I sometimes get mail.
Actual mail in slightly crumpled envelopes with stamps that speak of far-flung cities and connections from my past. The art of writing a letter and mailing it has been lost in these days of instant everything. Our food, contact, information, news... it’s all instantaneous. We wait for nothing. Until suddenly I realize I’ve been waiting for letters I didn’t know were coming. When they arrive my world is inexplicably exotic, ever so briefly. Worn-edged postcards, folded letters, little notes... like starlight in a murky night sky.
One time I got a letter scrawled on the back of a torn-down circus poster from a Spanish town.
Sometimes now I get emails instead of written letters. Not emails with a stated purpose but rambling missives just catching up on life. And they’re almost as good as the paper envelopes they replaced. The undulation of sentences across the screen, unrolling in careful description of a life I’m no longer immediately part of but hold dear just the same. It’s a lost art, writing just for the sake of it. Talking to a friend in words chosen specifically to paint a picture of the moments of your life they can’t share. Holding their hand without touching them. Keeping the bonds of friendship drawn close by weaving all the little details of a life into a tapestry between you.
The things instant communication can’t tell you are the pauses between the paragraphs, the way sentences trail off and stutter-stop over difficult terrain, the bright excitement of repetition, conspiratorial tone of shared confessions.
I sometimes write emails. Fewer these days than before. Fewer still are the letters I commit to paper.
I mourn the loss of the curious intimacy of correspondence.
The beauty of the anticipation.
The discipline of the reply.
I mourn the loss of things done better in times before mine. Modernity has much to recommend itself, I can’t lie. But in this, in this one thing for sure, the years gone by trump the present. The embrace has cooled. And we are spoiled by immediacy now.
- Corinne Simpson