Monday, February 22, 2010

Belles Lettres

Email is very convenient. And it's great to hear from pals during my work day but I love a handwritten letter. I love writing them and I love receiving them. My only regret is my penmanship has changed over the years and I no longer think my "hand" is as nice as it use to be. Wonder why that is.

When I was thinking of buying a desk for myself as a newly single mother, I imagined the top drawer would be filled with boxes of cards and stationery, little notebooks for gift giving, a stash of golden paperclips. I found my desk - a mahogany secretary and for 20 years it is still the best money I ever spent. And yes, the top drawer is filled with notecards collected from everywhere. Alexander Stoddard remarked that she keeps the final notecard of a boxed set for herself and I do too. I can’t part with some of these beauties. For me, one of life's pleasures is selecting a special card for a special friendand sitting down at that desk and writing a note. I am a woman of letters and love reading books that contain letters others have written - famous or not. When something is finally put down on paper, an emotion especially, it comes to life. It becomes real. We can imagine that someone said something or did they? But once it is in black and white, it is there for all to see, especially ourselves. Someone DID care. I WAS thought of. I WAS loved! It is written!

I don't save all my letters. I wish I had the stack of letters my high school boyfriend wrote me from college - they included some charming sketches (alas, he was not so charming I discovered). I framed a note from my grandmother last year. It came with a folded $50.00 bill and was written with "Now you can start your dishes!". My nana's handwriting is lovely as she was. Is there anything better than coming home from work after a long day and among the annoying flyers and bills a note from a friend drops out? Last week, my old train friend sent me a note asking me to dinner. I sent a friend a letter on stationery from Boston's Trinity Church. Another friend sent me a postcard with a picture of a child holding a bouquet of flowers bigger than his head.

I especially love when men write. My neighbor sent me a card addressed not to Emily but to my license plate number as that is the view he has outside his window. Peculiar? No! Dear, rare and special.

When I sit down to write, I am in communion with all women of letters from the past. I am Jane Austen writing to her sister Cassandra. I am Sido writing to daughter Collette. I’m putting pen to paper but really it is heart to paper.

Long live the scribe....


  1. Well said. Treat yourself to a fountain pen, you don't have to get the old fill it yourself type. A cartridge type will fit the bill. I love to write notes with a fountain pen. The color of the ink on the paper, the way it absorbs and looks when it dries is like no other ink. My Mother-in-law still uses a fountain pen and still writes letters everyday.

  2. To reclaim a "fading hand," consider the iPad/iPhone app that teaches Italic handwriting -- Better Letters at -- for other handwriting resources and information, visit

  3. Kate that's awesome. I work in an elementary school and it appalls me that teachers don't pay much attention to handwriting skills anymore. I guess it's the computer age, but still... Why should they bother when their own handwriting is horrible.

  4. When something is finally put down on paper (or in words), an emotion especially, it comes to life. It becomes real. (It becomes contact and intimacy)......beautifully put. I did my dissertation on 'contact'and that touched me, I can feel the emotion.