Notes and Komodo Dragons

It’s been awhile since I last wrote, and I was inspired to jot down a quick post by a note I received recently. In the advent of electronic surveys, webforms, etc., it is rare to see hand written notes or letters, they have become almost quaint flashes of another era. So, I thought it was particularly cool to see a note I’d written about a herpetology course over 15 years ago. And that made me start thinking a bit more about handwritten notes, letters, and the like.

My formative youth was largely pre-internet, and my undergrad college was during the dawning of widespread implementation of email, online class registration, and Napster. So I feel lucky in that I straddle these two different eras. My kids, and much of the current student population have only seen one side of this wave. Point being, I wonder what value they may find in written communication? I promise this will not be a blog post on how the world back in my day was snowy and I walked uphill, or how electronics are ruining the earth. Rather, I find it striking that with so many ways to communicate (see cartoon below), so little of the communication we share with one another these days is on paper, and so it’s refreshing sometimes to step back and appreciate the bits and pieces that we still get.


My mother was a staunch implementer of hand written thank you notes for all holiday and birthday gifts, starting as soon as I could write. It was engraved into my being that this was required penance for whatever gift, no matter how big or small, you may have received. So I wrote thank you’s to all the uncles, aunts, and extended family that I was so fortunate to have. As a child, there was resistance to this (“But mom, what do I say other than “Thank you?!?”), however, I find now I still do it and enjoy it, and we will make our children do the same. And take note, these missives weren’t always for material items. Family members that provided support via simply being present and engaged also received something.

For example, a friend of mine sends letters via the post frequently, and I love it. Sometimes they are as eccentric as a note jotted down on an old receipt, other times it may be a full blown hand-written letter. There is simply some underlying emotional value to receiving a letter that I don’t get when I receive an email. Maybe it’s because we get so many emails these days that even the personal emails we enjoy reading don’t bear the same weight. I wonder if there is a similar positive feeling for notes/letters from folks in the current wired/wireless generation.

Anyway, the point of all this, I got an email from a colleague who long ago was my teacher in a herpetology course I took. It’s always cool to work with someone who was your teacher, supervisor and now collaborator. She said she’d been cleaning up her garage and found the old index cards that were required of each student on the first day of class. These had the common questions such as what is your name, email, year/major, why are you taking the class, and what are your favorite herps? Mind you, this was before I figured out I really loved herpetology, and well before I ended studying amphibians as a career. So, having no idea what I wrote, it was entertaining to see that I’d written the following:


The funny bit about this, is I’ve always loved Komodo Dragons, maybe because as a kid I thought it was so cool there was such thing as a real dragon (come on, they hunt Water BUFFALO!). I think I wrote a 5-6th grade report about them, and the more I read the more I was fascinated. Ironically I’ve done nothing in my career to pursue that fascination, but perhaps unwittingly it was the inspiration that sent me down the path I’ve followed. The note was certainly worth a chuckle.

So point being, write more. Send people letters. Send yourself a letter and lose it somewhere you might have a chance of finding it again. Who knows, it might remind you of a life-goal you’d forgotten about, or inspire you to do something different. Or simply remind you that dragons are really cool.