"It's great to be talking again!"....thus began a recent email from a friend who has had less time to email, being swamped with work (makes me feel like a total slacker, although I do make up for that in September and January!) after being tucked away in a Greek mountain village during a mostly-no-internet Spring break. This friend--Helen--made a somewhat miraculous reappearance in my life last Summer after over a decade of no communication; when last we had 'spoken' it was through handwritten letters before we'd ever heard of a thing called 'email'. A move, a lost address, and in the blink of an eye it seemed that the thread between us--a pale blue thread the color of whisper-thin airmail envelopes stamped 'par avion'--had broken; there was no gentle fraying, just a snap and two dangling ends. Once Al Gore invented the internet (okay, I joke about Mr. Gore, but that's because he broke my heart by not showing up to truly run for election in 2000...) and we mere mortals became entangled in the world wide web, I searched for my long lost friend, and even emailed someone with the same name once with great hope, but alas, it wasn't to be. And then one day I checked a mostly-defunct email address and saw her name in my inbox! Turns out she had been trying to track me down, a task made more difficult by my first-name change a decade ago that she never knew about, but bless her heart, she kept trying. What a joy it's been reconnecting the thread, now the gossamer web of cyberspace. And how different it all is now....we 'talk' to each other several times a week, sometimes even several times a day!--no more weeks or even months of daily mailbox checks waiting for that blue envelope, watching for that (even still) familiar handwriting. We get to peek into each other's lives now with luxurious immediacy as photos magically appear in our inboxes. Images of her beautiful daughter (in whose face I can see more than traces of the girl I knew when we were that age some 35+ years ago, before Helen returned to her home in Greece) and the gorgeous sunset in my backyard fly through space and time, instantly reuniting us.
I refuse to believe that the printed word is fading before our eyes, that soon the whisper of turning pages will be replaced by the silent touching of a Kindle screen. Those decades of letter exchanges were a pleasure, reading page after page detailing a life, thoughts, wishes, dreams, hopes; putting pen to sometimes elegant stationary and other times to frayed notebook paper, was satisfying and cathartic. Every letter strengthened the fabric that was first woven in a seventh grade classroom, so I miss--just a little bit--that tangible connection. But I also love the instant gratification of connecting this way, of sharing thoughts and events as they happen, communicating in almost-real time, even if our present-time has a seven hour difference. I love that we can laugh at the same things, discuss the weekend or the volcanic ash cloud or the health care bill that just passed or Linda's latest project or Helen's daughter's school assignment while it's all still fresh and current. And I rejoice at the magic that has allowed two friends to reweave their friendship of more than three decades.