When I was eight or so, I wrote a letter to Dame Miriam Rothschild, the esteemed British natural scientist. I only knew of her because of my mother's love of nature; and so one afternoon, after a long walk in the nearby park to burn off steam, she persuaded me to write to her about the rhododendrons I'd spotted, bows heaving with the weight of the bright blossoms.

A month later, I received a typed letter in the post on thick, creamy paper. It was, of course, from Dame Rothschild, and I could barely believe my luck. It thanked me kindly for my correspondence, and expressed pleasure at my love, and indeed hers, of the rhododendrons out in bloom. I was delighted, as most children are, to receive real hard-copy, personalised mail, with my name on the envelope and sentiments expressed to me alone in its to-the-point prose. So too was I pleased the simplicity of the whole business of letter-writing; but for half an hour of concentrated study, I had convinced someone to dedicate some of their precious time to me.

"It's incredible really, to be able to gain access to the innermost workings of someone's mind through rows of cursive writing"

From that point onward I was hooked by letter-writing, and formed many alliances over the next few years; from my correspondence with an eighty year old double amputee (a former employee at my mother’s boutique Calico Casa) to my French penpal, to sending notelets home to my Mum from uni. It wasn't always easy to stay disciplined, mind, but every time I returned to a letter at whichever place I called home at that time, I was reminded afresh of the happiness it brought me.

Letters of Note became a regular place of procrastination, where during a spare hour or two, I could read Steinbeck's letter of love advice to his son, or nod in agreement as I pored over this New York newspaper editor's response to an eight year old's question of whether Santa Claus really exists, or well up over Iggy Pop's handwritten letter to a twenty-one year old girl, Laurence. It's incredible really, to be able to gain access to the innermost workings of someone's mind through rows of cursive writing; to feel the author's personality, wit and humour even when they're long gone. It almost feels too intimate an intrusion, were it not for the fact that this curiosity for humanity benefits us immensely. Peeping from behind the curtain seems justifiable in instances such as this, so that we may be able to tune into the intensity of emotion and weight of effort that was poured into every droplet of ink, every tear-splashed word.

"John Steinbeck equated letter writing to 'lifting weights'; referring to that curious way in which language limbers the mind"

I love anything, really, that bears a mark of human intent. I loved my Grandfathers old stamp set, and the way some of the sponge pads were worn down with pressure. I love second-hand fountain pens, which feels somewhat like slipping on someone else's shoes, shaped to their fit; and I love objects that will remain even when human memory becomes a little worn with time, until we chance upon an old letter in a dusty box from the loft, perhaps, and suddenly people, places, experiences from our pasts are thrown into vivid relief.

Everyone can be a writer, and this is proved by the act of letter-writing. In the words of Annie Dillard, "writers serve as the memory of a people. They chew over our public past". John Steinbeck equated letter writing to 'lifting weights'; referring to that curious way in which language limbers the mind. Indeed, this muscle memory that grows out of the act of letter-writing between two people both strengthens our knowledge of our human counterpart and so too intensifies a need to know more about that person. There's no academic skill required; and you don't have to worry about being eloquent, or poetic, or possess a vast vocabulary. Just being able to reflect on the page what we've seen with our eyes and felt in our hearts is enough, really.

So often nowadays, letter-writing is referred to an a 'lost art'. We don't need it, apparently, because of the advancements in technology that mean we can fire off digital communications at the slightest brush of the fingertip. But we do need meaningful connections; therefore as long as humans still desire company, a meeting of interesting minds, and a desire to find ourselves, letter-writing will never lose its power.

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