor. Perhaps you slip your gloved hand into the receptacle on your verandah on your way home from work and your bag of groceries that you picked up is a little awkward and it falls a bit (phewf though, the bananas didn’t fall out) while you glean whatever is there. Flyers, junk mail. You remind yourself (again) to put the sticker on the mail box saying NO junk mail or flyers. But then, you catch a glimpse of an envelope that has been handwritten, with your name. And a regular postage stamp – a self-sticking one now, but not from a postal machine. Now what? Glee! Delight! Whoa! A letter! Suddenly the trip to the mail box is the best thing since the IKEA/Sears Christmas catalogue came out last fall! What the … ? Check the return address and you feel the grin, don’t you? It’s sublime. It’s wonderful. It’s make a pot of tea and savour it wonderful. Or toss the rest of the junk on the floor by the wet boots and tear that sucker open and devour it.
Either way, you know what I’m talking about. Someone took the time to put pen to paper. Fold the paper (maybe in three, but not necessarily). Place it in the envelope. Seal it – with their own saliva (unless it’s one of those self-sticky, peel off types). Their own saliva, people – that’s commitment! Address it – they probably had to check their address book. Put a stamp on it and their return address. AND THEN … they had to leave their home, go to the nearest Canada Post corner mail box, and if you’re living anywhere in Canada today, you know that is not an easy feat. It’s been really cold, sidewalks are pretty much icy, unshovelled and slippery. And your generous letter writer drops it through the slot. And then … it arrives in your little hands and here we are. Glowing. Sigh.
I’ve been thinking about letters and letter writing a lot lately. Part of it is the Canada Post announcement that they will be phasing out door to door mail delivery in areas that still have it. Instead, all communities will be getting community super boxes. Many folks are upset about this news and I won’t comment on that here except that – it’s our own fault! How many letters did you receive this year? How many did you write and mail? (not counting birthday cards or Christmas cards). We stopped using it, and now we’re losing it.
The other big reason that I’m thinking about letters is that I have just finished reading and marking my Grade 11 students WW1 Soldier Research Project where the students must research a Canadian soldier who died in the war and then write 2 letters from the soldier’s perspective (1 on departure day, 1 from the trenches), 1 letter to the soldier from the home front and a final letter of notification that the soldier has been killed in action. I’ve written about that assignment and its impact on me and the students on this blog before and you can read it here .
But what I’m thinking more about is that people just aren’t using regular mail anymore and I think it’s a lost art. With so many instant, electronic ways of communicating, whether by text, or email, blogs, online newsletters, email, etc., fewer and fewer people are writing home (How was that date? “Meh, nothing to write home about!”).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Luddite. Heck, I’m writing this blog (although, I always write my first notes in my note book with a pen) aren’t I? And I tweet and I Facebook. I set a goal in 2013 to write a letter every 2 weeks to a different member of my family or a friend. I got to about 10 letters, and then I kind of dropped the stamp, as it were.
I really think that we are starved for the soul connection, the joyful infusion of getting and writing letters. Putting pen to paper, sitting down with a cup of tea and letting the words come from our soul centre. Well, if not our soul centre, at least the very cool part of our brain called the Reticular Activating System. Apparently, this nifty little bit of grey matter is pleasantly turned on when we write words by hand rather than just watching them appear on a computer screen as we type. The physical act of picking up the pen and writing your words helps the Reticular Activating System awaken your brain to process information as important, much more effectively and readily than typing at a keyboard does.
I remember getting letters from my sister when I was pregnant with my son and living across the country. Her letters were a tonic and I would savour them. Sometimes she would add a note to the outside of the envelope, “read with a cup of tea.” Her letter was a piece of her. It was a lifeline for this new and very homesick mom. Confession: I still have almost all of her letters, lovingly stored in a trunk, ordered by year. Revisiting them now and then I see the conversation we had, the experiences that we shared even from away. She still sends email daily, and we Skype and of course I appreciate those techno visits (as I do with my son who lives in China), but nothing of that matches the feeling of getting a wee bit of home in my hand.
My most cherished letters are from my Dad. Oh how thankful I am that I have his letters. When he died in 2008, my heart was shattered that we would never again have a chance to chat. That I’d never hear his advice again or that amazing laugh. Those seven letters that I have, dating 1981 to 1995, are more precious than I can tell. Anytime I need a dad fix, I reach over and there he is telling me that maybe I should go outside more and that will help with my headache. Or telling me to look after myself – “nobody else will.” Even the ordinary bit of news that he’s thinking of getting chickens in the fall or sorting through his garage – all of it is precious. And I can hold a bit of him in my little hands and feel a bursting in my heart. An instant hug.
I think that we should start a letter writing revolution this year. I’m serious. Maybe I should add that to 14 Ways to Make ’14 Brilliant list! Let’s all write, by hand, with pen and paper, 14 letters this year. I think we could easily pull that off. Imagine – 14 people that you know will be over the moon that you took the time to write and mail them a letter. Cool.