Monday, February 18, 2008

Thank-You Notes

1. A thank-you note is an acknowledgment sent to the source of a compliment, gift, or other recognition of your own identity; it may be the letter we were admonished to write as children to grandparents or relatives or friends of your parents who remembered you on your birthday or graduation or recovery from some childhood adventure with illness.

2. Thank-you notes should but are not always composed from the visceral part of your being rather than the social and mannered part, which is to say you should write them not because it is a sign of good manners to do so but because you feel some fizz of pleasure and gratitude at having been recognized.

3. Your early memories of the politics of thank-you notes came one Christmas when an uncle you never felt close to gave you a hair brush you thought was quite splendid. What delicious torture. Who was he to give you such a splendid gift that you now had to acknowledge in a way that expressed a depth of feeling you didn't have? After some thought, you decided he must have thought a good deal of you to have chosen such a gift. Suddenly you didn't feel so distant from him and actually began to peel the onion of his personality such as you were able to do at that age.

4. There are, of course, thank-you notes you have no difficulty with. Well, that isn't quite true; your difficulty is in going on at some enthusiasm in your thanks, reminding you of Mark Twain's regret at not having written one of his correspondents a shorter letter because he didn't have the time to write short.

5. Into this calculus of thanks and authenticity and anti-platitude attitude is the fact that the older you become the longer it takes to write things. You could not, you believe, write a new novel every month as you did in your thirties. It is not so much a matter of energy as it is a sense that words have more meaning; each choice becomes more critical.

6. Thank-you letters are, you realize, as important as the writing you do for yourself; you not only delve until you find the right words for the right feelings to sent forth, you spend time evoking the presence of the recipient of the thank-you letter, doing what a writer should, what a person should: becming an empty cup now filled with the essence of the person to whom you extend thanks.

7. This is some fun when you consider the implications of blogging and internet and exchanges with persons you contact at one kind of remove but connect with in a sort of electronic intimacy. No emoticons or LOLs for you under any circumstances, certainly not in your thank-you notes to these cyber friends.

8. Since we're at it, there is also the thank-you note not only for persons you deal with in the real world and cyber world, but for beings and things, for Sally, whom you note with pleasure you attempt to thank on a daily basis,; for the squirrels who live outside your bedroom window and bring such mischief into your life (What is the sound of one squirrel bitching?)for glints of sun on the ocean, looking like the spilled treasures of a young boy's pockets or the stored secrets of a young girl's diary. For Hopkins' Glory be to God for dappled things...for Cummings's All in green my love went riding...for When that Aprille with her shoueres sweete, for Coltrane's Giant Steps, for chiliburgers, egg creams, and all-night sessions to meet a writing deadline, for Dvorak and Ravel, for Gershwin and for pastrami sandwiches at Art's Deli on Ventura Boulevard.

9. In the ritual of the homa fire, a Vedic ritual in which Agni, Vedic god of fire is evoked in order to be offered things (Agni has a taste for yogurt and bananas, by the way), there is a recetativ in which the individual performing the ritual recites an invocation to which those in attendance reply as a kind of affirmative pledge, We offer up ourselves and our words and thoughts and deeds to the fires of Brahmin. "Let all of this be an offering..."

10. Thank-you notes to the cosmos for gifts and joys and recognitions received.

11. What, you don't have a cosmos? What kind of writer are you, anyway, not to have a cosmos. Get your ass over to your desk right now and design one.

12. And be sure to send a thank-you note.


Lori Witzel said...

At the risk of leaving something inadequately formed, as I'm grabbing this stolen moment from the press of commerce -- thank you for the gift of your shared self-discoveries, your sense of play and fair play, and your seemingly bottomless compost heap of a mind.

Me, myself and I are all grateful.

x said...

Wow, you are on quite the note-roll, like one of those nut cakes my mother used to make. Thank you for all of it. It's delicious.

Unknown said...

Life mindfully lived is, I think, the breath and essence of prayer. And real prayers are those of thanks.

I forget about that, more often than not.

Thank you for the nudge, wrapped as it was in pastrami and uncles and squirrels; embracing as it was all good things and love of the world.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for that.