With the reader’s eye

Dear reader January 2015

Ozeki’s quote inspired me to stop reading and start writing. January, 2015

“Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader’s eye.  Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.”Ruth Ozeki

When I read this quote, I was flooded with mental images of the handwriting of so many people who live in my heart.  I thought of the letters from my grandmothers, and how I cannot bear to part with them, a fragmented vision of them coming alive for me again at the sight of their words written to me many years ago.

Of all the items that accumulate in a life of nearly six decades, I find that letters and cards containing handwritten notes are the hardest for me to discard.  I suppose that’s why I have so many of them, packed away randomly in boxes scattered in various locations, their contents seen by chance when I am looking for something specific.

Some are from people who will always be part of my life, and some are from those I knew only briefly, but each is unique, the words formed in loops or swirls or scrawls as personal as a fingerprint.

All of us who are blessed to know how to write legibly with a pen or pencil are in possession of a skill that is increasingly vanishing from everyday life.  It’s understandable, of course; like many others, I prefer the keyboard to the pen because I can produce words much more quickly with it.   And perhaps my initial difficulty with handwriting has left me with residual resistance to it.  (I was traumatized to get the first “C” of my life in that subject in fifth grade, and to this day, I print rather than use cursive.)

Yet I love to write by hand.  I love using different ink colors, and choosing stationery, and addressing and stamping a card.  I love walking it to the mailbox or post office and dropping it into a slot from which it will take a journey I am unable to make, visiting on my behalf a home too far away for me to drop by casually in person.

Whether or not you share this love of correspondence, I encourage you to give the gift of a handwritten visit to someone who may be cheered by having your presence in a tangible sense that the computer or telephone cannot quite duplicate.  You may find, as I do, that it’s a rewarding and relaxing experience, an oasis of calm in a sea of demands and challenges.

38 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia! I so enjoyed this quote. My handwriting reveals it’s meaning slowly – if at all! And like skin obscures the muscles and organs beneath, my handwriting obscures any meaning ….!
    However, I do have a friend with such lovely writing that I consider it “suitable for framing.” I’ve tried to emulate this, but after three or four words, I start to rush and lose the whole legibility thing again. *Sigh*
    Well, thankfully, there are fun “fonts” available!
    Have a beautiful day! (And I’m so pleased that you’ll be able to read this “swiped” message!)

    • Susan, I know a few people with handwriting gorgeous enough to double as calligraphy. Alas, mine does not qualify. But remember — it’s the individuality of the handwriting that makes it precious. Having said that, I totally LOVE fonts and could easily spend hours just playing around with them. Thanks for your good wishes. I’m sure my today was beautiful but it’s the kind of beauty that “reveals its meaning slowly.” 😀 Perhaps tomorrow will be more obvious. Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Sheila

    Good Thursday morning, Julia. Your handwriting conveys YOU to a T, so personable.📝 I saved the sticky note (regarding loose tea) that accompanied my Christmas package from you. I’ve also noticed the interesting assortment of stamps that you use.✉️📬📮 I’m always looking for pretty or different notes to use for my written correspondence. I always think a short note may still brighten someone’s day. “Hi” to your fellas! ☁️☔️☺️Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, thanks for your kind words about my scribbles. I saved all your sticky notes too, including the one that came with the vintage cloisonne butterfly ornaments (though I STILL haven’t sent you the photos I took of each one on our tree, where they looked gorgeous). I am a bit eccentric with the postage stamps but I so love using them. I’m also a stationery addict. I need to send you an assortment of notes if you like to look through them. I’ve always thought it would be fun to have a “note card swap” the way some people have cookie swaps at Christmas. Hmmm, maybe we can have a “tea bag and note card swap” at Club Verandah sometime! Your comment today definitely brightened my day, even though it wasn’t handwritten!! 😀 ❤

  3. Carolyn

    I miss getting letters or cards, but when they do come , they put a smile on my face. I do try to send out letters or cards with a written note on special events. Take care, hugs to all.

