Saturday, October 31, 2009

a letter with a fringe on top

It's 7 a.m. During my usual middle-of-the-night musing, I thought of the last post and said to myself, "Have you actually been emailing for 20 years?" I couldn't remember, though I have a vague idea I didn't even start using a computer regularly till about 1989, 20 years ago. It just doesn't seem possible that there was a time within memory when this machine wasn't the centre of all our lives. During the lecture about my book, I like to remind people that when I began research in 1982, in order to access information stored in New York, I had to write letters, telephone, get on an airplane, take a cab to the library in question and sit waiting for the boxes to be brought out. Now, in three seconds, all the information you need is on your desk.

I just went to the basement to check a big box of correspondence from my two most regular correspondents, Chris and Patsy in B.C., and it looks like emails don't start till about 2000. Not even ten years ago. Before that, in the files, were letters - typed or handwritten letters. Only 9 years ago, they wrote long letters just to me and I to them, and we put them in an envelope and mailed them. It seems impossibly quaint, like getting around town in a horse and buggy.


  1. i still have a few friends who write letters, and find myself that writing by hand away from the desk and computer, induces a different mental state - i take more time for reflection, i re-read the last letter i got from that person,i hold them in my mind for a longer time, imagining them in their own home, what i feel in their presence, all the unspoken connections we have. i wrote a lot of letters in my twenties and thirties didn't get a computer until about 1989 and had only dial-up until about two or three years ago - yes i do use it a lot now, but i still have one foot in the previous century, and glad i have the experience of a slower more spacious way of being with others, which letter-writing brings. Also the joy of finding an actual letter in the mailbox, amongst bills and advertising and charity appeals. It brings so much more enjoyment that opening an electronic cards with inane lyrics and silly animation. I wonder what is happening to philately these days?

  2. Patsy, thank you for your thoughtful comments. You make me want to sit down right now and write you a letter - except that I've told you everything in emails and this blog.

    I'll save something up and write it down and mail it soon, and then undo my corsets and relax for a bit.