Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Letter to an Old Friend

I had a half-hour before getting picked up at my Mexico City hotel to go to the airport. The obvious thing to do would be to take out the laptop and check e-mail. But instead, I walked a couple of blocks to a nearby park and wrote a handwritten letter to an old friend. Yes, I will repeat that. Handwritten. Letter. The kind I’ll send with a stamp.

It felt great to write. This friend, Debby, is someone I habitually wrote letters to and got letters from in the pre-electronic days. And now I’m doing this weird thing of sharing it here electronically. Why? Well, I liked the thoughts and this is a technology that allows it to be shared more widely. Since it’s not too personal, I don’t think Debby will mind. (Though it just occurred to me that maybe she reads these blogs and it would ruin the surprise! Shh. Don't tell her.) At any rate, here it is, minus my signature handwriting.

Dear Debby,

How long has it been since I’ve written those two words! Remember all those letters we use to write in those pre-electronic days? I would go to the park with my Gary Snyder book to use as a backing and write to you leaning against a tree. We have given up so much in the Faustian bargain to exchange speed for soul. A whole generation—and more to come—whose children will go through their parents'  things when they die and there will be no packet of letters found in a trunk with the beloved parent’s character kept alive in memory through their handwriting. No peek into the windows of their soul, no youthful hopes and dreams recalled in those surprising moments of honesty or poetry amidst the “weather has been good,” “thinking of you” and “don’t forget that Thursday is garbage day.” No one will look through their old e-mails and if they do, it wouldn’t be the same, all those messages written indoors on a glowing screen and the letters flying by too fast to truly breathe into the moment and imagine the person at the other end.

So lovely to sit in this park in Mexico City, writing atop a stone chessboard table on the back of a (ironically) not-too-useful Google map. Doesn’t really matter what I say here—it’s the act itself of taking a moment apart, of claiming, “I am here and you are there and this moment makes a thread between us, recalls the threads already woven in all those moments we shared in our long life. We met just at the beginning of that whole adventure of naming and claiming our hopes and dreams, deciding what would steer us through the wrong turns and broken roads and traffic-jammed highways that awaited us and also awakened us. And here we still are. Isn't that remarkable!

I remember we promised to keep each other’s letters. Have you? Have I? I think so, in my basement. One of my retirement projects will be to read the letters I’ve saved. Maybe after I read yours, I can send them to you and you can send me mine. Hearken back to our younger selves and see what held up, what stayed true, what makes us embarrassed, what makes us wistful.

Okay, I have to meet my airport ride. Maybe I’ll continue this letter later. And I’d love to see the look on your face when it arrives—remember that feeling? Take care, my friend!



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