    • Carolyn, I will try to remember to send you some notes here and there. I made a goal of sending out at least one handwritten note for each day of this year, but I am already sadly behind. However I’m still keeping track in my little date book and by the end of the year, I believe I WILL have 365 of them recorded! So maybe some of them will be to you. We had a COLD day today, after a warm one yesterday. Hope you have a great weekend.

  4. That’s a fantastic quote. I’ve never really thought about this much but Ruth hit’s the nail on the head. Handwritten messages do tend to be taken with a slower eye. I love hearing experts talk about handwriting. Whether they’re verifying the validity or worth of a document or talking about what a slanted backwards ‘e’ tells about a writers personality, it’s all so interesting. The whole tradition of an autograph book (I had one as a teen) is solely on the thought of collecting a memorable piece of that person. I’ve kept a receipt for tires for my first car just because my dad signed at the bottom. It’s a very little thing, but I can’t bare to part with it. I love sending postcards when I travel. You don’t have to write much but it seems so nostalgic. The scene in your photo made me a little dizzy. Just thinking about looking out at an endless horizon of water freaks me out a bit. I’m sure it’s pretty though 😀 xoxox K

    • I used to have an “autograph hound” (remember those) and later, an autograph book. In my high school, the yearbooks doubled as autograph books too. I think that’s so sweet about your saving your Daddy’s signature. It sounds like something I would do. I loved getting the postcards you have sent me. One of them is still up decorating my shelf in the kitchen. It’s funny about the ocean; I know some people find it scary or less appealing, but I am totally in bliss when I am at sea. I just love looking at the ocean, whether from land or from a big ship or a little sailboat.

      • I haven’t a memory about an “autograph Hound” but I just Googled. Do you still have a stuffed doggie with signatures? I don’t know what happened to my autograph book, but I do still have my yearbooks with signatures. So funny to think how old they are now, eeeek!

        • K, I’m sorry to say that my cute little autograph hound (a white vinyl creation that was shaped like a dachshund) vanished years ago, probably in one of my mothers mass purges of my endless memorabilia long after I left home, for which I was not given veto power. I can still remember exactly what some of the autographs looked like, though. I vacillate back and forth between thinking I will pitch all my old yearbooks, and then thinking I’ll cut some signature pages out first, or maybe turn the whole thing into an altered book project. High school yearbooks seem so useless in adulthood, but I was on the yearbook staff in 11th and 12th grades, so I feel a sense of ownership of at least those. But they would definitely remind me how OLD I am, and how glad I am to be where I am now! But they would have some really retro-looking photos that might be great for crafts. It would be great to turn them into altered books with the entire story written from MY viewpoint (with names changed to protect the guilty, of course).

  5. Dorothy

    I have letters and cards I’ve kept that are more than 70 years old! Some are letters to my Mother from Scotland after she came to Australia in 1928. Recently I took a number of days whilst on holidays to sort through photo’s and cards, thinking I would cull them, but this didn’t happen and I have boxes of letters and cards I just couldn’t throw away, they all bring back so many memories of relatives and friends, so many who are no longer with us. I like to write notes to friends and last year I actually managed to write notes on all the Christmas cards I sent instead of a typed copy. I love to hear from my friends whom I very rarely see, even if it is only a short note. However, when time is short, emailing is certainly a great way to keep in touch.

    • Wow, PLEASE don’t throw away your letters!! If you don’t want them, I do! Letters from Scotland to Australia circa 1928 would be totally fascinating to me. I have actually bought old post cards at antique shops because I find them so intriguing. Email has definite advantages and I’m a big proponent of it (it blows my mind to hear it called obsolete!) but each mode of communication has its strengths and purposes. I hope people will always continue to post letters to one another through the “snail mail.” Hope you are enjoying some nice warm weather for us while we are enduring the cold up here. Thanks for being with us and bringing a bit of sunshine from down under.

