This little piece of whimsy was handwritten to a lady I knew only through correspondence. She later left the Carmel at Terre Haute. I had made a carbon of my letter and saved it. I share it because it may something about me, but it is also a nice description of a moment.
November 3, 1978
Dear Sister Judith,
Over the years I have enjoyed a way of dealing with correspondence that has worked out rather well for me. When mail comes that needs immediate attention, I usually manage to deal with it. If it is a completed transaction requiring no more attention, I throw it away. If for some reason, I want to get back to I, but not immediately, I leave it on my desk.
There it rides the tides, sometime surfacing for a few days like flotsam, only to be swamped again, disappearing for perhaps months at a time. Some letters have floated up and down on this sea of papers for years. They become familiar. Each time they reappear a mental correspondence takes place that is a communion of souls in a way, even though my correspondent is totally unaware of our conversation.
I am in a nervous panic at the moment because a trusty helper here—a woman of indomitable will—has declared was on my “system.” I must have a clean, clear-top desk so that I can be seen behind it, so that there is space on to write, so that something may be placed upon it without half of last month’s business crashing to the floor. She has a point and I am trying to cooperate. She sees my holding on to notes as some sort of vanity, a way of holding on to passing moments of warmth, as some miser with his shekels. And she is right.
All this by way of saying your note of April 21 which you will scarcely remember has been with me here these many days. What you wrote in passing I have reread these twenty times and more. The friendly brown card, so familiar to me now, appears and says hello and then repeats your message of friendship. For a brief moment I reflect on how I might respond to your kind offer of prayers and kindness.
Thus blessed, I return to everyday affairs and the brown card gets covered or floats off to another corner of the desk to await its next opportunity to speak to me.
I think you see why I dread this new regimen that offers no reruns, no nudges of sweet recall. I’ll never make it. I’ll die of efficiency. I’ll starve from undernourished affection. I’ll cheat. I know I will. Or else I must insist my friends be more frequent with their infrequent notes—a burden I do not wish to place on them.
Adieu, adieu fond note from Judith. I’ll miss your comings and goings the more that no other is here to take you place.
Now, Sister, excuse this whimsy. I have so enjoyed pouring out these meandering thoughts, which though playful, carry much of truth about my vanities. I enjoy squeezing out meanings in small realities and I find my use of mail and interesting little bit of psychological reinforcement, over and above the inefficiency of not being able to finish business and be done with it. I have always envied those who do loads of business but have a clear desk. My room, where said lady holds no sway, is a scandalous mound of Simeonana—a veritable junk pile that must be cleaned out.
Do pray for me, Sister, for singleness of heart, for vision, for perseverance, and for that kind of love for God and people and things that Jesus asks of us.
In His name,