Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thinking of letters and lights

In some quarters, the second week in January is considered National Letter Writing Week. There seems to be a difference of opinion on the subject. If we allow every week to be a time of correspondence and sending odd, lovely or controversial snail mail, the debate evaporates.

One of my Christmas gifts was a copy of FLOATING WORLDS: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer. Neumeyer is interviewed on the subject HERE.

Examples of illustrated envelopes from the book.



Mr. Gorey simply makes me want to be better at everything I set my hand to.

-----------

Other post-Christmas musings.

The Christmas tree still sits beside the bookcase but the lights have not been turned on for three nights now. I leave the Christmassing of our home to my son. It asks more than I have to make it happen. Yet I would not be unhappy to have that warm glow of the lights for a bit longer. For years (years!) I’ve thought of having some light strings in my bedroom - I have a string of heart-shaped lights which haven’t left the box since I bought them 12 or so years earlier. There are unused clear lights I could add, maybe a spare clutch of the small, multi-colors I favor, left from when we got bigger trees. Our artificial, pre-lighted tree has been the right answer on so many levels. When the in-town tree farm prices hit $80 for the smallest fir, I knew we were finished with that. Freshly cut and drilled to drink up water from its specifically-designed stand, it would stay moist and fragrant. We’d bought from the farm for so long that I no longer trusted the dried-out offerings from tree lots. Especially as December almost always brings wind which speeds the drying. And there was no reason or possibility of going to the Chinatown auctions to buy a tree right off the train. Our little bright tree is just right. But there is something that reaches beyond the season in the lights, plus the string of large, old-fashioned bulbs we have draped around the wrought iron baker’s rack that holds the children’s book collection. Both bring an inner and outer warmth, the absence of which I feel when they have been extinguished for the year. It would be a gift to me, and not take away from what the Christmas lights add to human days when it is their season, to allow myself the simple gift of finding a place to drape, in safety, a few strands of light that I could see from bed, like having a bit of Christmas, like a plate of cookies each bedtime, to sweeten the fact of being human, of longing for what cannot be had or regained. Light and color feed my soul. I need to take that more seriously.

16 comments:

susan t. landry said...

You know I love these gorey envelopes! And you should know that I have a string of tiny white lights in my living room all year round and have had for years....I am entranced by them. Half woman, half moth.
Mail art rocks my world.
Love to you......

Rubye Jack said...

You should make it happen. I want to do the same. Before I moved I had a string of red rose/flower lights but for some reason didn't bring them with me. Some silly reasons like there was no space or something. :)
Anyway, I need to get some more because they make such a great difference.

Jayne said...

How long it's been since I've written a proper letter (save for cards w/a note) and dropped it in a real mailbox.

I spent New Year's with my sister in New Hampshire, and while there, she opened a bag of old letters that she had long forgotten, but had discovered just days prior. I couldn't believe how much we snail mail corresponded (was the only option back then) with each other. Her, fresh out of college, working in the city, and me still in school. We had lots of laughs reading them. I've saved her letters, too, and I'd love to gather all the mates and reunite them.

How will we continue this tradition when the USPS closes its doors? Perhaps we should reserve more than just one week for National Letter Writing. ;)

Hang the lights, Marylinn!

Erin in Morro Bay said...

Taking a cue from Nina Bagby I hung little white lights in my studio, and love the magic they bring. We have strings of icicle lights on our balcony rail outside the bedroom sliding glass door and leave them up year round. We turn them on occasionally throughout the different seasons when we feel like a little more magic.
Erin

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - Of course, half woman/half moth. A recent guided journey meditation brought me a moth, my new shamanic symbol. And aren't Gorey's envelopes beyond words? Imagine one of those waiting in the mail box. Will we have to resurrect the Pony Express if they take away the USPS? It seems a fitting delivery service for mail art. Love from here, xoxo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rubye - I, too, have left treasures behind for foolish or non-reasons and try to recover from the regret. Your red roses are easy to imagine, such a lovely glow. I do intend to have this notion become real and wish the same for you. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - We probably can't turn the tide, but we can add to what is good and important on multiple levels. Yes, write and send letters. Brighten the envelopes. Be foolish, never ordinary. How wonderful that you and your sister have the correspondence you shared. And yes, I will hang the lights and report when it's done. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - I've seen a picture of Nina's lights. It, along with Christmas, may be what moved me forward with this particular yearning. I am glad for your magic that moves from season to season. xo

beth coyote said...

Put those lights up!

Thanks for the Gorey envelopes. They're wonderful.

~Beth

Marylinn Kelly said...

Beth - Yes, the lights WILL go up. Glad you enjoyed the Gorey envelopes. I learned, during my Googling for the images, that he - Edward - was called "Ted." I never knew. Doesn't quite sound the same. xo

grrl + dog said...

there may be some tradition of taking the tree back to nature so the tree spirit or fairy on top can live..

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - I acknowledge that an artificial tree may be bit short of elemental spirits and I can see that taking a real tree back to nature has meaning. Somehow, though, there is something - a language that speaks to us through sight? - in the glow of lights that conveys that sort of spirit. I grew up spending a great amount of time in forests, sites of family recreation, especially the redwood, and know in my cells about The Trees. I miss the scent and company of a real one, yet know this is a better choice for us. xo

RachelVB said...

My Grandpa and I write letters - thick letters, front and back. I love them. They are gifts - each one. I wish I was better at drawing things on the envelopes, though.

I still have some lights up and my wreaths - although the tree came down and I gave a sad, thanks for making my home smell wonderful, I'll miss you goodbye.
There's nothing wrong with twinkle lights. Nothing at all.
xo

RachelVB said...

And Speaking of letters! I just found this today: It’s called Letters in the Mail. Almost every week you’ll receive a letter, in the mail. Letter writers will include Dave Eggers, Tao Lin, Stephen Elliott, Janet Fitch, Nick Flynn, Margaret Cho, Cheryl Strayed, Marc Maron, Elissa Schappel, Wendy MacNaughton, Emily Gould, and Jonathan Ames.
http://therumpus.net/letters/

toomuchaugust said...

gorgeous and deeply comforting.

ok, next year i am doing lights in my bedroom along my book shelves. i'll post a photo that says thanks to you.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Sherry - Thank you. I'll do a post as well when I finally have mine in place. Rhetorically, why is it so difficult to do these simple, comforting, cheering things for ourselves? xo