  6. Amy

    I got your sweet card yesterday. I loved the beautiful stationary and of course I always love to hear from you. Looks like you had a nice place to sit on your cruise. I am anxious to hear about it. I am including a link to Jeanne Robertsons thoughts on cursive writing. Enjoy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4OxmFfKStA

    • Hey lady, thanks for giving me a laugh today. I always thought (given my struggles with what we called “real writing” when we were kids) that it could not have been an accident that the root word of “cursive” was “curse.” I’m glad Jeanne’s grandson agrees!

  7. Sherry

    Thank you for the hand written note and tea bags you sent me recently! I enjoyed the last one today and I believe your favorite has extra bergamot! Yum! I have had Green Earl Grey as well as every other Earl Grey I can find! This post about hand written notes hit home with me. Even though my handwriting is poor, and is almost like printing, I can always blame it on my essential tremor, thinking Kathrine Hepburn’s writing must have been awful yet she was very talented!

    Within this last month I dug out some old passports my mother had given me from her father’s sister. My mother never knew her Father since he died three months before she was born. The passports from mother’s grandparents came with some letters written to mother’s Aunt Mary. As I read these old letters my ancestry opened up to me! Nothing big was revealed, but, these letters from relatives in England to Aunt Mary in the States, helped me to identify people through Ancestry.com! If not for these handwritten letters I would not have been able to visit the Bradleys through the Westview Cemetery in the heart of Atlanta! I will treasure these letters and pass them down. One is almost a hundred years old! Eric has been working on a family tree for our Everett and now I have been bitten by the bug to investigate.

    We are thankful for your positive posts! We pray for you and yours. Love, Sherry

    • Wow, how cool that you have uncovered these roots from your past. I’m glad someone decided to save them. I didn’t realize Ann never knew her father. You’re right, the true way we come to know our ancestors is rarely through what we think of as big things, but more through the details. I am so happy that Eric is working on a family tree for Everett. I’m sure all your grandkids (and their grandkids) will appreciate it.

      When I first got addicted to tea on an ongoing basis, Earl Gray was what I drank 80% of the time (why mess with perfection?) but eventually I couldn’t resist branching out into other flavors. I always enjoy coming back to it, though. I’m glad you like it too!

  8. Ann

    I had an autograph hound and an autograph book too. I even have an autograph book that belonging to my great grandmother circa1856.

    In the last few years,I’ve made more of a conscious effort to send handwritten notes rather than emails. The effort certainly pleases me and hopefully the recipient. While I have not gotten into stamps the way you have, I love finding and using different notepaper.

    By the way, the unusual and lovely stamps you used on my chocolate award, have gone to the local VA hospital where several patients are stamp collectors.

    • Ann, I am green with envy about your great grandmother’s autograph book. I had no idea they even existed before our generation. Have you photocopied the pages?

      I just love shopping for unusual note cards, particularly at places like TJ Maxx where they can be bought at very reasonable prices. I also like making notecards, though I don’t allow myself time for it nearly often enough. Thank you for finding a great way to repurpose the stamps that I sent! I just love brightening up the mail, although I’m not nearly the artist at it that some people are. I actually had the normally-grouchy mail carrier come to my door with a fabulous package from Boomdee not long ago, and she was much more cheerful than usual as she exclaimed about what lovely work it was. So K not only brightened my day, but also the mail carrier’s day and who knows how many people handled her colorful package en route to me. I love it when people celebrate every day by adding fun and color and life to things that are often dull. Write on! 😀

  9. Julia, hello. I enjoyed your comments about handwritten cards and letters. I enjoy finding unusual cards to send to my family and friends. And I liked choosing colorful postal stamps for them.
    I don’t have good hand writing, never have and now more than ever, since my hand surgery. I no longer do hand written letters but do write notes in my cards.
    I enjoy Earl Grey Tea and the Sea! 🙂
    Blessings to you and your guys. 🙂

