by Nania Lee
Just the other day I received a letter in the mail from my friend James who, at the time, was completing a writing fellowship in Moveen, Ireland–a remote town that from what I’ve been told boasts scenic green pastures, writerly solitude (with the exception of an occasional peeping-tom-type visit from the neighborhood goat), and complete radio silence. That’s right… it’s a technological freezone… a place to escape the quick and easy distractions of cell phones and the internet so you can focus on reading and writing. As I read James’ letter, I realized something: It was the first real letter I’d received in years. It wasn’t mail sent for an occasion, not a birthday card or a baby announcement. It was just an honest to goodness, hand-written letter to say, “Hey. What’s up? I’m in this great place doing this and that. What are you doing?” Granted, the letter was written on 3rd of the month and I didn’t receive it until the 19th, so “this and that” probably changed quite a bit. But as I held the paper in my hand, I knew it was something I’d keep forever–not an email that would get filed away into the virtual abyss–but a paper letter marked with a culturally relevant stamp redeemed at the Cork Mail Centre, flown across the Atlantic Ocean and hand-delivered to my Chicago address. It’s a painstakingly slow process–but I think this time makes the writing and sending of letters precious and it’s sad to think that the fast-moving electronic age may be putting an end to this careful, age-old craft.