Let’s celebrate the magic of Jane Austen! Enter to win a beautiful copy of Sense and Sensibility and enjoy a special article from Bella Grace Issue 18 entitled, “Shades of Jane Austen.” Do you have a favorite Jane Austen novel? Share with us in the comments below!
I was one of those girls with a dozen pen pals; there was glittery ink on my fingers, and I had a dresser drawer overflowing with pretty paper, fun stickers, and never enough stamps. Who doesn’t love getting snail mail? You cradle the letter in your hands and think about the love that it has carried across the miles to your doorstep. Or you rip it open immediately and read the contents with the delight of a small child over a glass of ice-cold chocolate milk. It’s incredibly special to think of someone taking time out of their busy schedule to scribble thoughts on paper, seal them up, and send them off into the world to bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.
When my oldest brother went to boot camp, my siblings and I lived for his letters. We pounced on them the instant Mother finished reading them aloud, carrying them off to read and reread ourselves. I remember Mother keeping those precious letters in a thick bundle tied with pink ribbon — whenever we really missed my brother, there was something comforting about being able to pull a letter out and linger over it. His scrawled writing described fascinating stories, painful struggles, and his strong affection for us. Letter writing has always been special in my family. There’s a large green box in my grandma’s room that’s stuffed with love letters from her youth when she and my grandpa were engaged and the Atlantic Ocean separated them. I caught a glimpse in that box one time and the pages are thickly written in beautiful Spanish — no doubt sharing their dreams and anticipation for the future
Once I grew up and life became a maelstrom of adulthood, I didn’t write letters any more. Text messages, social media, video chats, and the occasional phone call were my new methods of communication. Sometimes I dug out my boxes filled with stacks of letters and re-read them, reliving days when life was easier and alarm clocks and schedules unimportant. Inevitably the longing to grab a pen and write to someone came over me, and just as inevitably my doubts tripped me up. With all the instant communication at our fingertips, is there a point to sending a letter that won’t reach its destination for several days at least? Would people feel obligated to reply when they could make better use of their time? I consistently tucked the idea away under “nice, but impractical.”
Everything changed when I became friends with a fellow book lover and writer via Instagram. We had lots in common (kindred spirits as Anne says in “Anne of Green Gables”), so when I tentatively suggested writing to each other, she agreed at once. In her words, she “absolutely adored snail mail.” At first I struggled with remembering how to write a letter. Now, I have to make myself put down my pen before my letters turn into small books. And the rush of buoyant happiness when I see a plump, battered envelope in the mailbox never gets old. A friend described it as feeling like one of the Bennett sisters in “Pride and Prejudice” when they pounce on the mail with eager excitement the moment it arrives.
Sometimes it does seem like I’ve stepped back into an era when pleasures were simpler and the pace of life more gentle. Since re-introducing myself to the art of handwritten letters, I’ve noticed a difference in how I manage my time. I’m purposefully slowing down and guarding my windows of opportunity through the week more closely. They’ve become bubbles of quiet space when I remember to be still and breathe. I brew a cup of mint tea or decadent hot chocolate for myself, turn on soothing music, pull out my stationery … and write.
Annie Hawthorne is an old-souled writer with a penchant for whimsical books, traveling, and people-watching. Follow her adventures and appreciation of literature at anniehawthorne.wordpress.com