There is a certain simple pleasure to the process. Taking time out of the day to sit down and compose my thoughts. To prepare the space, selecting the paper, choosing a pen, and then placing the pen to the paper. Watching the ink flow from the nib across the page as my thoughts are translated through the subtle movements of my hand into words flowing through ink. The sounds of the nib on the page, the slight scratch, the way the paper grabs at times against the tines of the pen. It requires a bit more concentration, I have to be mindful of my thoughts as I write so that they do not outrun the pace of my pen. I have to hold those thoughts as I reach for a new page. These are all the little moments that make writing by hand such a pleasure.
In an age of instant communication, where we seem to worship every shorter time frames, taking time to write letters by hand may seem a bit strange. It is a throwback to a slower time, when taking time to say something seemed to be of more importance. I think of my Grandfather as he traveled in his youth before the second World War. He was a trombone player in a band, and he would write to my Grandmother from each stop he made. I have these letters, the ones she saved, and they tell the story of a courtship across time and space, using ink, pen, and paper. Out of the many letters that I have, there are one or two urgent telegrams, but their dance was through pen and ink and time.
My grandfather was always a letter writer, he would pen short notes to say hello, thinking of you, love you when he was on the road. He did this for his family and his friends. Nothing too long, just a little note to let you know he was thinking of you, usually on hotel stationary, in ballpoint pen. Somehow, this made its way into my heart as a way of staying in touch, as a way of connecting.
I write letters, by hand, often. I write to my dear friends, and the correspondence keeps the friendship alive over time in a way that short chats on the phone, or quick texts do not. It is more intimate than e-mail, and the quality of thought is different as well. As I sit typing an email, I am trying to keep from thinking too much, as the act of thinking makes it harder to type. It seems like I need to disconnect my mind from the typing in order to be able to do this, if I start to think, it seems like my fingers forget what they are doing. Taking a pen in hand, it is not the same, I am forced by the speed of my writing and a desire for the penmanship to be legible, to slow down, to take my time. The very act of sitting down to write a letter requires me to down shift into a slower speed, to take a moment, to pause, and reflect. Instead of a stream of consciousness pouring without stop onto the page, I have to form my thoughts, choose my words, and compose my letters. I have to give more of myself to my reader than I do in any other format, so I use my letters for my deeper thoughts, for the important things that I am working upon in my life. If I wish to understand some aspect of who I am, then I choose a friend and I write them a letter, and in the end, I know myself better for the process.
The beauty of a letter is that once the writing is done, the letter is not. It has to be placed in an envelope, sealed, addressed, stamped, mailed, and each step in the process requires your mindful participation. I enjoy the calligraphy that I use to address each envelope, the choosing of the stamps for mailing ( especially the Chinese zodiac stamps produced by Canada Post for the Lunar New Year ), and sealing the letter with wax once it is all done. It is a process, not that different from other ceremonies in life where we slow down and notice a moment in time, where we become intentionally mindful of what we are doing. It is an opportunity to slow down and find your way into a deeper understanding of who you are, there is nothing to lose, and so much to gain.
If, you are intrigued, and wonder about this idea of writing, and you find yourself wondering to whom you might write, then consider send a letter to me (PO BOX 637, O’Leary PE C0B1V0 Canada). If any of resonates for you, and you happen to be curious, and wish to know more, do not hesitate to drop me a line. If you would like to know more about my work, or to work with me, feel free to contact me. I post regularly to Instagram (@gilgrimes), Twitter (gilgrimes) , Medium and Facebook (gilgrimes) about whatever arises. And if you would like to stay in touch sign up for my newsletter (probably once or twice a month at most).