18 December 2013

The word was made flesh and dwelt among us

Like many of you, I am charmed by paper. I like the way it looks, smells, and feels. I'm charmed by ink as well. I'm a sucker for a good font, lovely handwriting, and everything from an intricate engraving to a lowly doodle. When you put paper and ink together you certainly end up with something that is (usually) more than the sum of its parts. For most of us, the pinnacle of this mash-up is the book (cue the spotlight and heavenly chorus). That amazing flesh and blood/paper and ink bundle of joy that will never be replaced by a circuit board and screen.

But books aren't the only printed matter than make me a little weak in the knees. Although many are cutting back their Christmas card habit, I am going the other direction. I love getting them (the newsier the better) so I figured I needed to give some to get some. (And how odd that in this day and age it took the annual Christmas card to find out that a casual friend who lives just miles from me is moving with his family to Thailand.)

The start of this year's collection. That would be Amanda being Merry and Bright.
Each year when the Christmas cards begin to arrive I start thinking wistfully of the days, not really that long ago, when getting the mail really meant something. I certainly love the immediacy of email and the ability of the internet in general to keep us all better connected than I ever could have imagined when I was in college, but there is something so nice about real mail.

When I was in high school, I fell in love for the first time--with a college boy. We met the summer before my Senior year of high school as he was getting ready to spend his Junior year of college abroad in Madrid. Not long after the school year started we began corresponding. Every day I would practically run home from school to see if there was one of those distinctive airmail envelopes waiting for me. Some weeks there would be multiple letters.

No relationship in the 1980s was complete without a mixed tape.
The 'liner notes' from a mixed tape he made for me in college.
We were still long distance, I was in Minneapolis, he was in Madison.
I have tried to make up for the fact that letters are a thing of the past by buying pretty paper and imagining all sorts of things that will never really happen.

I'm a total sucker for Moleskine notebooks. But with my poor handwriting and lack of artistic talent, I buy them and they sit empty. I recently gave a few of them away to Stefan at ArchitectDesign because I know that he will find a good use for them.

And what book blogger worth their salt can think of Moleskine without thinking Matt at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook?
While looking for images of Moleskine, I came across Matt Jackson, a gaming blogger who makes these wonderful maps. Just the kind of thing I wish I could do.
(Matt Jackson)

(Matt Jackson)

I've had better luck with this little lovelies filled with graph paper. Good for lists and for sketching out my dream kitchen.
And all of this reminds of S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst. Simon and I talked about it on the latest episode of The Readers. It is a book made to look like an old library book with loads of things (postcards, maps, clippings) tucked away in between pages and a marginalia conversation that is as important, perhaps more so, than the book text itself.

I'm not sure I would like the book, but I really want to own it.

I'm also a sucker for nice thank you notes. At least I use these.


  1. Awe, you've really hit a nostalgia button with me reading this post. Writing and receiving letters used to mean so much to me. When I was in high school I used to have dozens of penpals. Getting mail and reading through people's distinctive scrawls was such a thrill. Of course something of that has been lost with emails (great as they are). In addition to sending and receiving mix tapes when my boyfriend and I were separated by distance for a long period of time we also used to send each other cassette letters where we'd read short stories and poems to each other. Christmas cards do seem to be the last bit of tactile personal postage that still survive now that most people have gone digital. Even if Christmas is an overblown affair, it's still good for mail!

  2. I adore Moleskine notebooks too, and buy the cahiers because they are so perfect for carrying everywhere. My blogging notes in them are horribly messy, though, as they are often written while on bumpy trains.

  3. Yes - ephemera of all types! Although I wish my handwriting was better *sigh*. I start out doing my best but towards the end of Christmas card writing (which I will never give up!) inevitably it becomes a chickenish scrawl that I hope the recipient can decipher. I LOVED the moleskins, thank you so much and they are definitely MOST useful!

  4. I love paper as well, and love the mail. I also had many penpals when I was younger -- fewer now -- but I still have an extensive collection of notecards, stationery, and notebooks. I am rather fond of my handwriting, and love every excuse to use it ;)

  5. It has been so nice reading this post. Does anyone ever send a thank you card now? I do so love sending and receiving them.

  6. I adore Christmas cards, I think it's the best part of Christmas and am really saddened by the lack of them over the last few years (this year is terrible). I know postage is increasingly expensive and that they can be a chore to write but they need to be encouraged. Next year I'll send you a card Thomas.

  7. I loved this post today. It is lovely, motivating, makes men want to only use a fountain pen in 2014 and my 2014 Moleskin diary wants to be a journal as well as a diary. I have read this post twice now and think I will go back yet again. Beautiful. Don't worry about your handwriting. Keep writing on beautiful paper and tell us about it. All the very best for the new year.

  8. Oh, mix-tapes in the mail. And stripey airmail letters. Now I feel about 100 years old and very nostalgic. What does one do nowadays - something soullessly iTunesy plus an instagram of one's lunch?

  9. Oh, I miss real letters! But my handwriting was never very nice, so I always put them off. So embarrassing. I love books with all the ephemera in them -- I loved The Griffin and Sabine series, just because the postcards were so pretty.

    Handwriting is definitely going out of style. Most of the kids that come into the library don't even learn cursive any more, and they can't even read it. Sad.

  10. Eric: I had lots of pen pals in high school too. Mentioning Bronski Beat in a music magazine pen pal listing I managed to have about 60 gay pen correspondents. Was a great source of support for a gay kid in a small town in the 1980s.

    Geranium Cat: I have lots of cahiers and similar with about two pages written on.

    Stefan: Glad you are getting use of the moleskines.

    Mel: You are lucky to like your handwriting. I even did a mini-course in handwriting a few years ago. It helped, but my problem is that it doesn't allow me to write as fast as I feel I need to write.

    Mystica: I do send thank you cards. The trick is finding a reason to send one.

    Hayley: Yay. I will send one back.

    Pam: I like the idea of keeping things in a journal and I did keep one regularly for over a decade, but now days I feel the pull of putting it in e-format which is faster, more legible, and offers the opportunity for satisfying my OCD needs for organization, but lacks all romance and feels like a chore.

    Vicki: LOL. I am so glad that my time abroad in college was pre-Internet. I can't imagine how different my experience would have been if I was electronically tethered to everyone back home.

    Karen: It does make one want to turn back the clock.


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