Tag Archives: letters

Lists, letters, and taking leave.

During a 20-minute phone call with a friend last week, I mentioned all of the books pictured above, only one of which I have read, long ago. After he asked me about a couple of them, “Did you finish ____ ?” I blurted, “I don’t read books, I only buy them!”

It’s partly true; three of the books pictured I am in the middle of reading. I think I will take The Cross of Loneliness with me on my travels this week, because it is little and is likely to be encouraging to my spirit, without demanding too much of my analytical abilities. It sets down the correspondence of Saint Sophrony and Archpriest George Florovsky from 1954 to 1963. These illustrations from the book of their kind faces make me eager to peek in on their friendship.

I’ll be flying to Colorado to visit my son Soldier’s family, and from there to Idaho to see friends Jacob and Rosemary, before heading back to California. Both of these families are in new towns since I last visited them! The excitement of navigating airports, riding in airplanes, being in strange places and beds; playing with grandchildren and chatting¬† with everyone will keep my mind plenty busy. It’s already buzzing with the challenges of getting myself ready for the big day, and incrementally taking leave, in my heart, of my home, and my garden with all the plants I have been nursing along; like the first golden zucchinis that will ripen while I am far away. I will say farewell to my stack of To-Read books, which if it actually were just one stack would be higher than my house.

But I know that I will like to read on the plane, and read in my room before going to sleep at night, so I must choose what to take along. This book that I discovered in my Kindle, Make a List, looks appealing for a few summery reasons.

(List of) Reasons why it’s a good book for this summer:

1 – Only a couple hundred pages.

2 – Not demanding content:

2a – No long list of fictional characters to keep straight.

2b – No complex-thinking philosophers to follow.

3 – It will help me keep engaged with my philosophical self and my life back home by simply jotting down a list here and there.

4 – It will prompt me to keep writing without my always having to make quality whole sentences, which are a lot of work. I might even compose travelogues entirely of short lists!

It occurs to me that my attempt at Bullet Journaling was kind of list-y. Unfortunately I always felt the need to elaborate and my bullet points swelled into paragraphs. It will be necessary to keep these lists in a different category from journaling altogether. I haven’t written one thing in my journal for a month or two, which feels scary. Maybe I’ve already made the break?

My college roommate Ann has been an inspiring list-maker all her life. She makes lists of the lists she needs to make. You might say that is the idea that Marilyn Chandler McEntyre has elaborated on; you can hear her talking for three minutes on the subject here.

Now I need to get back to the lists I have recently been working from, like:

1 – To-Do Before I Depart, and
2 – Carry With Me On the Plane.

Once I add “Kindle Reader” and “Notebook for Writing Lists” to that second list, I’ll be good to go! …. or will I…? One more very important list must be completed, before I shut the door on my tottering stacks:

Books I Really Want to Read Soon But Must Sadly Leave at Home.

But I’ll come back, Dear Friends!

The letter is an act of faith.

The telephone conversation is, by its very nature, reactive, not reflective. Immediacy is its prime virtue. The immediacy delivers quick company, instant stimulation; the stimulation is cathartic; catharsis pushes back anxiety; into open space flows the kind of thought generated by electric return.

The letter, written in absorbed solitude, is an act of faith; it assumes the presence of humanity; world and self are generated from within; loneliness is courted, not feared. To write a letter is to be alone with my thoughts in the conjured presence of another person. I keep myself imaginative company. I occupy the empty room. I alone infuse the silence.

–Vivian Gornick

Reading letters by the fire.

Pippin and The Professor gave us a book for Christmas, Letters of Note, letters of notea compilation by Shaun Usher, whom I might call Usher the Gusher, he is that enthusiastic a promoter of his book. I wish he would let the letters speak for themselves, but his glowing commentary doesn’t detract too much from the delightful pastime of reading the letters.

It’s the best kind of browsing book, and makes me want to dig up and display cherished letters I have been blessed to receive over the years from relatives and friends. It also makes me want to write more letters myself…I actually should be writing some Christmas thank-yous right now!

This evening I’m very tired in body and mind, and am so happy to have such reading material — it could only be improved by being in two volumes so that a weary woman could more comfortably hold one while sitting in a straight-backed chair by the fire. The wind is blowing icily here these days, and it seems that windy cold is better than still because it is chasing the pollutants away and making it o.k. for us to burn wood.

Nixon letter from boy crp

So far I have read at least a couple dozen letters including some from children to government leaders, e.g. Fidel Castro to FDR, and the one pictured above, in a very different spirit; letters from widows and widowers to their deceased spouses, e.g Richard Feynman and Katherine Hepburn;  and a letter from Clementine Churchill to her husband advising him to rise above his stressful situation and be a nicer man (below).

Clementine to Winst crp

Many of the letters are shown in a facsimile of their original typed or handwritten form, like this one from Ray Bradbury responding to a letter from someone who had concern about the effects of robots on society.

Ray Bradbury letter - robots

One of the most compelling so far is from Lucy Thurston, who endured a mastectomy without any anesthetic. In the 19th century she was a missionary from Massachusetts to Hawaii along with her husband. After the surgery in 1855 she lived another 21 years. This letter of which I show a small part is to her youngest daughter:

mastectomy report

mastectomy survivor
Mary Thurston

The book includes 125 letters, but when I run out I can go to Usher’s website, also called Letters of Note, where 900 missives await my discovery. Some of those no doubt are printed in the book, but that still leaves 775….

Going now to stoke the fire.

Valentine and Grenadine

Meet my darling Miss Grenadine. She was a birthday present from Mr. Glad, and here she sits on the chair next to my computer table, keeping me company. She is small and squishable and even machine-washable, so that I could take her places in my purse and let toddler grand-girls play with her.

She came from Corolle dolls equipped with that cute name, so I don’t have to think up a new one. Any of you grandmas or mamas who like her should know that she’s even safe for newborns. She’s a doll of a doll!

I had to spend much of my birthday on an airplane, which is not the worst thing that could happen — I’ve had birthdays I liked much less. Anyway, there wasn’t much actual celebrating on the exact date. But before and since, I have been remembered and greeted and gifted in many ways.

Books, music, flowers, a Japanese lunch date…Kate brought me exotic blood-orange-infused olive oil on the train from D.C. to Philadelphia. All nourishing things that make one glad to have been born.

Pearl sent me this funny card. She is the family’s most accomplished baker and if she had been here she’d have given me proper carbs. As it is, she gave me inspiration to bake myself a cake after Pascha.

And she sent along a belated Valentine from Maggie. If you can’t see it clearly enough it’s worth clicking on the photo to enlarge to reading size:

That girl cracks me up!

Her cousin Annie on the other side of the country — this side — is selling coffee, cocoa mix and biscotti for American Heritage Girls. I didn’t have to hesitate a minute before checking off a few items on the order form; they can come right out of the grocery budget. I’ll get to see that dear girl and pick up my goodies at the end of May.

More rain is forecast for tomorrow – yay! But the sun is shining this afternoon. I can see from here calla lilies blooming out beyond the manzanita bush; they are asking to come inside and help brighten up the house. I’ll go now and bring some in.