Marja-Leena Rathje
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a letter to a friend


Recently Beth wrote about e-mail being the death of letters, resulting in a loss of permanent records for posterity. It came to mind this morning while I was emailing a friend in a more than usual chatty fashion. I started thinking about how it might have turned out if I'd written it by hand. Terrible handwriting and unedited incoherent thoughts for sure (though the latter still happens in emails, heh). Yet the pleasure of opening a real hand written letter is very rare indeed, and I'm guilty. Anyway, I thought I'd share that 'letter', slightly edited for privacy and the addition of some links.

Good morning to you, R!

The sun is shining here after days of heavy cold rains. It seemed like November already. And this white stuff you are talking about in Calgary - frost? or snow? Yikes. Whistler has had snow and there are reports that our highest peaks around here would be dusted as well. In the dark last night we started bringing in yet more of my potted plants (yes, I have a LOT) after I read that it's going to 5C tonight.  Strange how cold the west has been while the east has been very warm, the opposite of normal, though it's cooling now in the east. I have to get outside today and gather a few more plants. F tells me I have to cut back on having so many plants!

I should be at the studio today, but I got distracted by the weekend trip, and feelings of sadness and pain at seeing the downhill spiral of aging and illness in my favourite uncle and aunt. I'm having trouble focusing on this new work I'm doing - needing to feel and think about what it is I want to do to make this say what I think I want it to say. Before you start worrying about me, let me say that this is normal behaviour for me (and many artists) when starting new work, especially after a break of not working. Yesterday, at the studio, I had a helpful chat with another artist who offered some good suggestions on how to approach this. Now I just need to discipline myself and make time to focus on it. I know it will all fall into place soon.

So, I will work on that for a while, then do a few chores. Late this afternoon is the opening of a friend's show. F will be cycling as usual and will meet me there after work. The bike stand/carrier is inside the back of the van as well as a change of clothes. When he's cycled up the big hill to the college, he'll load his bike in there, change and come find me in the gallery. Afterwards we can drive home together. It's a pattern we've developed whenever we want to meet somewhere after his work.

I'm rambling here... Now to your news..

How wonderful that C has found work! Where and what? I hope it will be a happier experience than the last position - please give her my warmest best wishes!

Thank you, R, for sharing your latest news about your research on your project. Amazing how much you have to deal with people and politics even when writing about a dead person. I suppose that is true more or less in many endeavours. It takes a lot of energy, but you are very skilled at that, R! Good luck, as always. You do sound like you are feeling better.

It's the Thanksgiving weekend coming up, will you be seeing your family? I think our family will be here on Sunday.

Yes, I do hope we'll have a chance to chat on the phone soon. 


Marja-Leena | 04/10/2007 | 6 comments
themes: Being an Artist, Tools and technology


Hello Marja-Leena
Thank you for sharing your letter to your friend.
I love to write and receive letters.
Mine are often 'illustrated' and contain cuttings and clippings and photos and things that I hope are of interest and bring pleasure... I guess that's the old equivalent of an attachment!
I thing the main attraction, for me, is the physical pleasure of receieving a letter, holding it in my hand and feeling a connection with the writer, that and having something 'real'
Sadly we're too busy to write real letters now and do e-mail is a gift that enables us quickly to reach out and chat but I still devote time, often on Sunday evenings to letter-writing...
je te souhaite une très bonne journée

Mouse, I would love to be one of those lucky recipients of one of your lovely letters with 'attachments'. What you describe is an art form that I never developed much, except for Christmas cards. My dear Danish friend delights me with letters like that - she still refuses to use email.

I also neglect to write letters - seems it's becoming a thing of the past fast. I have difficulty simply because I print everything instead of writing it. My aged hands become sore, and my eyes squint from vision problems. But the wonderful conversations we have are very meaningful - we share some of life's journey together! Have a pleasant Thanksgiving Marja-Leena & Hugs to you too!!!

Thanks R, I'm glad you did not mind my sharing my email to you. It wasn't planned that way, I thought of it some time after sending it to you. Even though we don't write 'real' letters, we do have 'real' conversations, don't we?! Happy Thanksgiving to you and C.

I agree that letters are very important. I receive very few these days, but I continue to write both snail and emails. Like Mouse I like to choose appropriate cards, enclose articles, out-tearings, etc when I see them for the friend. I always long for such in reply, and have even thought of sending them to myself from holidays, etc. but never did.

The best letters I used to receive were from an artist/illustrator I worked with. He not only used to illustrate the letters, but also the envelopes. I still have all of them, and am sad that he used fugitive inks on the envelopes so that they have lost the ghostly pastel colours. They still have the whacky lines, however, and are just wondrous.

I love emails for the informal immediacy. I'm not really a good telephone communicator, so think of the emails as the one side of the chat which I can deliver whenever it suits me and to be received whenever suits them.

Olga, thanks for your thoughts. You were blessed to have those illustrated letters! Christmas letters seem to be the only ones I do, and they're still done on the computer (easier to edit!) and printed out and snail-mailed. Sometimes I try to use interesting papers to make them warmer. What a job that used to be to handwrite each. Like you, I'm not much of a phone person either, much preferring email.