Friday, August 28, 2015

Finding Time For A Mandala Or Two

"To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart." (Phyllis Theroux)

When was the last time you received a good old-fashioned letter? Written by hand...on special cursive...delivered by the mailman, days after it was penned?

When was the last time you sat down and did the same? Probably been a long, long, long time.

The art, and joy, of letter writing and receiving is, I'm sure slowly dying away. And that's too bad. It's a pleasure - and a courtesy - that just doesn't seem "to fit" anymore in our digital, high-tech, texting, Insta-gramming, selfie-taking, IPhoning, Facebook-liking, say it in 140 letters or less tweeting, #whosgotthetime, #whattheheckiscursive, world.

But lucky me. At least once a month, I still get to savor this antediluvian treat. My mother still regularly writes me still, and her letters are always gifts of love that I treasure. I got one just a couple of days ago.

I always enjoy reading them. Each one is a "paper potpourri": filled with all sorts of news, musings, thoughtful reflections, questions, sometimes a poem or two. As I read each squiggly line, I can see her sitting at her writing desk or at the kitchen counter; head cocked, pen gently scratching. I can hear her quietly chuckling when she recalls a fond memory. And I feel the touch of her hand from across the miles as I read what she ends every letter with: "Hope to hear from you again/soon. Love, Mom".

What I'm most grateful for is that her letters keep coming, no matter how infrequently I respond in return. They are truly gifts, sent freely and generously. I often think of them as my Mom's "mandalas": carefully crafted, sent, then let go of. Nothing held on to. Nothing expected in return. Pure expressions of love.

When I do take the time to reply, I often send her back a letter: typed on my computer, attached to an email. That's where I spend most of my time, writing and corresponding. It's quick; it's easy. Click "Send", and it arrives in Scholls, Oregon (300 miles away) in seconds.

But yesterday, I decided to sit and write back to her as she had to me. I took paper and pen, and sat out in my backyard, and scribbled and scrawled a few pages in return. And as I sat, and as I wrote, I learned some things that are easily missed.

There was real pleasure in the physical sensations/skills of writing with pen and paper. I was forced to slow down. Forming the letters required greater presence. Leaving a scribble or scratch-out, or seeing my lines gently slope across the page, conveyed a real "human-ness" - something a typed letter could never do. And I also knew that when my Mom received it, the same "human-ness" would be appreciated. She would caress each page as she read it, lingering and re-reading parts of it she enjoyed. When was the last time you ever did that with an email?

I also was reminded that real Love holds nothing back for itself. When I finished with the letter, I sealed it in an envelope and slipped it into our mailbox. A little while later, I caught a part of myself wanting to re-read what I had written - for the sheer pleasure of enjoying what it had created. That same voice also sighed impatiently, "I wish she had the letter right now. I wonder what she'd think of it".

But I could do neither.  My "mandala" was gone. There was nothing about it that I could "keep" for myself or enjoy immediately. Love was what nudged me to slowly craft it - and then it was Love that would carry it to its destination, in its own time.

"Letters are like wine; if they are sound, they ripen with keeping. A man should lay down letters as he does a cellar of wine." (Samuel Butler)

In the end, I think what I appreciated the most was the reminder that there's still beauty in being an "Ink and Quill" soul in our Digital world. I want to remember to keep finding ways to slow myself down; to give freely; to not always do what's easiest, or most convenient, or most pleasing to myself.

I want to remember to take time for all those things that a part of me thinks it doesn't have time for.

It's likely my Mom will read this blog before she receives the letter I wrote yesterday. I know she will appreciate both; one will not spoil the other.

It's easy to fill one's days with so many things that in the end aren't worth a fraction of what one moment of kindness, contemplation, or love can give. The older I get, the clearer I can see this.

What am I putting up in "my cellar" each day? What am I giving my time, my energy to? Two questions worth asking each day.

I bet my Mom didn't realize that her letter would spark so much in me. I didn't realize it would myself.

But I'm grateful for the gift, and the Pearls delivered on "Pooh" paper. Thanks, Mom.

Love, Jon

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