Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Poignancy Of Letters

I have, for quite a while, been slowly working my way through the biography of Albert Einstein. It is not a quick read for one who is less than brilliant in higher mathematics and physics, yet I find it appealing and enjoy the snail's pace with which I read. I try and garner as much knowledge in areas I spent the younger portion of my days dawdling through classes. Somehow, a bit of age has opened my mind to more, and overall, the importance of not only the large and infinite, but the small and ephemeral.
So much of the book was documented through written correspondence....the story of one of the most brilliant minds in our time scratched quickly in letters to and from; some work related, many personal, jokes, thoughts, theories. The sum of this man could fairly be established by all the hand written letters he sent.
And yet, here I sit at a computer; a machine without soul nor the emphasis of my eagerness in writing as it would be with a pen to paper.
As collage and mixed media artists, we crave the old letters written to long gone lovers, notes in the margins of books, the pencil or pen melded to the aged paper. We purchase what was once thrown away as insignificant, of no use, read perhaps once and then disposed of.
But the heart of this matter:
What will we leave to the generations after us when handwritten letters are no longer a form of corresponding? How can they appreciate the beauty of a solitary capital letter put to paper in elegant script when all that is known is the sometimes impersonal e-mail? And yes, I am at fault with this as much as any other....I have succumbed to the fast, the instant, the *interpret-as-you-will* plainness of the mechanical age. My own cursive writing has diminished in quality as I have spent more and more time behind a black keyboard and bright computer screen. The long, beautiful ascenders and descenders that I learned in parochial school from the old Palmer Penmanship books seem to have disappeared into some contorted shorthand or chicken-scratch.
Occasionally I do not recognize my own signature when scrawled across a machine that accepts credit cards. The markers by which strangers knew it was indeed *US* making a purchase are diminished to a pen that is not a pen traveling haphazardly and awkwardly upon a signing screen, often a millisecond behind what we are writing, making it even more loathesome.
And yet, I blog. I sit and think, "Do I have anything worthy of my readers time today? What shall I post?"
I sit and journal, for the world--instantly--to read and judge and comment upon.
And I do not put pen to paper very often.
Thus I return to Einstein and all the letters documenting every part of his life and what was learned from them, and I ask myself, will there be anything documenting us? Will we leave marks that can be passed through generations---a papertrail of our lives, our loves, our work and passions? When we lose the written page permanently, what a sad day it will be!
Of course, the efficiency of machinery cannot be duplicated through man, but maybe that is not the point.
In some cases, perhaps it is that extra pen flourish, the weight of the line, the delicate paper that bears the touch of lipstick to some lover far away.
If we treasure these ephemeral tidbits as artists, then we above all others should see the value in the preservation of this fine art.
Shall we write?
I should hope so........



Anonymous said...

Oh Anne.....What a lovely post & so true. I can remember practicing & practicing my cursive writing & now I look at todays kids & wonder if they can even spell beyond the text abbreviations they use. So sad......
A couple of weeks ago when I was signing a permission for surgery the Dr. commented on my swirling signature & how you just don't see them like that anymore. I guess it is the artist in me!! LOL!!
Have a wonderful day!

Silke said...

Anne, I love this post!! It's something I think about a lot and I am so guilty of using e-mail and writing my blog. Yet, I know of the power of the handwritten letter. I have a box with letters from my grandmother, my mother and my favorite great uncle - all of whom are no longer living. Having their handwritten letters is amazing to me! It conveys so much of who they were.

And the other day I came across a big stack of letters Daniel and I wrote to each other. The first three years we had a long-distance relationship and we wrote lots and lots of letters, all of which I saved.

Now, I rarely write anymore except doing a postcard exchange with a few friends. And you bet I will save all of those!!

Have a great day!! Love, Silke

P.S. Have you read Ella Minnow Pea or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? Both are novels written entirely in letter form - I loved them both!

yoborobo said...

I have mixed feelings about this, because I think the day of the hand-written letter is kapoot. :) But then, I think about how much we are all communicating, through the written word, and in some cases (not mine), very artistically (blog headers, side art, etc.) and I think that the personal letter has just evolved. But then, I am very unpopular with my fellow writers for loving new devices like the Kindle. LOL! And the kids of now will leave flash drives (or the current version of that) for their kids to enjoy. Blogs will be something that evokes nostalgia when the next new thing comes along. I know what you are saying, of course, that letters are little windows into the past, and the textures and even the smells of them are very evocative. My own handwriting stinks, and I hated cursive with a passion, so no loss from me on that count! :) I suppose nothing is constant in the Universe except change. xoxox!

