Intimate, as if conversing over morning coffee, Rose caught me up with a smattering of old family news.
She shared stories about family I knew only by name, like my new-found eighty-year old cousins living in Vermont. She told another about Great-Great Aunt Mary – who’d emigrated from Greece to America with my grandfather in 1911. She pulled a few special stories out about her father, who died when she was thirteen — even his prized family recipe for a Greek chicken-egg-lemon soup I whipped up last night.
Her bold script flowed fast over fourteen pages. But what amazes me most about Rose and this handwritten letter is how she refuses to allow her stories to grow stale. In spite of being recycled countless times, over ninety years of living, Rose tells it all fresh, reviving it to life again with rich detail.
In this week spent contemplating my writing, Rose’s letter has me wondering what makes for good writing. Does it come with a long-familiarity of subject addressed? Or is it an intimate sharing on matters closer to the quick of life? I only know her letter inspired me to response. And maybe, in the end, that’s what’s important – regardless of whether we spell our responses in words or actions.
Sometimes, as a reader of blogs, I respond by merely tuning in as a faithful reader — by listening to whatever it is the blog author wishes to share about life. When their words spark a written comment, I do so without thought of reply, regarding my blog post comments akin to prayer, knowing I’m heard whether or not I receive a direct reply.
I sometimes wonder if my best writing isn’t tucked away in personal notes and comments written over the years. It’s something I’ve wondered more than once, even out loud, a while back, to my spiritual director. The words spoken in spiritual direction are like prayer, too, in that I mostly speak into an attentive silence. Sometimes my words inspire a slow and thoughtful response. But rarely does one come rushing at me — as it did that day — when my director responded by saying he imagined St. Paul had probably expressed a similar thought about his own letter writing a time or two.
I confess I find it hard to read a response like his. I wonder what to make of it. And then I shift mental gears by wondering what his response will ultimately make of me. All I can say — two years later — is that I’m still working on a response to his response.
I’m thinking I may have one by the time I’m ninety. You can check back then — if not before.