The Sacred Art of Letter Writing

A pen and the beginnings of a letter sit on top of a book, out on the patio.

“Hey, did my letter make it to you yet?”

I received that message on my phone a while ago. It was not the first time receiving a message like that, nor will it be the last.

The irony of receiving an instant message, checking in about a handwritten letter is not lost on me: couldn’t that person simply have sent me an email with all of their updates, worries, and concerns? Also, if they need to know when it arrives, doesn’t that take a little fun out of the surprise?

Anyone who has known me for a number of years is probably aware of my love for writing a good old-fashioned letter.

E-mail? I don’t usually take the time to write out an essay-length recap of my life. Something about staring at a computer screen kills my commitment to finish a lengthy and personalized update.

Messaging? Spotty responses and even worse now that I’m in Peru.

Phone calls? Yes, if you can figure out what time-change we’re in and catch me in the off hours I’m at home.

An average letter from the U.S. will take about 4 weeks (if I’m lucky) to arrive in my post-office box here in Tacna. By the time these letters arrive, the updates are usually old news: that job my friend was quitting is long gone, the baby has definitely been born, that concert they went to is so last month. But there is nothing quite like opening up an envelope and seeing the handwriting inside of someone you care about. A handwritten letter creates in my brain an image of that person in the act of writing these words down. I know that in the moment they were writing this card, their attention really wasn’t anywhere else – how could it be?  You can’t really look up and around or have a full chat while putting words down onto paper by hand. Someone took time out of their busy day and wrote down things that they felt pertinent and worth the effort to share with someone halfway across the world.

On my end, I love the physical act of letter writing. It has become something almost ritualistic in my life. I usually brew a cup of coffee, light a candle, and sit at my desk with the window open to let a bit of cross-breeze in. A deep breath and my hand begins moving, feeling the presence of the person on the other end of this card, imagining their smile as they read this, or maybe even a frown.

For me, letter-writing is an act of love. It is a moment in which I can send some of what I feel to this person. They may not feel those intentions when they open the envelope, but I sure their hearts can sense my intentions.

Originally published at

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