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey MArilyn,

I guess it was one of those thoughts that crossed my mind when reading---about how much we *write* is really nonpermanent and also because my handwriting has tanked bad.
Occasionally I still write my name and aomeone will comment on how good my handwriting is too......
I was just wondering out loud; what will it be like years from now?


Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hi Silke,

I too, have letters from my parnets and grandparents (and assorted other relation I'm not sure who they are). I remember coming across one packet tied neatly with a silk ribbon that was starting to fall apart....
I used to write by hand to my friends, even once I started the computer.
The only success I have had with the computer versus by hand is keeping the blog, and I think it is because I can express myself in various ways. Which is good!
I've not read the novels....will have to look them up!


Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey Pam,

I think you hit the points that crossed my mind when I was writing this. And one of my fears--technology advances so quicky that todays flash drive becomes the great floppy disk of yesterday; that with all the change there is lack of permanence. (this all got going because I was reading and then I have been sorting thru some old handwritten Rxs, when the docs actually wrote out the RECIPE for the med....and off the brain went!)
I am a Luddite when it come to Kindle. Kudos to those who love it, but I want a book in my hand; binding, paper, something to add to the library shelves.
I know I am waaaaay behind the time on a lot of things---it's okay.
It's just me musing..... :)


Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

I was just talking to my sister about this very thing on yesterday! I think this is so true and wonderfully written. There is something about handwriting that is so beautiful and I look this postcard and this is the reason I love mail so much. Handwritten post card or letter is just priceless to me. Thanks for coming by beautiful!
Iove you!

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey Vanessa,

I guess I love the visual and tactile quality of letters.
Matbe I need to follow my own words and take one day in the week to actuall HAND WRITE a letter to a friend.
In some ways, I truly miss it!
Loved your pics---anyone reading this comment, go to Vanessas site and see what she was up to!

XXOO dear friend!

audrey said...

Anne, I think about what you have written (typed) here often. I sometimes say something to my son about it and he just says, "I know, Mom." He is very much into the tech age and I don't think he could survive without his blackberry and computer. This is the way of today and if we want to communicate with the younger generation, we must accept it and move forward. I remember telling him a couple of years ago, that I will never use the "text" app on my cell phone. HA! This is now how we communicate most of the time.
However, I've noticed that he has saved letters I wrote to him when he was in college. So, deep down, there is that sentimental desire to keep the written word.
Good post, Anne.
♥ audrey

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey Audrey,

I have to admit what a Luddite I am: I do NOT know how to text! In fact, I seldom use the cell phone---it is a choice I made to keep some time personal and just enjoy whatever I am doing. (my aversion to having it on being overhearing conversations in stores about *so and so who just got out of jail....* ACK!)
I know I function in a different realm, which is why I don't adapt to change easily, but I do think there is something to be said for your son saving your letters... ;)
And who am I to talk? I just sit and peck......


Marie S said...

The piece of paper and the pen have no heart and soul until the human puts it there.
This machine has no heart and soul until you put it there. So it is the same.
You, the human behind this glorified pen make it come alive with your heart and soul.
We have your art and your banners and all of this documented writing to and fro, and yes, stories are written about this.
It is hard for me to look at your page and NOT see heart and soul and flesh and blood and love and life.
I see pictures of you and your words of wisdom written about the things you have experienced and I revel in delight at each and every post. So will others down the road. It is not so much the things that we hold in our hand, but the things we hold in our heart that make life worth living.
Your rock wall has just changed.
Love and hugs my beautiful friend!!

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Ah Marie,

As usual, I cannot see the forest for the trees!
I think I am such a *collecter* of things that I don't see what I have collected right before my nose. (and I can't blame this on allergies!)
Your words struck home.....I need to ponder a bit more!
Have a great day!


Deborah said...

Oh Anne, this is so very lovely. You are such an elegant writer...a pleasurably read. And quite deep for a blonde!!! I do like handwritten letters, however, I also think of Renee's blog and how it will last forever...such a tribute of love and history for her family. My writing is horrid now and Alice changed my signature on the debit card years ago! So, all's well! **blows kisses** Deb

Elena said...

Beautiful post dear Anne. I was just wondering yesterday what happened to my pretty handwriting. It's all scratchy and scribbly now. And it's so special hearing that you & Silke have those family letters. I found one in my mom's stash that came from the grandma I never met. It was cool to see & hold it; knowing she had touched it & created it long ago.

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey Deb,

Now remember, I am--at this point in life--a Bottle-Blonde, so I guess that allows me to think deeper? LOL!!! :D
I need to work on my cursive, if for no other reason than to use in art. I can no longer print well or write elegantly, and when applying that to a canvas...well.....(sigh) I rely on printing out from the computer!


Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hi Elena,

Yes, there is that connection with family we never knew, or only know by rigid photographs. Sometimes I have felt like an interloper in reading these personal missives....mother kept all of the letters between her and father, and I still can't read those. I guess it is hard to imagine my parents, young, in love and not quibbling with each other over who was going to die first! My family!!! LOL!!


Marie S said...

You DO, though, see and I loved your post. Sorry I forgot to add that part, forgive me.
I mean, LOVED it. It made me think and it provoked so much emotion. I will miss the pen and the paper, but I am trying to find value in the methods and utensils that are changing right before my eyes.
This computer is after all a glorified pencil.
I too collect from the past and I love every minute of it. Sorry, I did not make that clear. I did not mean to change your mind but only show you something positive from these changes, even though they are like none we have ever been through before.
When I go, I will send you all of the boxes of stuff I have collected from bygone eras.
I have spent the last few years in total loss and I am trying to see the value in the change that is around me.
It is just where I am coming from. It doesn’t have to be where you are coming from.
I love you and value your input and art and I am so grateful for our friendship in the here and now. I am so glad I dicovered you before I read about you in some book years from now.
I feel truly lucky not to have missed this.
Love you sisterfriend.

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Oh Marie, I meant---and this is where it would be wonderful to have vocal inflection on this machine!---I get zoned in on ONE thing. I focus on that, excluding everything else, like an ostrich with it's head in the sand, and I need someone to tap me on the shoulder and say, Hey, there is more to see and consider than the one tiny DOT. That's me; that's why I walk into walls and doors, because my attention is not on the broad picture but on one little nit-noid item, driving me nuts!
I value people to say look around! I learn more that way.
The only thing I can say that I know that extremely narrow focus is good for in me is my art; because with that, I become so absorbed in the minutia, that I block out all else. And usually, something good happens.
I just had never though of our blogs being permanent, but Deb mentioned that about Renee's blog, and slowly the little "Zzzzzzt!" of the lightbulb starts coming on! LOL!!!
And yes, I'll take all your boxes of stuff, but NOT ANY TIME SOON!!!
I'd much rather have you here, commenting, instead! (thank you very much!!!)
The sisterfriends...all gathering...chatting..... :)


kj said...

anne, i am challenged to say anything other than all these thoughtful comments already here.

i have thought about this too. it is especially challenging for me because i am a writer writing books and stories--in those i let my emotions run as they wish and what is heartfelt and mind-savoring comes out in typed words, not cursive letters.

but i will tell you something that i have gained from blogging that has increased in my life, not deminished. i am blessed to receive a handwritten card or letter sometimes once a week. and i now send letters and cards just as often. sometimes i share and receive photos, small artwork, little gifts that reach me deep and true.

i have a letter in my sock drawer from my daughter and then to-be-son-in-law that i will always treasure; i have love letters from my partner and a lost love who without good reason i still honor. i save mr. ryan's drawings and little notes by the toaster that wish me a good morning.

i am writing too much. it's funny because even as i say all this i also understand and agree with all you have written here.

one last thought: we would not find the time or means to write to one another as we can here blogging, so in a very real way we have found a means to let our lives be shared hearts connect. i totally love that.

great post, anne. ♥

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey kj,

You are so right about blogging; there is a richness and depth in the correspondence that could not otherwise be found. We are allowed to find others of our ilk, and enjoy social banter that would never be possible otherwise.
I, far too often, focus myself on one thing, and lose the vision of everything else around me and then need to be pulled back into the real world and gasp for air!
It will be interesting, down the road, to see even the changes in blogging. I think most of us that do this are passionate about communication with real people, not just a blip to another computer. There is the personal in it.......
LOL! I did not think when I wrote this post that it could possibly encourage so much emotion, but how lucky was that??? :)


Jan said...

Morning, Anne. Very thought provoking post. I have piles of letters, rarely have I thrown one out so there are archives in my attic;-) As if anyone will be interested although who knows? My grandfather probably thought no one would be interested in his piles of postcards yet here I sit, enthralled with them, wishing I could actually understand the foreign words. Certainly the art so many of us are producing will say so much about who we are, it will just take a bit more thought to try and figure out the meaning. Maybe we ought all to try writing more often on paper with pen. It is another art form and after all we are artists.

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

I was thinking of you Jan, with the treasure trove of family photos and letters. the particular mystique of a foreign language letter that one cannot an intriguing puzzle.
You are so right....we should start a simple, one a week letter writing, in long hand, and see what happens.....


Diana Evans said...

