With the reader’s eye
“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.