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How long has it been since you sat down with pen and paper and wrote a letter? For me, it has been a long time. And I miss the way writing by hand helps me to think more clearly. It slows down the process and allows new ideas to develop. I have often been surprised when I put pencil to paper, at how much my mind has already prepared itself for the task. 

I have just reread Carolyn Heilbrun's book, Writing A Woman's Life. It has made me think a great deal about my own life as a woman and a writer. She says, "Women transform themselves only after an awakening." Heilbrun believes women are often middle-aged before the mask cracks and we open onto our true selves. 

Today I had an awakening. I thought about my women friends and their importance to me over the years--the way they helped me crack the mask and become me. I've lost touch with some of them. But many are still in my life--all have provided hands and hearts that have helped lift me up into myself. And so I am a writing a love letter to my women friends. 

To my cousin, Linda, my constant companion through the rutted streets of childhood, I write you a love letter for all the laughter and secrets we shared on our path to growing up. A love letter to the very first person I ever talked to about the mysteries of sex and males. A love letter to the woman who helped me through the deaths of my parents and brothers. A love letter to my cousin, my sister, my life-long friend.

To Diane Bussard with whom I wrote poems on a blanket in the piney woods of northern Delaware. At nineteen, we sipped port wine and took turns picking the topic of the next poem. I could tell you, Diane, that no blanket in any wood has provided me more joy in the small and daily miracles, than the one we shared all those years ago.

I could write a love letter to Marie Armstrong, my former neighbor, for the way she rescued me from the drudgery of two babies in diapers by taking care of them a couple hours a week. For the way she convinced me it was a joy to love my children as her own boys were nearly grown. She told me I didn't need to pay her back--that I would provide the same or another gift to some other woman. That, she said, was the way life worked. And she was right. Who couldn't write a love letter to this very wise and generous woman.  

To my current friends, I could write each of you a love letter for the ways in which you give to me--supporting me through the trials and tribulations of life--too numerous to mention. For rejoicing with me in each small victory along the way--for picking me up and brushing me off after the falls. For providing a safe and constant place to be whomever I am at any given moment. I could write you all a long love letter for having the courage and generosity of spirit to provide me with a mirror by which I constantly grow and marvel at this wonder that is me. 

I could also write a love letter to my daughter, Bonnie. To everything she means to me. To the ways in which she enables me to remember my own mother, to the many things she has taught me about unconditional love and what it means to be a woman in today's world. For the vision and perspectives she has given me on my father and the way she found so many things to love and respect in him. There is no doubt that I could write a love letter to Bonnie for the ways she helps me confront a self I previously denied. To everything she is and everything she will someday become--a life-long love letter to my daughter.     

So, I offer up a challenge to you now. Sit down and write a letter to someone you love. You'll be surprised by how good it feels.

Two little people I still love
The two little people in this photo are my children, David and Bonnie. It was taken years ago on a crisp autumn morning in Tucson. They have disappeared into adults now with small children of their own. But I am grateful I can call them back in all of their incarnations through the photos, diary entries, and journals I've saved. In part, this is why I document  my life. 

Last week I talked with my cousin, Linda, in Delaware. Her mom, an aunt I also loved like a mother, died earlier this year. Linda is faced with cleaning out her mother's house and disposing of the things she kept over the years. As we talked and she read me letters her mother had kept, I realized that my aunt had documented her life by the things she'd saved. My cousin had access to a part of her mother she hadn't fully realized during her mother's life. Linda was surprised and awestruck by the things her mother was still teaching--the profound impact of this one, seemingly simple, life.

I've belonged to a book club for more than twenty years. The five other women in the group have become much more than friends. The books we've read have led us into discussions that reach far beyond the scope of any given book. For this month's selection, we read Kent Hauf's new novel, Benediction. It was about one good man's death. The story was powerful in the simplicity of its telling and the depth of the love of his wife of more than half a century.  

Everyone dies. It is a simple and predictable act.  And yet profound in ways none of the living can fully know. We are fascinated, a little frightened and more than a little curious. I suppose another reason we document our lives is to leave something of ourselves behind--something that might speak of our unique place in the cycle of life.

Three days ago, I discovered Catherine Ryan Hyde, another writer who writes simple and profound stories. I have already read When I Found You and Don't Let Me Go. Both stories are very simply told, yet profound. I laughed and I cried through these books and long after I turned the last page, I was haunted by them, still carrying them around inside me. Hyde also wrote Pay it Forward from which the very popular movie was made. Did any of us know, or remember that Hyde wrote that incredible story? Most of us probably did not. 

Perhaps acknowledgement isn't nearly so important as the ideas she got down on paper--the message she and Kent Hauf are giving all of us through their writings. They are documenting, over and over, what they have deemed to matter most. Take stock of your life. Document it. Examine it. And discover beauty in the everyday. Find the people and the things you love and hold onto them.