When We Write Words to Another

Excuse this letter’s being like a hotch-potch. It’s incoherent, but I can’t help it. Sitting in an hotel room one can’t write better. Excuse its being long. It’s not my fault. My pen ran away with me—besides, I wanted to go on talking to you. It’s three o’clock in the night. My hand is tired. The wick of the candle wants snuffing, I can hardly see.” ~Anton Chekhov 

Ah, aren’t hand-written letters a thing of beauty? Chekhov’s reflection reminds me of the letters I’d write to Marsha in the dead of night in some far off hotel room during the early days of our courtship. In my writing I came to discover things about myself I never knew and, more importantly, would never have known had I not written her letters. In my effort not to hide myself from her I opened myself up to — me.

I really miss letters. I miss writing them, I miss receiving them. 

There was a time when letters were the thing. Long distant phone calls were expensive and the internet did not yet exist. I communicated with my family mostly by letter in the 1970’s and 80’s. Lately I’ve been rereading many of the letters I sent my mother. 

Garrison Keillor describes a letter this way:

Such a sweet gift — a piece of handmade writing, in an envelope that is not a bill, sitting in our friend’s path when she trudges home from a long day spent among wahoos and savages, a day our words will help repair. They don’t need to be immortal, just sincere. She can read them twice and again tomorrow.“

I came across a letter that author John Steinbeck wrote upon learning his son had fallen in love. Here’s an excerpt:

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had…

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration…

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good…

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



What a lovely message for a father to write his son!

The other morning a note from my friend Joe Thomas showed up in my email. In olden times it would have appeared in my actual mailbox. I would have tucked it away in a special place because its message was so — saveable. So I save it here, now, for posterity:

I’m dwelling on the sea of tranquility. Well, perhaps not dwelling but I’ve become a frequent visitor to this Other World.  When I enter this tranquil place I am amazed at all my discoveries. For instance I sit on my balcony and watch a spider spin his webs.

And I’m fascinated!

I contemplate the vastness of the universe and am so astounded that I can hardly breathe……..

I look around this peaceful place and discover I’m by myself. Alone, but not afraid. No competition, no hope for anything. No remorse, no coulda, no woulda, no shoulda.   

It’s good, it’s all good, it’s all very good.


You’re right, Joe. It’s all very good. Thanks for dropping me a line.

Perhaps you have your own words waiting to be penned, or typed, or texted to another.

Just a thought…

Pat and Marsha

Copyright © 2021 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.

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