Camp Songs and Correspondence


Sarasponda, sarasponda, sarasponda ret set set
Sarasponda, sarasponda, sarasponda ret set set
A doray-oh, A doray-boomday-oh
A doray-boomday ret set set
Ah say pah say boomday boomday boomday-oh.

I learned this song at camp when I was a little kid. And just today, I learned that Wikipedia calls Sarasponda "a children's nonsense song which has been considered a popular campfire song. It is often described to be a spinning song, that is, a song that would be sung while spinning at the spinning wheel. It is frequently described as being of Dutch origin..." How interesting. To me, it was a bunch of made up words that were fun to know and sing at camp and then at home after camp.

And now let's talk about correspondence. What a similar sounding word, I always think.

I love the word correspondence. I like to say it in a whisper and out loud, and I like to write it in letters. I like that it holds respond right in the middle, in the heart.

In the dictionary, correspondence means "communication by exchanging letters with someone.” But it also means "a close similarity, connection, or equivalence," as in There is a simple correspondence between how much sleep I get and how much energy I have. The two are connected.

Yes, the two are connected. I write a letter to you, and now the two of us are connected. We may begin a back and forth exchange of words, a responding to one another.

Correspondence can happen over email or by text, or if held to a loose standard, correspondence can even happen on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. But these electronic communications don't hold the same weight. When a letter is the chosen means of response, there is a deeper depth to the words and a prevailing physicality that enhances the correspondence experience. I have found this to be true again and again.

Late one night during my year of letters, I thought of texting my friend Mindy in Illinois to ask how her pregnancy was going, and how her mother-in-law, who had cancer, was doing. It would have taken me, what? Two minutes. Or less if you’re a fast texter, which I’m not. I probably would have texted something like this:

Hey Mindy, I’ve been thinking about you and wondered how your pregnancy is going. Are you feeling well? Getting excited? Do you know what you’re having? Also, how is Bryan’s mom doing lately? I hope all is well with you guys and that you’re getting through the winter okay. Off to bed, but text me back sometime when you get a chance. XO

Instead, I decided to write Mindy a real letter. I thought a letter would be more meaningful and fun for her to receive, since we all get texts all the time these days. There’s nothing novel about a text, even a text from a friend you haven’t seen or talked to in a while. But a letter is rare, like finding a parking spot at Tandem, and it makes you pay attention. Your mind does a little backflip as you think Whoa! A Parking spot! Someone wrote me! I wasn’t expecting that.

A letter is weighty, too, even if its subject is light. I wanted Mindy to have a card in her hand, the very same card I had in my hand just a few days prior. I wanted her to read my handwriting and hear my voice in her head, because that is what I can offer. I have my thoughts of her and my desire to share them.

A letter is real and it forces engagement on both ends, while a text is like a puff of smoke. A text is often forgotten as soon as the screen goes black and the phone goes back in the pocket or the purse. I scroll through words that friends write on Facebook, and like a vapor, the words vanish from my mind in an instant. I’ll close my laptop with a nagging feeling that there was something important I just read, some piece of news worth remembering and congratulating. It eludes me, and frustrates me. Why can’t my brain keep alive and well what I just read ten minutes ago?

Heart in my Hands
Heart in my Hands

But a letter is different somehow. A letter is a vessel. It’s someone’s heart in my hands. A letter gets touched, get taken, gets read, gets placed, perhaps gets misplaced, gets found, get reread later, gets saved, and gets remembered.

The writing of a card to Mindy would cost me more than sending that quick text before bed would. But it is a price I wanted to pay. And I'll gladly pay it again, as Mindy's birthday rolls around next week and I'm off to write her a birthday card.