And the Word Is...

Yesterday I wrote about our church's Star Sunday tradition, and how eagerly I  was anticipating choosing my word for 2011.  Over the past ten years, here are some of the other words I've chosen at random from the large stack of stars, layered face down in the offering plate:

  • Music (twice!)
  • Stories
  • Reading
  • Imagination
  • Practice

Today's word - letters - comes on the wake of this entry in my writing journal on December 31, 2010, as  I thought about the popularity of memoir writing, and contemplated writing out some of my own life story:

Gone are the days when people wrote letters in longhand, and saved their correspondence so at some point in the future their children and their children's children could read them.  Have memoirs become the letters of the future?  Our letters to the world about who we were, how we became the person we did, why we matter?

Letters have actually been on my mind for the past several weeks, and I started thinking about them when a fellow writer/blogger posted a Tweet to the effect that she was longing to get a handwritten letter in the mail.  It made me remember the days when Jim and I corresponded by hand on a daily basis - he was in college (all of 35 miles away!) and we faithfully wrote each other long epistles every single day.  Both sets of letters are in boxes in our basement, ordered chronologically (from September 1973 to January 1974).  They serve as a tangible reminder of a particular period in our lives, and it may be that one day our children (or our children's children) will read them and feel a tug of recognition in their hearts.

For a moment, I wondered why the word "letters" would appear in our Star Sunday collection.  But then I realized that letters were hugely important in the literary canon of the Christian church. The New Testament includes fourteen of Paul's epistles to the various towns and cities he visited, as well as seven other general epistles by other disciples such as James, Jude, and Peter.  These letters were crucial in keeping the new Christians informed about the progress of the faith, and reminding them to remain steadfast in their beliefs after the apostles had left their cities.

Letters have also played a huge part in literary relationships and history over the course of generations.  The correspondence between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville West comes to mind, as does Emily Dickinson's epistolary romance with Thomas Higginson.

I've been musing about what this word means for me, a woman in the 21st century who dabbles in writing and uses the internet to tell her stories.  I no longer write "letters" in the ordinary use of the word.  But I wonder if my writing here can become a modern day epistle - a chronicle of life in general and my own in particular that stands over time and allows the world to know who I am, how I became the person I did, and why I matter.

Because we all matter in this great cosmic scheme of life, we all have a star to follow.

May yours shine brightly and illuminate your way.