The imaginary friend

Imagination to reality: meeting (again) in person, the smiles say it all.
Laurie, Matt, me, Kelly and Alys at Rustico’s in Old Town Alexandria, April 2017

“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.” ― Ann Patchett

I think most everyone who writes can identify with this quote. But for those of us who blog, the line takes on a magnificent blur as the imaginary friend we reach through our writing may, from time to time, step through the mist and become real to us. And for many of us, this might happen again and again, with several different people who read our words, and whose words we read, leaving us with an entire family of friends we might never meet face to face.

Just last week I was exchanging emails with a woman in a distant city whom I know only through this blog. Though she does not blog herself, nor comment very often, she writes to me privately and has sent me several precious tokens of friendship in past years.  I was able to tell her in all honesty that, though we had never met, I thought of her as a true friend.

Of course, sometimes we do meet in “real life,” which is a unique and exciting kind of joy. And sometimes the friendships we maintain through writing are the continuation of ties we formed in person when we lived in geographic proximity to each other long ago. But regardless of these details, once the friendship is formed, it flourishes through correspondence as surely as it would in person. As with handwritten letters, online correspondence that leads to friendship cannot be rushed.  Instagram and Twitter are fun and sometimes useful, but they can’t connect us to another person deeply with only random soundbites and snapshots. But through emails or blogging, unconfined by a limited number of characters, and set free from geographic borders and boundaries, we can transform the imaginary friends into real ones.

That’s not exactly what Patchett meant, of course; she is referring to the writing itself– the process– becoming the imaginary friend. And I don’t disagree that can happen. But how dimensional and vibrant it becomes, when that imaginary friend of writing introduces us to all sorts of fascinating people who also love to read, and write, and visit, through this historic form of communication that has remained vital from the age of quill pens right up to the era of digitally “instant” contact.

So I invite you to join me at the imaginary tea party that is always going here, or as Sheila and I might say, at various Club Verandah locations all over the world. We can chat and have lots of fun even if we never meet face to face. And if we ever do meet, it will be even more festive and magical.



  1. The “magnificent blur” reminded me of one of our mutual friends – LaGard – he likes to refer to “blurred lines”. Being with him in person, whether in a picturesque location, like the Niagara Escarpment, or in as out-of-the-way towns as Grand Rapids, MI or Searcy, AR brings a new realization: sometimes a disembodied writer can be, in person, exactly who you’d thought they’d be. (BTW – the last venue, mentioned above, had been the unlikely spot for the Late Margaret Thatcher to visit. A young small college, “campus cop” did such an amazing job during that visit that he has grown to become an important part of the US President’s protective team. Of course I am referring to the Secret Service; but as one of your most faithful readers says, “I digress”. Love it! Love your blog! And Love you!!

    • Thank you, Eric. 🙂

  2. Cherie

    Julia, you have been a real friend to me when I needed that connection the most. I pray your day is brightened by all your distant (but loving) friends! Praying for you and Matt each day. Love and Light. Cherie

    • Thank you, Cherie. ❤ Those prayers are keeping me going…

  3. Good Morning, Julia and Friends!
    Yes, thank you, I will be pleased to continue to meet with you on Club Veranda!
    Please join me also up here on my northern “Veranda,” where, due to temperatures, we do not have a shady overhang, but do put up large umbrellas if needed on hot days. (We’ve typically been calling this a “deck” but I think it can serve a similar purpose.) 🙂
    I’ll even make some lavender cookies to go with our tea, made from lavender, chamomile and mint from my own gardens.

    • Wow, lavender cookies and fresh mint! Count me in. I remember my Daddy picking fresh mint from just outside our kitchen window, to go in our iced tea. That’s probably the last time I had fresh mint in my tea, so it’s been a LONG time, but I’ll bet it’s as good as I remember.

  4. JillBortell

    Julia, I think you’ll agree that those long ago times have seemed like only moments ago. Just a few moments ago Drew and Matt were riding in my car and Drew was reading the signs on Troy Pike in Huber Heights. James and Matthew were playing with toys on the floor in the family room. Our little group, sitting all together on the rocking love seat. Such joyous times! I love you Julia, blessings on you in your new adjustments without your sweetheart! I watched Jeff’s funeral from beginning to end. So many sweet testimonies from his peers. Love those Grandbabies and take every opportunity to be with them, because they grow up in only a moment! Loves and hugs from Mama/Grammy Jill!

    • Thank you, Mama Jill, for checking in here with these precious memories. Thanks also for watching the funeral and sharing in our celebration of Jeff’s remarkable life. So happy and blessed you are with us here. ❤

  5. MaryAnn

    What a great photo, the beautiful smiles speak volumes! My Matt’s is the biggest one! I love you & how well you communicate with us! Press on, Sister Denton!

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. Your enthusiasm and encouragement are inspiring!

  6. Lovely, Julia! xo

    • Well, with a photo like that one, how could I go wrong? 😀

  7. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕ I remember that I came to read Defeat Despair the first time after I read your comment at The Upper Room devotional. I didn’t know that you would become so dear to me and we would be building a friendship across the miles, over the years. We’ve shared so much, built a friendship on words here, we’ve cried and laughed, and met at Club Verandah (with the h🤓) many, many times. You shared Jeff’s story here, often with insight of daily happenings, or past pleasures, and always with strength and character. I suggest to anyone that hasn’t read “About This Blog” to do so, or even take the time to reread it, as I did. To be able to come to Arlington for Jeff’s memorial service and to meet you in person was special beyond words! Love crosses the miles this morning! Sheila 💛

    • Sheila, did I tell you that I finally found out where I got the “h” from? Princess Cruises (our most often-chosen cruise line) spells Verandah with an “h” so I must have copied them. I am so happy you were there with us at Arlington. I have some lovely photos to send you as soon as I get them printed.

  8. Loved that quote. So true. The imaginary friend with whom we can share all our thoughts and feelings. As you’ve said it would be more fun when we get introduced to more such friends from around the world.

    • Well, here’s hoping one day one of us will make it halfway around the world to visit, and maybe we can meet in person. If I ever get to India to see our friends in Chennai, I will make it a point to include Kerala in my plans (even if you are not living there at the time– I still want to see it for myself) and of course, you are welcome to come see me anytime!

      • Let’s hope that will happen, some day!

        • 😀 😀 😀

  9. Hmm, I never hear from my blog readers/bloggers on WP in a personal way via email (well, I don;t give out my email, either), much less meet with them. That sounds interesting…not sure how it would actually be. But yo obviously have enjoyed this and that’s excellent! I do so love that we share each other’s company on these pages, and wish you, too, the best as ever.

    • Thank you, Cynthia. After reading your comment, I tried to count up how many people I have met in person that I know only through this blog and/or the Upper Room blog. Just off the top of my head, I came up with eleven. Each meeting was different but all were quite rewarding. I do tend to be careful about giving my personal email address out. Usually I start with just the email address for this blog, which I publish from time to time, and that’s how I’ve ended up with a lot of the connections. Of course, long before there were such things as blogs– over 26 years ago, to be exact– I began corresponding with a British pen pal I met through a promotion sponsored by some sort of friendship organization. We have written back and forth all these years, sharing stories of our hobbies, travels, husbands, children, then grandchildren, and now retirement. I met her once, in person in 2000, which was truly wonderful. In fact, I credit her with the firm establishment of what was then a nascent tea interest. After coming home to her fireside following a chilly day touring, and drinking several cups of genuine British tea (strong, complete with cream and sugar!) I was hooked and have never looked back. 😀 I am so happy you are here with us!

  10. You know hon, I don’t think I could have even imagined our kind of friendships when I started blogging. It honesly wasn’t even on my radar. I thought I was just going to document craft projects and other silliness and people I already knew might visit. Low and behold, barely a handful of readers were friends before I blogged. Maybe that’s why I thought Cyntihia’s message was a little sad. You’ll never ‘know’ before you actually meet up, but as I was saying to Joe over at Alys’s post, it’s amazing how many beautiful and wonderful people step into our lives, and you’re one of my favourites xox

    • Thank you Kelly. The whole blogging surprise, which so many of us have experienced and described, is one of those unexpected joys that feel almost magical because they defy prediction or expectation. This blog has brought me so many blessings, and you are DEFINITELY one of my favorites! ❤

  11. I would love to be able to someday meet you, Julia, and a few of the other great women I have met all over the world through blogging!! It would be fantastic! I thank you for your prayers and I pray for you and Matt also. I hope you have a wonderful week! 🙂

    • Thank you Patsy. I’ve been able to meet several friends I knew only through letters or blogging, so I know it can really happen! Meanwhile, blogging itself is a gift. I can’t help but wonder what use our mothers and grandmothers may have made of it. Probably much like what women of today do, sharing everything from craft ideas to household tips to deep joys and sorrows. I hope we BOTH have a wonderful week ahead. 🙂

      • You’re welcome, Julia. And thank you for sharing your heart. I have just been too busy with all of this stressful stuff the last couple of weeks to focus on anything I want to work on. I hope we both have a wonderful week ahead, too! 🙂 By the way, your son is very handsome!

        • Thank you Patsy. He gets that electric smile from his father and his grandfather (my Daddy). I think he’s handsome but of course I am biased. 🙂

          • You’re welcome, Julia. Yes, I could definitely see his resemblance to your husband. And yes, as mothers we are definitely biased! 😉

  12. Reblogged this on Patsy's Creative Corner and commented:
    Some lovely thoughts from my lovely friend, Julia, whom I met through blogging a long time ago. Enjoy!

    Have a wonderful day and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂

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