Words & illustrations :: Carmen Kuntz.
Stashed in an envelope, sealed with saliva, and delivered by a person in uniform. Written by hand and delivered by hand, torn open immediately, or tucked away for later—a letter is a tangible time capsule that travels from the writer’s world to the recipients. It’s just words, simple ink written on plain paper, but it carries so much more. Not complicated to create, not difficult to send…but magical to receive, particularly these days as the oldest form of long-distance communication is a dying art.
In the age of convenience and instant gratification, seeing your name handwritten on a battered envelope can’t compare to the sterile ping from a cellphone. A letter is to an email or text is what a woodstove is to a furnace—both serve the same function, but the feeling is very different. Heat from a wood-burning fireplace requires time, patience, and planning—there is no flick-of-the-switch. Likewise, even the latest-greatest messaging app can’t replicate the intention and warmth of a hand-written letter. And unlike a postcard, a letter is private. Just like a wood stove, writing and receiving a letter is romantic. Rudimentary, rustic and real. Never written one? Here’s how…
Whether writing to grandma across town or to a university roommate on the other end of the Earth, getting an address can be a significant obstacle. Maintain an element of surprise and ask a friend or family member for the address you need. Or, (perhaps creepier) use Google Street View to help find a house number, look up a postal code, then grab an envelope and put the address on the front, and yours on the back. Tear a page from a notebook and…pause.
But don’t overthink. Before putting pen to paper, organize your thoughts. Will you bring the recipient to this moment, describing how loud the rain is battering at the window, or how the coffee shop brew is just right? Or are you outside with the sun warming your back? Are you nursing any injuries, or had any adventures—or better—misadventures, lately? Give your recipient something to smile over or laugh at when they re-read this letter years from now. Or, alternatively, recount a moment that made you think of them recently: a favourite memory or the last time you were together. Prepare your mind. Paper encourages flow—there’s no backspace, no copy and paste icons. So, write it right.
A letter is to an email or text is what a woodstove is to a furnace—both serve the same function, but the feeling is very different. Heat from a wood-burning fireplace requires time, patience, and planning…
Thoughts translate through a pen and paper differently than on a keyboard. Use artistic license and write about themes that don’t fit in an email. Embellish, use juicy descriptions or fancy vocabulary and play with language. No spell check or suggestions, the words are truly yours, straight from frontal lobe (or heart) to the page. And don’t second guess your scribbles or hate on your (probably out of practice) penmanship. Handwriting adds flavour and is your personality manifested on paper. Slow down enough to make it legible and let it the words spill out.
Add the date. Snail mail can take days or weeks to be delivered, and letters can live on long after they are received and read. Yours might get thoughtfully tucked into a photo album or lost between the pages of a novel. Unlike clogged inboxes of searchable emails, a letter can only be destroyed by fire, water, a paper shredder, or a flushed toilet. Each is like a leaf of history, telling a tiny part of your story to whoever may read it—intended or unintended. When your forearm is cramping and your fingers feel like chunks of wood, sign your name.
Buy a stamp. Lick it, stick it, and drop the leaves of paper into the dark abyss of the bright red Canada Post mailbox. Now the journey begins—you’ll never know when your letter departs, who handles it along the way, or when it will arrive. Your thoughts, scribbled on paper, being invisibly passed along to land in the hands of a friend. Like magic. That’s what makes letter writing an adventure—that leaning into, and physically opening up to, the unknown.
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