Friday, April 12, 2019


Yesterday, someone mentioned something to me about our past history of letter writing. Of course, no one I know writes letters anymore. Few people even write emails -- of the personal nature, to friends. Phone calls aren't commonplace either. You want to exchange information? You text. You want a more personal contact, say with a child? You Facetime (or do some such version of a video call). So are we worse off than we were in the past? Do you miss the paper trail of your most intimate exchanges?

In terms of keeping in touch -- I don't miss letter writing at all. In my experience, letters were never as fantastic as we now think they were. People are not good letter writers, or at least, they rarely connect well with the letter recipient through their written message. I should know. Living far away from family and friends all my life put me at the mercy of letters early on. It wasn't a great way to stay close. When sitting down to write someone a letter, you have to imagine what the friend or lover or cousin really wants to hear. Me, I loved personal content. I still love personal content. Observations, frustrations, whimsical musings, thoughts on what brings pleasure, or worries about ones place on this planet, recounts of delightful encounters, of love -- reading this, to me, is sublime. But few people are up for writing this stuff down. I have received too many letters in my life that are as dry as a sock that's spun too long in the drying machine.

(Not to say I was any better at hitting it right: my letters were always too hastily written, as if I was already thinking about how long I'd have to wait for a response if I didn't send something off right away!)

Are emails better? Yes, they are. You can counter! Ask for a clarification, and press for the thoughts, musings that you are so hungry for. And of course, you don't have to wait. At least not in the same way you did before. Oh, the disappointment when day after day the mail delivered nothing of value -- no personal envelope, nothing at all beyond the ubiquitous junk mail. I no longer expect letters in the (physical)  mail box. Waiting for an email response is far less tortuous. And it can come at any time! Mail delivery person no longer required!

Text messages? Useful stuff! I have no complaints about those either! With emojis to help infuse a mood into a message, you can really hit a person's soft spot pretty nicely. Getting a sweet daughter message is thrilling, for example! (Ed doesn't text. Ed also doesn't lay out his feelings in an email. Unless I send despairing reminders that I need to see emotion. He has, at least, gotten in the habit of capitalizing all the letters in love when he signs off. I like that.)

All this to say that I don't miss letters. And the more modern proliferation of communication tools is, for me, extraordinarily wonderful.

You could say, of course, that Ocean is a communication tool as well. The caveat here is that I have to step gingerly. This isn't a letter to a best friend across the ocean. It's a letter to a reader I often may not even know. Like a pen pal (remember those?) whom I'll never meet and who will never respond. And in guarding myself too much here, the possibility that Ocean content will become dry, like that endlessly spinning sock in the machine, is very real. Every day I work with conflicting thoughts: "make it personal!" and "not that personal!"

In many ways, what I put down here is what I wish I knew about other people's days. I wish I knew how you braved the cold spell, the storms. What your kids or grandkids blurted out on a car ride home. What you cooked for dinner that made you proud. I wish I could see the changes in your faces over the years. Or what you did when your doc told you to do more strenuous exercise. Or what game you played and whose soft skin you liked to bury your face into when the world felt rotten. Every once in a while, a commenter will send a thought or recall something from their lives and that just brings out the smile in me. But even if I don't hear from you, I imagine that your day is not that much different from mine. What's here on Ocean is not unique. Merely a summary of our common experience.

Well I might think about such stuff as writing, communicating, taking note. I'm trying to ignore the mean weather outside. Better to focus for once on what's inside the head than on the wind that blows around cold air with no intention of letting up.

Again, a morning walk...

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Again a breakfast in the kitchen...

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Again a morning of grocery shopping.

And again, in the afternoon, I pick up Snowdrop.

She considers visiting with the cheepers. She really does. But in the end, the farmhouse has to win. She turns around and runs to the front door.

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At some late point in the day, she goes back to my stack of French kid books. I typically pick up one or two when I am in Paris, but I never quite know how to introduce them and so they sit to the side, until Snowdrop just can't resist asking what they're about.

Today, she reached for two. The second one, La Plus Belle Maman du Monde (the most beautiful mother in the world) is actually based on an old Russian folk tale, where a girl loses her mother in a busy place and, in trying to describe her, uses words that are accurate for her, given her great love for her mom.

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Snowdrop is mesmerized by this tale. Being used to chapter books that have sequel upon sequel, she asks -- is there one after this? About the little girl and her mother?

Oh, the sweet feeling of sadness when a good book comes to an end!

Dinner. I picked up a lovely piece of fish at the store today. Now I pamper it, marinate it briefly, sautee it and marvel at how lucky we are to have so much good food within reach each day.