"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

January 1, 2013

“Recieved book all right-I will tend to other.”

One of my recent blog posts was framed by the joys of reading a delightful Christmas story called Christmas at Eagle Pond by Donald Hall. I continue to be impressed by one small detail from the book: that his grandmother, every day, wrote on the back of a penny postcard to each of her three daughters (including Hall’s mother)—and they, in turn, wrote back to her their own daily postcards. Imagine: a few lines scrawled on the back of a card with brief news or observations about one’s day.

I have saved all of the cards and letters my maternal grandmother, paternal grandfather—and many other friends and family—have written to me through the years. They are treasures but few are as concise as a postcard. A stack of memories like that is so much better and more tangible than a silly “tweet” on Twitter or even a random Facebook musing. I imagine they are more comparable to the few lines a day that my great-grandmother kept in her voluminous daily dairies or what I write in my few-line-a-day 10-year journal (a gift to myself a few years ago): “Quiet day on the ridge. Our cattle are well-fed thanks to the boys, in Temple’s absence. Put up the last of the applesauce. Needed rain is coming.” 

This is the verso of the above New Year's postcard. I love that it is also to a woman named Addie as that is my daughter's name and she, too, is far away. Ironically, "Miss Addie Marel" was a resident of Gallupville in Schoharie County, in upstate New York. That is a very special part of the world and home to two dear photographer friends.

Of course, to mail one postcard today is the cost of a month’s worth back in the 1940s and with unlimited minutes on phone plans and email, sending any handwritten correspondence has become a lost art. Notes and written greetings have gone the way of the telegram (my parents received several when I was born in 1962 and I’ve only ever seen one in my baby book).

In recent months I have actually written more cards, letters and postcards than I have in the past fifteen years (ok, a few I have typed—or, rather, word-processed). Call it an email backlash (I will never Tweet, I can assure you, even if a future publisher might beg me to do so) or blame it on our lightning strike back in early August which limits my Internet use to a few WiFi hours a week in nearby Somerset (ironically, DSL is all set to go in on our ridge after years of pleading—but I’m actually considering not getting it!). My Old Order Mennonite friends, who rarely have phones and certainly no Internet access, like to send around “Round Robin” letters—a delightfully archaic act and something that seems more like an enjoyable chat among many on a Facebook wall in lieu of actual conversation. The difference is that it is handwritten and slower in its arrival.

After years of writing emails—some that should not have been sent, I admit, but rather said in person or a more considered letter (and one problem is that I type as fast as I think which either can be dangerous or long-winded or both: 100wpm is either a gift or a curse, depending on the situation)—I am going back to my postal roots. In the last few months I have found many stashes of stationery, note cards, postcards, and even unused Christmas cards in a massive post-move (even if it was four years ago) box cleanup. I have even found many well intentioned and numerous stamp purchases that had been tucked away. So, like everything in our pantries and freezers (and even present stashes I’ve been finding—this is the first year in forever that I’ve actually bought less than five items at Christmas for my entire list of people—you see, hoarding can have its advantages if you are at least semi-organized), I’m using them all up. It might take me a decade but I’m determined to contribute to the struggling U.S. Postal Service along the way—perhaps even to brighten the days of my friends and family, on occasion, too.

I still don’t have a “SmartPhone” (just a track phone that I take, begrudgingly, on the occasional extended trip or solo overnight) and I don’t even want one. The computer—with its limited weekly hours of Internet on my (already ancient) Mac PowerBook—is sufficient. Facebook is fun and occasional and I do like being part of a wider network there (but am no longer addicted or afflicted with it). Blogging is something I miss—although I have not figured out how to be concise in this medium, I admit, after almost eight years of having blogs—but even that can be arranged with some finesse and photo uploading. On occasion, it has seemed, I was living to blog (and to photograph everything)—which isn’t always a good thing, either. I am even picking up the phone more often despite a long and tempestuous relationship with this intrusion.

So here is to a very and blessed New Year to you. I can promise that mine will be filled with words and good books (with no domestic distractions of the Internet, I’m actually reading much more these days, too) and much writing in and amongst our days on the farm. After a very busy 2012 reconnecting with old friends and family in real time, I am ready for a quiet few months on the ridge before our glorious Appalachian spring (and the inherent ease of socializing that comes to me with brighter and longer days). Like Persephone, I have learned to welcome both the inevitability and the inward retreat of darkness and seclusion each year—I no longer fear it.

And I will still send out the odd peep or two to a mailbox near you. If you’d like to receive a carte de post, just email your address to info@CatherinePond.com. I promise to mail you a note as a gesture of good cheer—just promise that you’ll do the same thing for someone else.

You come back when you're ready! 



  1. I've kept many letters from years past, probably some I should throw away. I'd always intended to return some of them to friends, to serve as a sort of journal for them. However, I've lost contact with a few and others have died. The latter's letters are very precious to me now. I also have all the letters Mom wrote to Daddy during the first year of their marriage, when he was serving in Italy in WWII. Funny that he kept them all and brought them back, but I've not seen his letters to her. Like you, I type too fast for my own good. I don't need a postcard, but it sounds like a great project (I too have too much stationery). I agree about Twitter, etc. and my blog seemed to own my life for a while as well... I'm going to shut up now! Best wishes for 2013!

  2. Although I miss your posts, I applaud your decision and discipline. I wish you much success! I, too, refuse to Tweet and I don't have a smart phone. There's just something terribly wrong when pre-teens have a smart phone!

  3. Hello Catherine,I am a first time visitor and this post echoes so many of my personal feelings about correspondence, writing and the non-need for smart phones. I am a sender of letters and cards, the old fashioned way, by mail, and while I often will type a longer letter it will still be posted vs. emailed. And while I do enjoy blogging, tweeting or Facebook are not interests of mine. My husband and I do enjoy our blog and have even met some blog friends in recent years making this experience so much more personal. Please do feel free to stop on for a look around anytime as back door visitors are always welcome and most appreciated. And, I would gladly exchange a note of cheer by post. (Dorothy aka Beatrice)

  4. Carherine, Back again to ask if you have considered removing the word verification process from the comments section. It is so very difficult to decipher at times...just saying from a personal viewpoint.


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