Hi Anne!!! lovely post and I have to agree ...writing is something we should do...I know that every since I became a Mom I have written letters to Cole...that one day I hope he will treasure...and throughout my life I have always written letters and love receiving them....

what a wonderful reminder Anne!!!


Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey Diana,

What a lovely gift for your son! No doubt, when he is mature enough, he will realize that he will always have the gift of his mother's voice with him....wonderful!
And yes, opening the mailbox and seeing something personal and not a BILL is always a delight!


Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

You're so right. I still write letters - but not nearly the number I used to. Even my mother now writes email instead of letters. And I also recognize my handwriting deteriorating from its once rather elegant swirls to something resembling a prescription slip.

sigh. I have that I've become somebody who says "when I was young, we ..."

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Well Tristan, I think we ALL are at that point of saying *when I was young...* with equal distaste!
So we're all in the same rollicking ship! :)


Ces said...

OH NO! There are people like me who still write using fountain pens on fine paper or cards with drawings- get that? I write using fountain pens! 24 K gold nib, solid brass barrell, snaps close like my trusty waterman fountain pens and I write in long flourishes, my signature will fill half a page. HAHAHAHA! I hate emails!!! I love pens. You go take your computer and travel to remote places without electricity. You are lost without a pen.

Leslie said...

Which is why:
a) it was such a banner day to get a letter from my sister, that I pasted it into my journal.

b) I got 4 pen pals this year and write to them with pen on paper.

Magpie's Mumblings said...

What a great post Anne! I can't recall the last time I got a real letter in the mail (but, on the other hand, nor can I remember when I last wrote one). I think my appreciate right now for the written word is coming from my spending so many hours transcribing my great great grandfather's diary so that I can get it published. The original is quite brittle and disintegrating. I can't believe what wonderful handwriting he had for a man that was probably not too well educated.

marianne said...

my handwriting has always been horrible! and now i am even behind on blogging, comments & emails- argh! i do think that as long as we make the point to keep contact in the present that's good- and hopefully my art and the effects of my actions will speak for me where letters can't in the future...

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey Ces,

I used to have mny fountain pens, all of which have bitten the dust along the way.
I miss them. I loved buying thr bottles of ink to refill them and occasionally managing to squirt ink across the table in the process.
I think Fountain pens are my favortie....I wonder if anywhere about here still stocks them?


Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

YAY LEslie!!!

You go girl! I think it's great to do that; something to actually hold on to after the reading. Where *save* is not a folder or option in a drop down menu!


Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hi M.A.

It seems in that era, thee was a great pride in good handwriting. Maybe it signified that one had gone to school at sme point; that t proved a person had obtained some formal education.
That is wonderful you are taking the time to transcribe it so that it may be preserved!


Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey Marianne,

I do think artists have a greater advantage of leaving a visual and tactile legacy just because of what we do. Which is good---that there is something more to cconnect us to this era we live in!


yoborobo said...

Hi Anne - I came back to say (just in case you don't think I am a sentimental fool!), I have saved so many letters from people, and I save greeting cards, and notes, and ALL my children's drawings. I used to write them letters by hand, but now I write them on the computer, and burn CDs of those and photos for them to have. What I was trying to say is that it is neither 'choose one or the other', but embrace both. Go to youtube and type in Alice on the iPad. Pretty amazing stuff. Oh, and since I am a writer, I collect books, and read books, and have books coming out my ears. But I would LOVE LOVE LOVE an iPad. :) xox

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey Pam, We are all sentimental fools, I think, with certain letters. And I know that I am always looking bak at some things when I should be looking forward...LOL!!! Probably why I run into so many items....
I think I just get frustrated by the computer because I spend too much time with it---BY CHOICE, I might add. (so who do you have to blame Anne????)
iPad? I have only seen ads on TV. I have no idea what it does, and that is probably a good thing! LOL!!! Says she who is sitting next to three digital cameras....
Maybe the gist of this whole post is I should have stayed writing with a pen and had more time left on my hands!!!

Nah! ;)


Mary Helen-Art Saves Lives said...

I know I don't do it enough but I so love seeing the written cursive flow of ink onto the may be a lost art....most do not appreciate the energy and flow from one spirit to another spirit...communication of the most intimate art...I still love using a number two pencil in my journals as well as beautiful inks...the magic begins then and you can hold if for almost forever. Beautiful post Anne. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

Hey MAry Helen,

Isn't it odd (and maybe this is an artist thing) how we understand the intensity of handwriting? I used to love to hear the scrape of a fountain pen against the paper, had certain good ballpoints that felt *cushy* when writing, and always enjoyed different grades of pencils to write or print with....and was picky about paper too, even as a child. It all held a certain magic to it....waiting to be released!


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