Living My Letter-Writing Largo

largoLargo. Not being musically inclined, it was an unfamiliar word. It drew my attention in a recent essay headline related to living at a slower pace.

largo articleThis week I began the arduous, yet delightful task of working with an editor on my creativity book. The seeds of this book were planted in my heart a long time ago, shortly after my mother passed away in 2010. The completed manuscript was submitted last May. As much as I am hurried and impatient to see a finished product, I’m also keenly aware that an entire chapter in the book is devoted to the concept of “slowing down.” I’ve often lamented my inability to slow down, just “be,” relax and savor moments, and envied that ability in others.

In her essay, Christina Capecchi  elaborates on the musical term: “Largo as an art form comes after the practice, once you turn off the metronome and play what you love.” 

She goes on to say that she discovered an invitation to slow down, in the form of a handwritten letter that was sent to her. With that, she had my rapt attention.

In our busy modern world, to sit down and write someone a letter is a powerful affirmation of that person’s dignity,” she writes. “The recipient is worth each pen stroke, each thought written for her and her alone.”

Letter-writing; an invitation to slow down? Why was this such an epiphany for me? After all, I’ve been a letter-writer for as long as I can remember. I still have the letters my parents and siblings wrote me in 1978 and 1979 (in response to letters I’d written them) during my freshman year at college. I also have several binders filled with hundreds of articles and essays I’ve had published since 1988.

What if all those years of hand-writing, letters or otherwise, has been my method of slowing down? What if writing is playing at what I love?

Largo has another meaning. It derives from the Latin word largus, meaning abundant. Writing has indeed contributed to my abundant life. When I sit down to write an essay, or work on a manuscript, it requires slowing down. Pausing to think. Taking time to pray. While hours can pass as I write, I enjoy the flow so much, it feels like minutes.

When I write a letter, I’m thinking about the recipient, even to the point I’ll choose stationery and stamps with them in mind. I guess there’s a reason it’s called snail mail. Not just because the delivery is slower than electronic delivery, but because of the time taken in the writing.

I get a thrill of excitement just seeing that unopened package of butterfly paper in that bottom drawer full of stationery. And if you get a letter from me with one of those 10-cent “Letters Mingle Souls” stamps attached to the envelope, count yourself special. Those are the only stamps I paid more  than face value for. All the others were purchased through discount postage lots on eBay.

I love my wall rack filled with notecards and greeting cards. This area of my house is my happy place. When I’m relaxing in my recliner for those treasured “slow” moments, I can glance up from writing or reading and see things that bring me joy, like this rack, or the teddy bear my mother made, sitting on the trunk next to it. Downsizing for a move last year put a dent into my collection of paper and cards, but I’ve somehow managed to replenish the supply. And though I sometimes miss my desk, I manage to keep my letter-writing supplies well organized in a small shelf that sits atop my record player.

I’ll be sharing both my wealth of supplies and love of the snail mail habit at several events I’ve scheduled at my workplace this fall; a Saturday in late November for a day-long retreat lauding the benefits of letter-writing, followed by a Saturday afternoon card-making event and three Saturday mornings devoted to Snail Mail Socials, when coffee and pastries will be served at morning gatherings for those who want to work on their Christmas cards, address cards to soldiers or cancer patients, or just write letters. When better to enjoy some slow down moments than the busy holiday season?

In the meantime, I think I can stop berating myself for not slowing down more.

A letter a day can keep the guilt away~

letter

Note: Christina Capecchi, the author of the “Living in Largo” column mentioned here is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something.” Read more about Christina at christinacapecchi.com/

 

 

 

 

TUESDAYS WITH MARY

For several weeks after my husband’s death, Tuesdays were simply a reminder; the reminder of a Tuesday loss.  I brought my husband home from the hospital on a Friday. I took him to the doctor on Monday for a follow-up checkup and on Tuesday morning I found him unresponsive in his chair. And then I counted the Tuesdays without him; one, two, three, four, five, six…until I eventually stopped counting, and started doing.  Tuesdays were an unbearable reminder of a life without David. I still count the months on the 27th; August 27th was five months.

But at some point, and I’m not sure when it began, I made a conscious decision to stop wallowing in my tears every Tuesday morning, and start doing something outside of myself. David wouldn’t have wanted me to continue the Tuesday morning countdown. He definitely would approve of what I replaced it with. This is what you will now find on my entryway table every Tuesday:

Remember letters?  Remember a time when the mailbox held something other than bills? Better yet, remember stationery? That pretty paper that makes writing and receiving letters all the more fun? If you are like me, you’ve never stopped writing letters.  I have one friend I write to several times a week and she does the same. We’ve been writing letters back and forth for over 24 years. But now, every Tuesday morning, instead of the dread of a day that reminds me of my loss, I wake up with the excitement of knowing I am going to send a card or a letter to someone other than my friend Mary (though she often is included in the Tuesday morning ritual as well). It might be two or three cards that get sent, or just one long, newsy letter. It could be a letter to one of David’s siblings, or a card to someone I know is going through a rough time. This morning it was a birthday card, two thank-you notes and a letter to Mary. Next week, who knows? I am never certain even the day before, who will be the recipient of the next day’s mailings and that is part of the excitement.  All I know is, at some point after making the decision to reach out to others, I stopped counting Tuesdays. Has it been 21 weeks today? 22? Or is it 23? I can’t tell you without consulting a calendar, and that is the way it should be. The fact that I am no longer counting the Tuesdays gives me hope for the future.

Maybe someday I won’t even be counting the months.