Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pen Pals

Did you ever have a pen pal when you were young? I did. My elementary school arranged pen pals for us and I wrote to a girl in England for over two years.

Her letters arrived in those onionskin-light fold-up packets. I LOVED getting her letters and I loved re-reading them. I can't remember what two 4th-graders had to write about but we each managed to fill our letters.

Last night I saw Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Ann Patchett (Bel Canto) speak as part of the Portland Arts & Lecture Series.

They had met briefly at a book fair and began writing to one another. Their friendship developed through letters. How charming. How Victorian. This lecture allowed them to meet in person for the second time but they already knew one another quite well because of all the letters.

The way we reveal our thoughts in a four-page letter is fundamentally different than the way we communicate in an email or on the phone. Which is not to say I don't like my cell phone (what did we do without them?) or email. But as I listened I did envy Liz and Ann's friendship through letters.

I wonder how I'd find a pen pal today?

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