I have a pen pal

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Pen Pal

I have a pen pal.
I feel about 12 years old when I write that sentence but in a good way. It makes me feel joyful and excited.
My pen pal is a friend who lives and works in Maine and is often off-line when she goes to lead wilderness camping and canoe trips. To be honest, she isn’t much of an on-line person when she is in civilization. She will rarely email and will never, ever text (which is not a great way to get in touch with me, anyhow) and will stop by for lunch a couple of times a year when she is back in town or on the way to her next adventure.
Between those visits, we stay in touch by writing letters. Actual letters, hand written on paper. She will often use whatever paper is on hand; tearing out pages from her journal, if necessary, or writing on the backs of maps.
I have taken to using scrap paper to use up the extra sheets that I have used to print recipes, articles or flyers. It feels more environmentally friendly but I often think back to visits to the stationery store when I was 12 years old and did have several pen pals. I had stationery with pansies along the top that I used to write to my grandparents in Michigan, lavender colored sheets that smelled like it when you scratched them and notecards with a large “L” in the corner for more “official” correspondence.
Stationery stores are now a thing of the past and are not likely to make a resurgence. But I would make an argument that we should bring back good old fashioned hand written letters. I love when I get a letter from my friend in Maine. When she is sharing exciting news, she writes in big, colorful, loopy letters (not just CAPITAL LETTERS) and the writing she does at the campfire has a softer feel as she closes her day by sharing her thoughts.
Sitting down to write a letter to her is a very different experience than if I shot off a quick email. Before I put the pen to paper, I pause, look out the window, and think about what I want to share. It isn’t just writing, it is expressing my feelings and sharing at a deeper level. If a sentence doesn’t come out right, I rarely start over. Just cross it out and keep on going. No delete button to polish it.
Sometimes I will spend the whole evening writing to her, stopping to think about all the stories that I want to share and ask more about her life. Other times, I will start it after the kids get on the bus, come back to it in the afternoon and finally finish a few days later with each entry conveying my state of mind at those moments. Letters fly back and forth and it’s a conversation that I am having as much with myself as I am with her.
I don’t get the same sense when I send emails or the rare time that I post on FB. I know that writing by hand uses different parts of our brain than hitting the keyboard. More creativity flows through the tactile act of using pen and paper. I also believe that it opens up our hearts and creates deeper connections between people. Something that we could all use more of in our lives.

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