The quiet beauty of small joys: the handwritten letter

Over the next few weeks I’m going to blog an occasional series on the small, quiet joys that enrich our daily lives. Some of these might seem quaintly old-fashioned; they used to be everyday things but now, because of their rarity, have taken on new meaning. Or they might be unexpected delights that arrive out of nowhere to lift our spirits and brighten up an ordinary afternoon.


I begin with the handwritten letter. When was the last time you received one? Or sent one?

Before the days of email, there was just mail. If you wanted to communicate with friends or family, you took the time to compose a letter, find a stamp and post it. Mothers wrote long letters to children away at university or travelling abroad. Canadian high commissions and embassies around the world accepted and distributed letters from home to backpacking twenty-somethings who rejoiced at the arrival of a light blue airmail envelope covered in mum’s familiar handwriting and bearing a postage stamp with the word Canada on it.

Stationery reflected the letter writer’s status, intent and sophistication. It could be as simple as a lined pad from the drug store to specially embossed, personalized paper in pale cream with matching envelopes.

And then email changed all that. Sure, email is great for immediacy, but it’s not attractive and it doesn’t have much staying power.

A handwritten note card or letter carries emotional weight. It takes more effort to send, so it means more to the recipient. The sender has touched it with her own hands and the writing is original and unique.

My friend Eirlys and I exchange emails but more often, we send each other letters. Newsy little note cards about what we’ve been up to, a little planning for our next get together in North Wales, random thoughts on this and that.

The pleasure and joy her handwritten note cards bring far outweigh what I would have experienced reading the same information on an email. Seeing one of her cards in the mail when I pick up the post, tucked in with a bill or two, brings a small surge of joy. It’s great fun to reach for my letter opener (yes, I have one), slit open the envelope and pull out the card or letter. Of course, this little ritual includes a cup of tea and a sit down for a leisurely read. News of the weather and how her garden is doing. What the neighbours are up to. A suggestion for a place we might visit when we get together again in August.

And then the card goes on the mantle piece to be re-read and enjoyed again later, and then eventually tucked away in a box with other cards and letters.

Not to be deleted or forgotten.

And that’s the lasting joy of handwritten notes and letters. They hold and preserve memories.



4 thoughts on “The quiet beauty of small joys: the handwritten letter

  1. I still write handwritten letters. My best friend and I used to write every week. It’s less often now due to life being busy, but we still write. I will never give up handwriting letters. It’s much more personal.

  2. This is a wonderful post. I enjoy writing letters. I treasure those I receive now because it is so rare. Every year I look forward to an “aerogram” from my 85 year old friend in England. I keep all my handwritten letters in boxes dating back to my school days … I can’t bring myself to throw out these memories. Email just isn’t the same.

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