Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

1 Comment

Letters give the gift of time


Photo: Nelson Ashberger

I wrote last time about the deliberate intimacy of the written word and how we share it in letters and correspondence.

A wonderful resource, Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children, from author Dorie McCullough Lawson shares three centuries of correspondence collected from the likes of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ansel Adams, Jack London, Albert Einstein, Mary Todd Lincoln, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Thomas Edison. In addition to the good counsel they often share, these letters offer an intimate glimpse into families and relationships and represent the truest kind of history — the kind that’s people-based and gives us the most from which to learn.

In a wartime letter written as though penned by the family dog, Groucho Marx not only gave his soldier son plenty to laugh about during a tough time, but was able to express some of his deepest sentiments for his son, too.

Women’s-suffrage activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote that she was “making the path smoother” for her own daughters and everyone else’s. posterity

Illustrator N.C. Wyeth cautioned Andrew Wyeth: “There’s a real task on our hands, Andy. Modern art critics and their supine followers like the flat and the shallow.” Imagine how those words kept his artist son company in later years.

As historian David McCullough, father of the book’s author, observes so aptly in the book’s foreword, “Often the authors want only to save their children from making the mistakes they have.” Of course, while they can’t accomplish that, such “missives of love,” as he calls them, can at least keep the next generation company and give them heart and encouragement on the path.  China3.2009 169

Within the letters our daughter sent us from China, we were able to see the heights and depths of the strong young woman she was becoming. These could be harder to see in crowded family gatherings or busy day-to-day details, when so much of what we “share” and “communicate” with each other involves so little of our truest feelings or best intentions. I remember how moved I was the day she told me that reading our letters, unlike talking with us, was like knowing more of who we really were — even more deeply.

Letters give both the writer and the recipient the opportunity to invest one of the most precious and rarest of resources in a relationship these days — time. You can’t write or read a letter and give your attention to anything else at the same time. It is truly a visit, and one that reminds us that what’s most real about our selves and our relationships absolutely transcends time and place.


A shade quite opposite of gray …

My big thanks to blogger and all-around angel Angie Kinsey for giving me and Snow Fence Road such a nice interview feature in her Motivational Blog for Writers and Artists:

AK: You’ve called your book “the exact opposite of 50 Shades. Did you set out to write a book that was the opposite of “Shades” or do you base most of your stories on emotional romance rather than graphic sexual encounters?

PER: No matter what sort of writing I do, my goal’s always to highlight the beauty and meaning that can exalt the human condition. A lot of current writing focuses on aspects of “dis-ease” we can all recognize in the human struggle, then bogs down in the mess of its symptoms.  It does the same thing conventional medicine does – focuses on pain and imbalance, giving center stage to the horror and fear these generate. This serves mostly to entrap and preoccupy the instinctual side of us, I think. Snow Fence Road Cover

But what about the wider options in the liberating power of the healing process itself? That greater part of us it’s calling forth? I love the potential power and purpose story can convey about our highest possibilities. That story must come full-circle and be authentic enough to satisfy those who make time to read it, of course. I’m also always wondering: How are we raising our vision toward something greater, rather than simply settling for the imbalance we see around us, or devolving into the negativity it creates? How effectively are we exercising our power of choice? What do we invest in – i.e. “pay” attention and give time to? And why? How is that making us feel, and how could honesty about our feelings (something nearly absent in Western culture as I’ve known it) lead to the true intimacy that is also absent in so much human experience?

Find the interview with Angie at: