This summer, on one of our date days, my husband took me to the the Carl Sandburg farm in the mountains of North Carolina. The Sandburg estate sits right outside Flat Rock North Carlina, a quaint little spot on the "fall colors" circuit.I have driven passed the brown sign indicating the farm was just ahead many times, but never got a chance to check it out. After hearing my lament of having missed seeing it yet again, Da made secret plans to steal me away for a day and go explore the farm.
The farm is lovely, not pretentious as some "historical" sites tend to be. It has been kept pretty much the way Carl and Lilian left it, a working farm and home to a very busy and interesting family. The tour guide for the inside of the house led us through the rooms, showing us the various artifacts and relating stories of their lives. It was interesting, but I was more desirous of seeing the barns and prized dairy goats than where the Sandburgs ate breakfast. Then the tour guide related a story about how the Sandburgs met and that their love story began with the writing of letters. All thoughts of Toggenburgs and Nubians, fell to the wayside...After asking a few questions we found out that there was a book of their love letters and with a flick of the finger, my beloved had found a copy on Amazon.com and purchased it, all from his Blackberry, (sometimes technology isn't such a bad thing...!). Upon its arrival at my door step a few days later, I became enchanted by the story of two poets and idealists who fell in love through the mail.
Lilian wrote far more prolifically, and many of the letters that Carl wrote in response were not included(available?), but when looked at as a whole, the picture of their love story is clearly illustrated. This quote from one of Carl's letters Lilian and one Lilian's letters to Carl, (after a brief two day visit while in attendance at a Socialistic Convention just weeks before their wedding), show why it was worth wading through the idealism to get to the real story. From Carl to Lilian, May 4 1908, " You say I have but little idea of your limitations. Yes- isn't what I have for you to fill in your limitations, so far as I can, just as you fill in my limitations, in a thousand thousand ways? You! you wonder-woman! Isn't it because you know where the orator and poet fall short- where the boy fails and gropes for your hand- isn't it because my limitations criss-cross all over yours that all of me cries out for all of you? Oh Paula, (he calls her several names depending on mood and subject) Paula, we are living a Lie--a Lie away from each other--we are made to be near each other--to grope together in the dark--to stand together in the sun- suncrowned, we two, I cry out and cry out for YOU--you are the blundering wonderful girl who knows me, to you my heart goes, blind to what's been and what will be, sayin YOU ARE..." And from Lilian to Carl 20 May, 1908: "...The world looks good to us! Such a glad mad sweet world! and whatever crag-born agony may come to us, the world will still look good. We will see the meaning and understand the more for it. You--Heart--so near--You--my boy--my boy--we two boy and girl--one heart--one life. These two mad feverish days together--such days to look back to and live again! But what will the real life together be--when day lengthen into weeks and weeks into months, and months into years--always together! together! No feverish haste then--but time for the whole garment of love to be snug! Time and time enough in eons together. My LOVE--my Boy--I kiss you--and love you and always it is more, more kisses and never enough! My Boy --Sweet! *both quotes from the book: The Poet and the Dream Girl: The Love Letters of Lilian Steichen and Carl Sandburg.
Although the gushing sentiment of these letters isn't common place or "comfortable", in today's more emotionally reserved manner, much can be culled from the idea of building a relationship not founded on physical proximity (or for that matter physical intimacy), but to be founded on intimacy of the mind. To write from the heart, exposing inner-most thoughts to the permanence of ink and paper, to have to wait for the post to deliver the satisfaction of a response, and the exposure of another's heart in return, would do much to cultivate and deepen a relationship.