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I'm fond of the written word. Well, most written words. I'm not terribly fond of utility bills, insurance papers or the 85-page manual in 6-point font that comes with a toaster. But words -- in one form or another -- narrate our lives.

My days are spent reducing verbal agreements to written contracts and writing wills to leave worldly accumulation to one's posterity. Evenings often end with me falling asleep in a book, drooling my way through frontiers created by the likes of Steinbeck, Twain or McMurtry.

But my favorite words are "slow words" -- words brewed in the mind that then trickle down the shoulder to the arm, then the hand, and finally flow out the fingertips into the pen and drop as ink onto paper. The process takes time, happening over and over until the pages are filled with thoughts and emotions before being carefully folded and enveloped with a penned destination.

The handwritten letter is -- from the moment written -- a part of the past. It's the author's account of places seen or things done; of feelings felt for the recipient or confessions of new feelings for another; of heartaches and fears and mundane grocery trips and thank yous for ugly sweaters and everything in between -- all sent into the postal abyss to be read later by someone, somewhere.

I have boxes of letters. One box holds letters exchanged between my mama and me when I went to college. Through atrocious spelling and exquisite penmanship, she kept me abreast of the latest happenings in my hometown. She regularly included newspaper clippings of folks she insisted I knew, along with coupons and photos of flowers and pets.

A wicker box contains 100 or more letters exchanged between my grandmother, Ruby, and random soldiers during World War II. She never spoke of these letters to me. After she died, I learned she was part of a program in which girls agreed to be pen pals for boys who didn't have a steady girl back home. The girls' addresses were printed in popular Western magazines like 44 Western and Zane Grey. The letters are deeply personal and filled with intimate details of longing for home. Most all begin with "Dear Darling," and many contain marriage proposals to a girl they'd never met but -- for that place in time -- was a vital link to a world they used to know.

I have letters exchanged by my parents during the Vietnam War. I've letters from my pen pal in Barcelona, Spain, in the 1980s -- part of my four years of Spanish you'd never guess I'd taken. I've hundreds of postcards from 1903 through the present -- many of which are stuck here and there on walls and mirrors, each holding a story of their own.

And maybe that's the real difference from the emails and texts exchanged today. You can hold the letters, feel the depressions of the script and perhaps smell the lingering scent of the writer. They're more than words. They're a connection.

Kind of makes you itch to buy some nice stationery, doesn't it?

NAN Our Town on 02/16/2017

Print Headline: Slow words

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