my "letteracies" -- installment 1

i've always found letters to be magical in nature. not only receiving them -- although i will admit that receiving a letter in my mailbox or a meandering email in these days of communiqué barely the length of tweets thrills me to no end -- but also writing them. unlike other forms of writing in which i routinely engage, so often driven by someone else's needs or demands, letters beckon to a different voice, an all-too-often quieted voice -- a voice of go-nowhere-quick ideas, confusing-at-best and nonsensical-at-worst punctuation, ambitious descriptions that sometimes fall quite short (but the joy is in attempting play with language); in letters, i get lost, happily lost.

i was positively jubilant, therefore, when i recently came across a 6"x9" ruled writing tablet that contained nearly 20 pages (double-sided) filled with musings, commentary, and often just idle chatter that i had composed while traveling across india during the summer after my high school graduation. for four weeks, i rode trains, boarded planes, squeezed into cars, jeeps, and all other manner of conveyance -- even a "boat" that looked like an upside-down mushroom, made of tightly stretched buffalo hide -- with my parents, my two siblings and my two friends as we journeyed north and south and east and west through the country where i was born. what makes this chronicle particularly intriguing to me is that it was written as a very long letter to my friend L with whom i had exchanged periodic correspondence for nearly a year before. letters, written long hand, before email was de rigueur.

as it is probably obvious by now, i never sent this travel chronicle and when i read it again in its entirety just a few weeks ago, i am even more thankful that it stayed with me. the letter writing space that my friend had opened up for me nurtured my curiosities, heightened my engagement with the world, and invited me to consider new audiences for my words and work.  for a then-17-year-old, such a space was simply wondrous. a true gift. and one that i have been able to reconstitute to some degree in newly found and "founded" spaces of correspondence. in this vein, i echo the joy of letters found in one of my favorite blogs, the letter writing revolution.

so, in the spirit of engaging with that young, 17-year-old girl -- and because i promised my friend i would share bits of these missives, no matter how silly and embarrassing they may be after so much time has passed! -- i'm going to spend the next few blog posts reprinting excerpts from the chronicle, not to navel gaze, but rather to become reacquainted with my former self and to rejuvenate my empathy for young people who are constantly negotiating multiple terrains in which they are striving to make themselves known. in that spirit, i offer these nascent scribblings as a springboard to my own memory work around the many meanings of writing -- and of letter writing in particular -- in my life. (and in so doing hope for generous readers who recognize and are willing to overlook the clumsiness of an adolescent seeking and crafting a voice out of words...)


… So, where am I now? At this point in time I am sitting in an uncomfortable, hexagon-shaped stool in a hexagon-filled hotel room in Mysore, India. … It’s been about a week now and I feel like I’m just going through the motions. … Today’s the 5th straight day we’ve been travelin and sightseeing and the strain is slowly beginning to have a negative effect on everyone’s demeanor. We’re all getting kinda testy!

Well today was more than fabulous and I am sitting here in the Kabini River Lodge in the middle of a national forest.  [Earlier today] we boarded a most wonderfully bumpy jeep and were given a 2½ hour tour of Nagarhole National Forest. But wait, it gets better: aside from the countless groups of deer jumping, leaping and standing still, we saw, up close and personal, bison, peacocks, and my personal favorite, a beautiful group of elephants. One even started to charge at us! As you can most likely tell this was absolutely, unquestionably, fantabulously, indescribably GREAT! The fact that we had to get out and push the jeep out of the mud a couple of times only added to this adventure.

Right now it’s about 10:25pm and the only sound besides the ceiling fan and this pen writing on this paper is the soft murmur of crickets whispering outside. No horns, cars, people; nothing but simplicity. I wish we could stay here for a few more days.

OK, that was a question break. So, tell me, how are you doing? I know you can’t tell me right now… but oh well. Are you all set for another year out in the wilderness in WV? Is it really that “isolationary?” you go out and have a good time, I’m pretty sure… right?
Do you ever just close your eyes and for just an instant feel your body being lifted – feel weightless? A sensation similar to a vacuum flows through your entire being like a flash of lightning. Every in of skin feels the instantaneous tingling, like a feather barely touching the hairs on your arm, legs, and neck. Your eyes seem to be traveling through the brain. This is an instant of complete and absolute peace and inner harmony.
And then, it’s over.

...more musings and chronicle excerpts to come in installment 2...

1 comment:

td said...

what an adventure it must be to reread such musings and reflect on them. i can't wait for the next installment.