Friday, November 21, 2008

Before Email

Letters were analog to email’s digital. Something real, something you could hold in your hand, knowing the writer had held it too, days or weeks ago, somewhere far away.

They seem quaint as vinyl records and polaroids now, but letters were the everyday currency we used to stay in touch. They to’d and fro’d like paper carrier pigeons from far off places, with exotic stamps and strange post codes. 

Handwriting is unique as the whorls of a finger print. Reading someone’s for the first time is like slotting a new piece into the jigsaw puzzle.

I’m sure your letter-writing mind works at a deeper, more continuous wavelength than the staccato blips of email brain. Organic flow versus the clacks of an abacus. Alone with longhand and without the spell check, letters take more effort and application.

Writing things down always felt more profound than typing it out on a word processor. Reading the words “I love you” in ink on paper rung in my chest like a hundred church bells. I’ve got some letters I’ve read over and over, like answered prayers.

Envelopes could hold glossy, tactile photographs, that you could raise to your face and squint at, a hand-labelled mix tape, or just sketches in the margin.

Let’s face it, no one ever sighed clasped an email to their chest. Email’s like reading a fucking TV screen. Letters are a document, not morse code of ones and zeros.

I miss letters. These days you just get bills and junk mail. 

5 comments:

Janelle said...

i also miss letters.
even the smell of them. ink folded in envelopes...x

Jeannie said...

I miss them too. I reread one from an old boyfriend just the other day (while I was looking for some old photos) and it brought back so many memories. I don't think rereading old emails could have that effect.

Tamara said...

i love this post, and i think all your posts have the considered weight of handwritten artefacts rather than dashed out digital. I know some of the best writing i've done has come from the hand paper connection. Delete is such a facile little tool. I was never very good at sending letters i wrote. I grew up mistrusting postal services. I kept letters i wrote to people - found them years later. No wonder i didn't get many. Sumptuous post, thanks.

fush and chips said...

Thanks Tamara,
Unlike you, sent loads of letters throughout varsity and beyond, like a diary pages. I wish I could read some of them again, just to see where, how and who I was way back.

Gentleman at Heart said...

"I’ve got some letters I’ve read over and over, like answered prayers."
Beautiful, Tim!
This is indeed very much where my head is at.
Mine isnt yet done. I must find an answer still. Yours however. Is perfect as it is.