Sunday, June 20, 2010

Refuge and Reward

I wrote my first letter on a February night, lingering over my words and sentiments with a cup of tea at the dining room table. My son, just a few months old, slept nearby in his bassinet, where he remained for a few hours as mommy collected her thoughts. I strove to make many of my early letters--composed just this way--miniature masterpieces.

I wrote my 99th letter in my recliner this morning, gulping down coffee as I anticipated my now very active son awakening from a brief nap and my parents arriving for a Father's Day brunch. I've also written letters sitting on the livingroom floor while my son crawled around and over me, in a doctor's office waiting room, at the car dealership while my brakes were replaced. And I wonder, is this project worth carving out those little blocks of time? Can I do my letters--and their recipients--justice?

The time it takes to write a letter--and the effort it takes to find that time--is pretty obviously a big reason we got away from handwritten correspondence in the first place.  We are a busy people, running to daycare and work and back to daycare and off to the grocery and the dry cleaner and the dentist and the veterinarian. When we're trying to communicate with friends and family amid all those obligations, why wouldn't we lean on the convenience of e-mail and texting? When the point is to simply exchange data, the fastest and best methods are the same.

There certainly have been days when I've simply not found the time to write a letter, or if I was lucky enough to have some extra minutes, I wanted to spend them with my head on the pillow, not a pen in my hand. It was on the first such occasion, some 20 or so days into this project, that I changed my goal from "write a letter a day for a year" to "write 365 letters in 365 days."

And I did consider, early on, what other goals I might have to set aside as I made time to write. Would I have no time for meditation? For prayer? For journaling?

As luck would have it ... the letters have become my meditation, keeping me very much in the moment even as I in many cases reflect on the past. My letters are also prayers, prompting me to express abundant gratitude for the joy, support, lessons and love my relationships have brought me. And they are a journal of sorts, a written record of where and who I've been.

For those very reasons letterwriting has become a refuge and a reward, a place into which I willingly slip when opportunities arise. Quiet, tranquil nights of writing are indeed in the past, replaced with whatever moments my imagination can find. Lucky for me, the benefits are the same whether my writing is a production or piecemeal--my communication still feels elevated, transcending a simple exchange of information to an experience of reflection that ideally moves me and the letter recipient.

And I'd call that a masterpiece.

IN HONOR OF OUR FATHERS: In the spirit of this day for dads I offer a link to a blog post of letters from Central New York schoolchildren to their fathers. What a delight. Be sure to read through to the end--the last one is priceless.

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