TODAY was garlic harvest day. It was one of, if not the largest garlic harvest in my garlic cultivating career. I may not make tomatoes, broccoli or carrots, but garlic saves the day, if not my questionable reputation as a competent gardner. I seem to be able to do garlic.

These days, I’ll take any affirmation I can get. As long as I can get garlic, I’ll keep planting various other things as well. Perhaps I have mentioned: this is the fourth year that my carrots haven’t even germinated!! I am that close to calling the Agricultural Extension Department. Something is going on, for sure.

Be that as it may – the garlic harvesting moment was wonderful. As usual, as I always do, I pealed a clove of freshly pulled garlic and popped it into my mouth. It is always “brisk”, not to put too fine a point on it. This was more like chugalugging a shot of battery acid! Weeyow!. That was “brisk”. I began to be concerned for my stomach lining and the rest of the digestive tract. It took a few moments to realize the welcomed truth that I’d probably not have to dial 911.

So, a great pizza from the North Pownal Store and a cool one and my gastric distress has been relieved. When will I ever learn? God, how long have I been asking that dumb question?

Sonny was a childhood friend of mine. He lived across the street. We were good friends and we hung out sometimes. Sonny was the kind of guy you liked but, at the same time, didn’t want hanging around all the time. As a matter of fact, I didn’t like anyone hanging around all the time. I can’t explain it, but there it was. He had these red cowboy boots that he always wore. It didn’t matter what the weather was, he always wore those red cowboy boots. They went “clop clop” when walked.

He used to tell these phantasmagorical stories about the place he came from up in North Louisiana. There were snow caves and wild horses. Remember, this was Louisiana. I always wondered if he actually thought I believed him. He said he and his pals would choose up sids and shoot at each other with 22 rifles. He showed me a little white scar on his belly that was supposed to be from a bullet. I never liked calling someone a liar, but I was tempted.

Sonny was always wanting me to do something with him. He pressed. I never liked being pressed. He would get this idea and then come over and want me to go do something. I never did like that kind of situation. That’s when I first realized that I needed to know what the program was before the show began. It’s been a life long issue with me.

One day, Sonny told me he had this great idea and we could have some real fun tomorrow up on Baton Rouge Bayou. It was a fun place so I agreed to go with him and promised to meet him in the morning. When I woke up and dressed my mother told me that Sonny had been run over by a car as he tried to push his mother out of the car’s path. It had happened the night before. I asked if he was alright, and she said no. He was run over by the car and died, but his mother, who was in the hospital, was going to be OK.

Talk about confusing emotions. Sonny was a hero, but was dead. We didn’t go to the funeral. I have always wondered why. Of all the pointless rituals we humans put up with, the memorial ritual when someone dies is one of the most important. As we remember those who have passed on, we need to be reminded of our own mortality. But most of all it is important to say, “Goodbye”.

I remember being surprised that I missed Sonny’s constant flow of off the wall ideas of something exciting to do. That was my first experience with real grief. Missing even those parts of Sonny’s life that were aggravating was, as I later realized, a central part of the grief process. I wasn’t sure what to say or feel or do. Suddenly this friend was gone and would never return. All I could think about were those red cowboy boots.

Remember when you got letters from friends and you read them over and over and then sat down to answer them in detail? I’m talking letters written in cursive longhand on paper, very likely written with a fountain pen. In those days it was considered “cold” to write a personal letter on a typewriter. Besides, I could not, at the time, use one of those things.

When email came along – and yes, I can remember that – I thought that was the most amazing manifestation of the technological age. The only problem was that I had few friends who were able to use or even understood what email was. I still got hand written letters in real envelopes with stamps on them. If I maintained a correspondence with someone it was done by writing a letter on paper with a pen or pencil.

Newsy letters to friends and family were more like friendly essays in which a slice of your life was described and many times accompanied by actual photographs. It was a production. You gathered pen, ink, paper, envelope, stamps and address book to the kitchen table, or one of those fold down writing hutches that were almost everywhere or perhaps used a lap desk so you could sit in your favorite chair and write.

Today, communication takes place in jerks and snippets, one-liners, jokes or some pre-packaged made-for-FaceBook aberration that lets everyone know you are still alive and well but actually don’t have anything to say.

Then there is Twitter with its 140 character limit that has by now trained thousands to condense, abbreviate and even use hybrid spelling to fit a thought into that confining space. Although two way communication can and does take place on Twitter, it is mostly a place for announcement like statements, one-liners and opinions. Personal adverts for some personal cause perhaps.

A couple of years ago I got this idea that all this had gone far enough and I wanted to step off the fast track, regress, go back to writing my journal in longhand/cursive with a mechanical pencil like i used to do. Then I decided to go all the way back, so one winter’s day in Portland I found this shop that sold real fountain pens and quality writing paper. I was going to journal and write one letter the “old” way every week.

I had forgotten just how illegible my hand writing really is. After five minutes even I can not decipher it. Reality came knocking and i opened my laptop and dashed off a few “tweets” and a FaceBook comment or two about nothing feeling smugly connected to the world.

I now have this very nice Lamy fountain pen which I use for thank you notes and cards. I can hold longhand together for a line or two, but after that it begins to look more like Sanskrit than modern English.

While I do miss getting hand written letters from friends, I am quite certain that even my most dedicated loved ones and correspondents rejoice at not having to decode my pen and ink epistles.