    • Merry, it sounds as if you and I have a lot in common! I can’t remember the last time I wrote a long letter by hand (other than the one in the photo, of course 🙂 ). My keyboarding is so much faster that it’s the best way to go if I want to ramble on. Plus I love the designs in note cards, and they force me to keep things more concise than I might without space limitations. Tea and the Sea are a great combo, no doubt about it! Thanks for being here with your sunny notes and warm wishes. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

  10. Sheila

    Julia, just checking in so you’ll know I’m thinking of you! I wanted to share a “Bill and Jack” story, or discovery. 🙏 It’s been a week of remembering his Dad, one year later. Bill was walking Jack on the beach, (walked longer than usual and had paused by some rock boulders) when he saw it in the sand. “IT” being a cluster of 5 seashells that formed a perfect ANGEL. He sat on the front porch, almost weak with disbelief. He handed me his find and I exclaimed, “It’s an angel!” He was quick to tell me that he hadn’t glued them together! God gave him a treasure today~~~~ maybe he’ll share this story with the Upper Room. 🙏 Love to all, Sheila

    • Sheila, what a lovely story! I hope he will share it. Thanks for sharing it with us. I’m so glad he had a walk with Jack on the beach today. ❤

  11. LB

    My handwriting is barely legible but I love to send cards and notes. I also love keeping them and I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    • LB, if your handwriting is unique, that just makes it more fun to get a handwritten card from you. “Barely legible” works for me. 😀 BTW may you should practice your signature autograph, if you get my drift. 😀 😀 😀 Not long now till we get to chat face to face!

  12. Megan

    As you will hopefully see soon, we’re trying to get Grady into handwritten notes early on!

    • I can’t wait! 😀 😀 😀

  13. Michael

    What a view. For some reason the movie Titanic comes to mind- not the ending, but the view from the bow. Sorry about that. Verie caught the A.M. flight to Atlanta yesterday to visit Norah and Josie for a few days and to be present for the first meeting of cousins as John Michael is coming from NYC-the City. Hopefully I can go out next time as schedule would permit. Nevertheless am planning a trip out in early May. Verie liked the Woodstock area on our last visit and will start to look at some housing in that area. Do you know that area? That it where we went to the very fine -KC Christopher’s restaurant for breakfast and of course I think they also have a Cracker Barrel, which we don’t have here in the Emerald city.
    Did you hear Mercedes USA is moving to Smyrna? For a number of reasons- affordable labor notwithstanding. Maybe I can get a job there. Mercedes is moving from New Jersey. Who knew.
    And what do you think of Harper Lee coming out with a sequel? I have heard she has some critics.
    I may have mentioned I have some hand written cards from my Grandfather Carter. He was a draftsman by trade and had letter perfect writing of which he would print each letter. He was one of those old school craftsman who have gone out of favor as of late.
    I have to go feed the fish now.

    • Hi Michael, I’m not familiar with Woodstock, but Atlanta’s outlying areas are one of the great strengths to that region, in my opinion; most I have seen are lovely and very nice places to live. Smyrna would be a good place to work. If you get a job with Mercedes I might have to change my mind about never wanting to own one. Currently BMW has a slight edge in my “jerkiest car” competition. If anyone out there owns a BMW, NO OFFENSE INTENDED!! 😀

      I have read some justifiable suspicions attached to the Harper Lee novel coming out just after her sister/legal advisor/lifelong protector’s death. Regardless of whether she’s fully capable of making the decision, one can’t help but imagine the publishers drooling over the prospect of cash inflow. Hard to see this as being about anything but money. Tampering with a fairly perfect story is worrisome to me.

      I’m glad you have some handwritten cards from your grandfather! Maybe you can try copying his script onto some sort of memento. While you are feeding the fish, can you see who’s at the door? (A nod to my beloved Fred Rogers.)

