Most of us don't write letters any more. Email is fast, convenient and cheap. We send snail mail only when we have to - originals, contracts, maybe a postcard. Considered and heartfelt letters penned by hand were, until this last month, something I hadn't sent or received since childhood. Then, during February, I was on a course where I had nothing else. No phone, no internet, nothing but pen and paper and stamps. It was a gruelling program: pre-dawn to late every day, almost no contact with the outside world, except through letters.
I was lucky. Over the month I was away, friends and family wrote me 20 letters and cards. Sometimes they came one at a time; once, nine together. I don't know how many I wrote back (more than 10, less than 20), but those words, back and forth, strung the days together, making spots of light in the dark. I had news of the outside world, but more importantly, I had encouragement and connection. Time had been taken to write and send those letters, thought put into their words; and time and thought gave them weight. They meant more than every email I've ever received together, and I will keep them and read them over.
Letter writing may be somewhat romantic these days, but I don't think there was anything particularly romantic about the ones I sent and received this last month. Almost the antithesis - it was pure function, words as part of survival. When there is nothing else, that which remains takes on greater meaning. So I thank everyone who wrote to me. You can't imagine what it meant to read your words in the cold and dark, and think of home. Thankyou all.