We’ve had a few minor disasters over here the last couple of days, and we’ve been a bit behind on things. There was a broken bowl (of a set of four, oh how will my OCD survive with just three??), some slight flooding with the recent thunderstorms, and the baby and Jon each with a stuffy nose. It’s a tight race for who will be the bigger baby – most bets are on Jon, but Caleb may be a dark horse yet.
But of course, we are scrappy and sturdily built and it takes more than a few sneezes and a flood to stop us. Here we are, looking for some letter writing inspiration, in preparation for our Letter Writing Club this Sunday.
I borrowed this book, To The Letter by Simon Garfield, on a bit of a whim from the library.
It’s a historical look at letter writing through the ages, from the early days of Aristotle through to the modern era. It’s chock full of details and juicy stories, pieced together from all sorts of writers and postal workers and history.
My favourite bit is probably the part in the middle, right around the development of the modern United States Postal Service.
I love this:
…the fact that a small percentage of mail wouldn’t make it through was a disagreeable but accepted feature of giving oneself up to the post, an occupational hazard. Where did they go, these lost or abandoned letters? Some may have been stolen, while a few perhaps are still awaiting delivery in a buried sack somewhere in the mud, anticipating their Vindolanda moment. – page 254
What a delightful thought! While this description is around the late 1800s, and I am assuming nowadays mail delivery is a bit more reliable, there is something quite romantic in the notion that you’re sending something off with a postage stamp and just some good faith. How do you really know it’s going to make it??
It’s a bit magical, putting your letter, safely tucked into a paper envelope, and in a few days or more, this paper envelope makes it way across cities, on trains and trucks and maybe aeroplanes, passed from hand to hand, and we hope, into a mailbox somewhere else. And it is just this small thrilling sense of mystery, that you’re leaving this piece of paper in a mailbox and it will appear at the doorstep of the reader, and there is the smallest, tiniest chance it might not make it. But we have faith, and into the mailbox it goes.
I’ve included a few snaps of some images included in the book, however, I should point out there aren’t too many – it’s most text. It’s a good read, but a bit of a long one.
There are all sorts of delicious tidbits about letter writing and its past.
Garfield describes the author Lewis Carroll’s booklet entitled Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing, which includes some strong words of suggestion to write your full address at the top of the letters you are sending, to prevent some scrambling on your recipient’s behalf should something have happened to previous letters or the envelope. I can attest to having a few letters sadly languishing in my desk drawer with illegible return addresses on the envelope! If you’ve written to me long ago, and have not received a letter in response, just maybe your original letter is in the pile…
In the mid-1800s, America was ahead of its time in feminism, and allowed women to have “her own private box or pigeon-hole at the post office of the town where she resides, where she can have her letters addressed…” – something apparently not yet available in Europe at this time.
And a description in the epilogue: “Without letters we risk losing sight of our history, or at least its nuance. The decline and abandonment of letters – the price of progress – will be an immeasurable defeat.”
And after an entire book celebrating the rich history of letter writing, Garfield suggests to fend off that terrible possibility, that we should indeed take the time to write more letters, to write more of these non-urgent, physical evidences of our existence. He even – gasp! – suggests joining a letter writing club (I’m serious, he actually writes this!! Although this is one suggestion of many…).
And remember! Our very first Letter Writing Club is taking place this Sunday, June 14th, at our new 250 Carlaw, Unit 105 location. It’s taking place from 2pm-4pm, please come anytime! You can come for the entire two hours, or pop by for just a bit to say hello. The shop itself is closed on Sundays to regular shopping, but if you were planning on picking something up since you’re making the trip, of course that’s no problem.
Stationery and supplies will be provided, including stamps, so all you need to bring are some addresses and ideas. We’ll drop off your mail to Canada Post on Monday. If you have your own stationery or stamps or anything else, please feel free to bring it along! We will have tables and chairs set up, along with some coffee, tea and treats, so you can just come on in, grab a seat and write your love letters, political protests or daydreams as you’d like.
And, best of all, I got a button maker! I have been making buttons like nobody’s business. I can’t believe I have been alive for so long without one. Jon actually had to drive all the way back to the west end to pick it up for me, and then we spent an hour and a half trying to get it to work before determining it was broken (and it wasn’t just that we weren’t very smart) and then he had to go back and exchange it. That’s true love.
Come pick up a button commemorating our first Letter Writing Club! See you there 🙂