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“I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil. Sweet, incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart!” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Lewis Carol did it for Gertrude. Beethoven did it for his ‘Immortal Beloved’. Bonaparte did it for Josephine. It’s been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If that’s so then maybe the way to a woman’s is through a love letter. Call me old fashioned.

I’ve been writing letters for as long as I’ve been able to write. My grandmother’s got me started. Though we lived less than twenty miles apart, we wrote to each other all the time. It was the highlight of my week to get a letter from Nana Jean. When my Gramma Daniels spent more time in Florida than next door, she too would write to me on an almost weekly basis. Even my best friend since the fourth grade and I exchanged letters, and still do!  I think I had my first pen-pal around that same time.  Her name was Yaffa and she lived in Israel. Our letter writing only lasted a year or so but I still have the few that she sent me. There was a pen-pal in Virginia, too as well as in Georgia. By high school, I was writing to six people (all male) in the U.K and one in Germany. It was always a thrill going to the mail box and finding that air mail envelope waiting for me. It never got old. One of those Brits would go on to become my first fiancee.

Then along came email. It was the beginning of the end for the hand-written love letter.  As it became easier, faster and cheaper to send things via email, with the exception of holiday cards, there were no more air mail envelopes in my mail box. There was still hope though!  I could get a reply within hours of having sent something out. Oh, how I loved it back then! It still lacked the personal touch of seeing the way someone would write my name or sign theirs. I pine nostalgic.

Technology stepped it up a notch and gave us Instant messaging and online chat rooms and cell phones and texts. Faster ways to communicate indeed but along with that speed there has also been a huge decline in the quality of the content of those messages. The thought, the eloquence, the emotion that went into the letter writing of my youth has been completely sucked away.

And now with all the talk about doing away with teaching cursive writing to children, I am utterly horrified! My father has the most beautiful handwriting I have ever seen. It’s as much a part of who he is as what he looks like and the way he speaks. It’s a pity we are so willing to give up something as personal as our handwriting just to save a little bit of time. What’s the big hurry anyway? Is there some sort of race going on I am not aware of?  In the end, we are all going to end up in the same place, the grave, and quite frankly I am in no rush whatsoever to get there. Maybe if we all slowed down a bit and took some time to look around at what we’ve been doing, things would be better. When you rush too quickly into any situation the chances of screwing it up on the way through increase. We’ve all gone mad trying to get too much done in too little time and for what?

When it comes to love it’s also a good time to slow down and consider. That’s what writing love letters can do for a couple. It gives each person time to sit back and think, to open up in ways that maybe they can’t face-to-face. I know I am horrible at face-to-face communication. By writing I am able to stop, breath deep, think it through and write it down slowly and carefully. It not only helps the one I am writing to to better understand me, but it helps me to better understand myself, my own wants, goals and dreams.  Maybe if couples were required to write each other love letters once a month there were be less misunderstandings. It would open an avenue of communication that seems to have been lost lately. I’ve even heard that writing love letters to yourself can be very therapeutic. Why wouldn’t doing it for the one you love have the same effect?

It has been said that when Love is not madness, it has not Love. Let’s write each other love letters again and spread the madness.

My dearest,
When two souls, which have sought each other for, however long in the throng, have finally found each other …a union, fiery and pure as they themselves are… begins on earth and continues forever in heaven.

This union is love, true love, … a religion, which deifies the loved one, whose life comes from devotion and passion, and for which the greatest sacrifices are the sweetest delights.

This is the love which you inspire in me… Your soul is made to love with the purity and passion of angels; but perhaps it can only love another angel, in which case I must tremble with apprehension.

Yours forever,
Victor

(Victor Hugo to Adele Foucher, 1821)

 

 

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