The other day I got a lovely letter from a friend, expressing appreciation for something I'd written. What makes the letter more special is that it was typed, not word-processed. It's perhaps entirely a matter of perspective, or maybe there is an aesthetic of the technologically obsolete, but a typed letter feels more personal, takes more effort and care when there's no delete button, conveys a generous intentionality as trouble is taken.
My friend Stewart, whose funeral I shared on Friday, gave me a gift two days before the stroke from which he eventually died. The Naked Now. Learning to See as the Mystics See, by Richard Rohr, is now one of those books twice treasured - for what it is, and from whom it came. Inside it Stewart wrote in a characteristic hand, with his fountain pen, his own greeting and appreciation of friendship - neat, firm, legible and instantly recognisable as Stewart.
Typewriter and fountain pen - it's not that I undervalue all the other ways we keep in touch with each other these days - email, text, facebook and all other forms of maintaining and repairing relationship. But the typed letter, and the handwritten flyleaf re-present the faces and the voices of two dear friends. Emails and texts are transient, often enough informal chits of chat. But a typed letter and written flyleaf are artefacts of friendship and lasting fingerprints of touches on our lives.