  14. Michael

    Having a “terrible winter” here, if you are a skier. 62 degrees here today. They say it might snow this weekend in Atlanta area proper. Older sons birthday is today. Valentine’s day baby.

    • Michael, 62 sounds blissful to me. I guess it’s a good thing I’m not a skier, for more reasons than one. What fun to have a Valentine’s Day baby! I hope to see Grady soon, so maybe the snow will blow over before I go.

  15. Michael

    I have noticed that those with excellent penmanship skills do so with a slow deliberance, and not in any way with haste. My grandpa would say to me, “You could write legibly if you wanted to.” Did not Melville write Moby Dick by hand? I guess he had decent penmanship.
    My Aunt took calligraphy and had also excellent writing skills, but alas I have few notes from her if any. I listened to an interview with local writer -Sherman Alexie about the writing life. I can send you a link if you like, but it is on the dinner party download pod cast on NPR, at infiniteguest.org.

    • OH no, now you will have me hooked. I had never heard of Infinite Guest but I just looked it up, and I could easily get addicted to such. Clever name for the site, too. I know I will enjoy the interview you mentioned as well as other entries of Sherman Alexie’s show. I don’t know much about him but I absolutely LOVED Smoke Signals. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it! Re: handwriting — ALL the great authors of decades past had to write that way, and think about it; they did not even have low-maintenance pens! Even after quills were outdated they still had to fiddle with fountain pens (and some still do). It’s interesting to wonder what Shakespeare and Melville and Dickens and Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen and hundreds of others would be able to do if they had computers. How would their writing change? Would it be as good?

  16. Michael

    I suppose you could scan some of the notes and cards and digitize them if you like. But that is not the same at all is it?
    In the third grade my teacher tried to change me to a right hand man. This I resisted and my pen skills suffered as a result. Or that has been my excuse. I usually print anyway. Have you heard of a Hemingwriter? It is some new dedicated word processor- especially for the writing life. No Wi-Fi or facebook, or Yahoo. Alexie recommends one, but I think he writes in longhand still. I like most of his stuff-short stories and probably his most famous book is ” The Lone Ranger and Tontofist fight in heaven.” He is a member of the Spokane tribe, in Eastern Washington and now lives in Seattle. I have gone to a couple of his book readings.

    I watched a netflix movie called Field of Lost Shoes about the Virginia Military Institute cadets who were called into battle at Market Gap with General Breckenridge? I thought it very good and I got quite emotional at times. They were so brave and a little reckless. Why do young people always charge the cannons? Tom Skerrit played Grant in the movie. Skerrit lives here also and is now starring in a local production of Don Quixote. at the Fifth Avenue theatre.

    • Digitized letters are not the same, but I plan to digitize at least some of mine. Whether or not that will enable me to pitch the real ones is a different matter. Jeff believes that he taught himself to write with his right hand because it was just easier; he shaves and eats with his left hand. The Hemingwriter sounds like a good idea for people who are serious about getting work done and not putzing around on the computer, but I can turn my computer into a Hemingwriter by disconnecting the WiFi while I work. For me, it also helps sometimes to relocate to a different room, which laptops have made it possible to do. I agree with the many writers who believe that writing by hand should never disappear from one’s life; it really does seem to come from a different place in the brain. But my words flow too quickly for me to be able to stay patient enough to write longhand when I can type so quickly and correct mistakes (which are more and more frequent the older I get) so much more neatly. Skerrit would be good as Quixote, I think.

  17. Michael

    The Mountain is out today.

    • 🙂 How fortunate for you! Even if we had a mountain, it would not have been visible today. Snow and low clouds.

  18. Michael

    Yes “Smoke Signals” was a great movie. One of his first I think. He has a great sense of humor. I did not realize he has more than one interview on the site. Will have to check it out.

    • Apparently he has a regular podcast there.

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