my "letteracies" -- installment 2

what is the impetus to put pen to paper, or these days to type in the key of a letter? do we resist because we don't have time? or do we assume that our recipient, whomever he or she may be, can't or won't make time for such trivialities? have we lost our ability to render ourselves vulnerable, not only to people in our lives, but to our very selves? are we afraid that if every minute isn't spent with just the slightest hint of suffering and laboriousness, that we ought to feel guilt; rather than creating the spaces for unpredictability, exploration, aimlessness that we (as adults) and certainly that children and youth so desperately need? i think we're just all a bit terrified of looking foolish...
Happy August! I’m back at my grandmother’s house in Madras. We finished the southern leg of our India trip without too much of a problem. All in all I’d say it went well. … in about 1 month and 3 days I will be all moved in at Penn; for that reason alone I can’t wait to get home. That and the fact that I can mail you this thing, which I predict will be a pretty hefty package by the time I finish!
given my constant attention to time, temporality, and location in these excerpts, perhaps it is not a surprise that theories of space/time captured my imagination from the first read.  references to college are peppered throughout the pages of the chronicle, suggesting a restlessness that is to be expected of an adolescent during the summer before leaving home for college.
Ahoy, again! Or actually I should say “All aboard!” or something like that, because at this very moment I’m aboard the Corumendal Express en route to Calcutta. It is about 9:15pm and we’ve been on the train for over twelve hours. But we have air conditioned sleeping compartments, so it’s a whole “lotta” fun! It wasn’t more than an hour ago that tears were streaming down my face in reaction to the conclusion of one o the best books I have ever read, “The Prince of Tides.” The last thirty of so pages were absolute torture, but I loved every minute of it I haven’t had a book move me like this one did in a long time. it felt good to know and experience the beauty of a language that could evoke such true feeling and emotion. Perhaps I’m wrong in saying language. A more accurate statement would be that knowing that a contemporary author like Pat Conroy could have such a mastery of language that really and truly clutches your gut – well, it both strengthens and illuminates the aura of literature in the world today.

I just finished listening to some guy literally yelp the words “Love and happiness” over and over as accompaniment to a beautiful Sandborne sax. But that’s not the point’ it’s what he was saying, rather than how, that inspired this next passage.

Ok, let’s take these words into perspective: LOVE and HAPPINESS.
What the hell does that mean?!?!?!?
Love. I wrote an essay on this same topic. Now perhaps you’re wondering what credentials I had that gave me license to write about this great wonder of wonder. Well I had, still have, and always will have the one trait that I share with about four and half billing other creatures that inhabit the earth: the trait of being human and having the capacity to love. The trait that not only allows me to feel, but to express to the world these feelings – if I so choose.
So I embarked on a voyage that required self-examination to great degrees on my part. As the essay took shape, bit by bit, I realized that love really is more than one thing, that it is many things, and that I was one hell of a lucky person to have even experienced the different kinds of love I had [experienced] in these seventeen years, ten months, and 25 days (and counting) of my life. Granted that one of those [kinds] did not include the one thing always linked to love: romantic love. But I’m beginning to see that everything comes in its own time; besides I had so much else to write about.
i marvel that i thought someone would want to read these words, these crazy and meandering musings. this tablet was nestled in a box alongside dozens of other letters that dated back to my middle school days. i had french pen pals -- bruno and madeleine -- and exchanged letters of varying length with friends i would meet for a day, some with whom i attended school, and others i met in a month-long residential program during the summer after my junior in high school -- where i met my friend L as well as my now-husband. some envelopes are decorated with artwork, others -- especially the ones sent to me by my younger sister -- were adorned with stickers and doodles and last minute messages hastily scribbled onto available blank space of envelopes.

11:45pm is the time as I say hello again from Calcutta. It’s hard to believe that I lived here for three years of my life. My dad used to describe the city to me at the time when he was growing up. I knew it wasn’t the poshest of locations, but I didn’t expect such an onslaught of smog, pollution, and more people!! I always pictured Calcutta as very black and white – that’s probably because of all the black and white photographs I’ve seen of my dad’s childhood.

We visited some friends of my parents, who still live in the same apartment building. (The guy was dad’s childhood friend and had lived in the same apt. for 54 years!) Then we saw a lady who supposedly was my friend. Mom said that I’d spent more time at her house that at home; their flat is right next to ours. Both she and the previous couple I mentioned had last seen me when I was 3 ½ -4 years old. Boy were they shocked when they found out who I was!
as i read my old letters from my friends, and as i sit with the chronicle that was never sent, i am reminded of how much meaning comes through in the space of correspondence. such was one of the great joys in the story of the "goat on a cow" (which was recently re-interpreted as an amazing feat of dance choreography), in which the discovery of a stack of letters along the side of a road led to the unveiling of a relationship and identities once thought long forgotten. the finding of letters, whether they be familiar or new discoveries, is reminiscent of a near-sacred moment -- the opening up and peering into of the middle of a conversation, of a self being crafted and gently unfolding as the words create lines that take up pages. once i got past the initial cringing that is bound to occur as the inner critic rears her ugly head, i was able to see connections to some of the uncertainties, frustrations, earnestness, confusions, and emotional dilemmas that i see echoed in my conversations with many young people today. and perhaps more than anything, i was struck by the acts of making public aspects of a very inner and private dialogue. they made me wonder if and how youth are carving out those spaces in their quotidian discursive activities today -- where? how? with and for whom?

installment 3 to come shortly...
installment 1 here

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