Shortly before I moved across town at the beginning of December, I sent a letter to my new address, as a welcome home. But I didn’t include my apartment number (it had slipped my mind). I sent it a couple days too early, there was no one by that name at that address. So it was sent back. But by that time, I had changed my address at the post office: so it was forwarded on. But it had already been sent back from the new address once. So it was sent back again, and went into postal limbo, from whence it emerged only last week; but I had forgotten about it by then. So it was a little traveling time capsule.
The longer pace time walks with when you write letters: you write, you send, you wait. A month later, the conversation you had started continues, with the reply. You view it from a new place – much has happened. Do you still speak or think in the same way? But not much has changed in a month: are you different at all? An interchange of letters makes a good repeated theme: longer than a measure, shorter than a movement. And, unlike either, subject to variation, expansion, iteration; potentially never completed.
I used to be an excellent correspondant (up to about eleven years ago), I remember writing letters between classes, on the metro, during classes, at home in the morning and the evening. I would have hardly sent a letter off before beginning another, often to the same person (to be completed, and sent, after I got the reply back). The extended monologue directed to a single person is a model of thinking.
Recently I decided to start writing again. I made a list of everyone I could think of (I made a file of stamped and addressed envelopes), I wrote three letters a day. I scattered them, for about a month. And so now I’m receiving my bread back from the waters. A couple times a week, another letter comes in, or two, replies go out. Correspondances make a nice zigzag canopy to live under: they provide continuity and mutually reinforcing roof support, like a web of interlocking rafters, or better grape vines growing on a scaffolding above a path.