There's a few reasons that I feel damn lucky to live in Melbourne, and Women of Letters is one of them. Having attended one of the first events in the series, I can attest that it is every bit as fun, clever and moving as it appears. It also seems to be sparking a letter-writing renaissance.
Growing up, I was an avid -- if somewhat inconsistent -- correspondent. I suspect that the main reason for this was that all of our relatives lived overseas. It was also life pre-internet and pre-mobile phones, and long-distance phone calls were exorbitant.
And then I grew older, and more cynical, and more in debt, more time poor and less motivated. Thankfully, there were postcards. In fact, there were free postcards in cafes, restaurants and cinemas around Melbourne. It was the perfect way to scribble out a quick "Thinking of you" or "Saw this and thought of you" or "Wish you were here" that may or may not have borne any relation to the artwork on the flipside but would certainly bring a frisson to the recipient upon discovering something in their mailbox that was not a bill.
And then I became a parent. And even more time poor. But also, more open to living my dreams. And then there were a whole heap of other delights competing for the tiny windows of time to myself. And keeping up my postcard practice fell well and truly on the backburner.
Inspired by Marieke Hardy, one of the two brains behind Women of Letters, who is an avid letter writer and sets aside time every Sunday to deal with her correspondence, I am finally turning to look at the stack of unanswered letters that has been sitting on my desk for the past three years. It's time to take the plunge. Once I start, I know I will love putting pen to paper. And I'll wonder why I have been putting it off as a chore for so long.
To get me started, I picked up some beautiful postcards, selected some choice quotes/quirky ideas/original haiku and put them in the mail to surprise a small number of my dear friends. I couldn't help but think of the surprise and delight and, perhaps, curiosity, they would feel when finding this little missive in their mailbox. Perhaps it would be stuck to their fridge or inspiration board, or just kept on their desk or bedside table for inspiration. A quick and easy reminder that they were thought of, and loved. I had underestimated just how much joy this thought alone would bring me.
My daughter has a box on her bookshelf in which I am storing all her birthday cards, letters and postcards. She loves to pull it off her shelf from time to time, marvelling at all the joy and kindness she has received. I have three or four huge boxes myself that contain everything from the notes my best friend in high school exchanged in Chemistry in Year 9, to cards signed by colleagues when I left my first real job, to love letters and break-up notes, to congratulations notices and thank you cards. These boxes are the bane of my existence whenever I move house but they the most moving record of my existence I could ever hope to gather. The story they will tell when I am gone!
Family friends of a certain generation would keep the postcards I sent them during my travels, then return them to me at a later date. I'm guessing this was the "done thing" through it sure confused me when it first happened. "Doesn't she want to keep them? Didn't she like them?" I'd wonder. Now I understand how, once a certain time in life has passed, hanging on to such ephemeral things seems pointless... but also, that the gift of memories is a powerful one indeed.
In a long and rambling way, this week I am asking you to join me in sending a little love: to a dear one and, in the process, yourself. Pick up a free postcard or, better still, make one yourself. Write on the back of an photograph. Whatever moves you. It needn't cost anything more than the cost of a postage stamp, and it needn't take longer than five minutes of writing and a walk to the postbox.
Write what you see, what you feel, what you wish for. Find a choice quote that speaks to where you are. Feel free to ask the recipient to keep the card and return it to you at a later date, or maybe even send one in return.
Although I have been moved by many blog posts and emails, I rarely print them out for posterity. There's something so much more moving about handwriting, don't you think?
You are worthy of the love that you receive, especially when it's the love you give yourself in the process of giving to others.