The Correspondence of Friends

Twenty years ago Paul and I fell into corresponding with each other via long and rambling—often verbose—epistles in which we recorded not only everything we did, but every thought, idea, and observation we had. When our letters grew too heavy to mail in conventional envelopes, we turned to blank books, calling them “journal letters” or "diary letters"...

I spent many late nights at my corner writing desk drinking red wine or coffee, writing about the opera I was composing, the progress of my garden, and my work with the Ventura County Symphony. Paul wrote during his morning commute on the Atlanta light rail, during lunch breaks, and on humid evenings on his balcony surrounded by night-blooming jasmine, moon flowers, and candles in tall cylindrical glass jars. I was to him, I think, an ageing bohemian in silk and gardeners clogs and he was to me a young Tennessee Williams in white linen.

In truth, we were simply a couple of people who were in love with the romance of the written word, recording absolutely everything as exercises in writing. It was intoxicating. We read the published letters of famous writers and compared notes. We pressed leaves and glued photographs into our pages and carried our current blank books with us wherever we went. He took one with him to Paris in 1991 and wrote so descriptively about Les Catacombs that I feel as if I’ve actually been there. The cover is a black and white photograph of Oscar Wilde, which was perfectly fitting. Another book he made and bound himself. Eventually, these letters ended, due to careers, family responsibilities, and a phase during which our relationship simply needed some respite. Ours has never been a casual friendship. It is intense, maniacally creative and often turbulent. To borrow a phrase from another friend, Paul and I often hurl thunderbolts at each other, but it has been one of the most important relationships of my existence. It has certainly been the most interesting.

This evening I find myself missing both reading and writing with Paul. Perhaps one day we will try it again.