...It's true; I am, in fact, a hopelessly addicted letter writer. It began years ago, when I was doing a fair amount of traveling in AmeriCorps, then on my own, then on tour with various productions. Letters kept my friendships healthy, and nourished me in a way journalling never did.
My passion for stamps is purely ancillary to my love of writing and reading letters. Whereas most stamp collectors favor cancelled stamps and postmarks, I collect stamps purely for use, and particularly the interesting postage of other countries, no matter how remote the possibility may be of me writing from the Ukraine, say, or Bhutan.
In these recent years, letter writing thrives in my work environments, which typically involve long hours of minimal activity punctuated by highly concentrated moments of tremendous emotional heavy-lifting. (I work at a local nonprofit agency serving a broad range of at-risk youth. This particular program deals with young male sex offenders in residential treatment.)
In that context, I entirely agree with your point about mail being like flowers: it's astonishing, really, how an almost insubstantial gesture of awareness can have such a restorative effect. In that respect, it has a bit in common with live performance--I believe it's by disarming our expectations, by disclaiming that it's just for a limited run, that live theatre is capable of the tremendous insights and the real work; and likewise, that these merely ephemeral letters, simple bits of paper with scarcely more forethought than a grocery list, can and have kept me sane, simply by being signed, sealed and delivered. I've witnessed deaths firsthand, immediately before me, and I've worked long hours with clients, co-workers, friends and loved ones grappling with honest-to-goodness life and death issues; and in every instance, the most meaningful breakthroughs were made only after grasping the gesture that counts for more than just the sandcastle it seems to be. Like letters, or theatre, but also heartfelt apologies, or admitting responsibility, or letting go of resentment, or choosing to go, or stay...