Inlandia Literary Journeys Column

Inlandia Literary Journeys columns typically appear in four of the Southern California Newsgroup’s newspapers: The Inland Valley Bulletin, The Press Enterprise, The Redlands Daily Facts, and The Sun. I picked up three of those papers today, but it was raining too much for me to want to drive over to Ontario to pick up a copy of The Inland Valley Bulletin.

I wrote thirty-one ideas for journaling over the past month in preparation for this column’s publication. I still have more ideas that I will share later, but my streak of posts on journaling ideas will cease for now.

Today I have to make some tough decisions about which of those ideas I will actively pursue for myself this year.

Scout has approved my selections for 2023.

I’m going to continue occasionally to record memories of my parents in my grief turned relishing journals (blue for my mom and red for my dad). I will continue to use my black gratitude journal. I’m going to write in response to the pre-written prompts in My Father’s Life journal that my son gave me at least once a week. I’m going to start a nursery rhyme journal in the marble covered book that I have repurposed by slicing out the few pages I had started in it twenty-five years ago. I’m going to use one of the blue mini journals I got from my wife for a sentence journal and the other for my Title My Day journal. I’m going to keep going with my encourager’s journal online. I’d like to keep up with the comic journal that I started, but only occasionally.

Although I am chiding myself about only having so much time, I just overheard my wife talking to her mother about some other new journals that she has bought me for my birthday, so will see what happens.

Journaling Idea #23: A Commonplace Book

Years ago, after reading Abraham Verghese’s “Cutting for Stone,” I started my own commonplace book.

Different than a diary or a journal, the commonplace book focuses on material gathered from others.  Its power for creativity lies in the opportunity it provides its maker to see the similarity and differences of what others have said about a given topic, to note the range and gaps. Commonplace books also serve as a writer’s personal pantry of quotations to add to their own creations.

from David Stone’s Inlandia Literary Journeys: Consider ‘commonplace book’ as alternative to a journal February 17, 2018

Read my whole column on commonplace books as it appeared in The Press Enterprise newspaper.

Veterans Day Column

I often discover inspiring reads in the new books section at The A. K. Smiley Library in Redlands, CA. Adam Sol’s “How a Poem Moves” started me thinking about what to write for my Inlandia Literary Journeys column that was scheduled to appear in print just before Veterans Day.

Published in Canada, Sol’s book may be purchased online or ordered from your local book store. The book may be marketed to readers of poetry, but will inspire many a poet to consider the moves they might make with their own poems. Sol maintains a blog by the same name as the title of his book.

Taken with Lucia Galloway‘s “Ten Miles from Home” while reading her new book “Some Words for Meanwhile,” I was excited when I learned she would be reading at the DA Arts Center in Pomona. At her reading I asked her if I might use her poem for my Veterans Day column. She agreed and kindly added the poem to the poems she read that evening.

Galloway at the DA Arts Center in Pomona

My column, “How a poem captures the dissonance of drone warfare” appeared in four of the Southern California News Group’s papers: The Press Enterprise, The Redlands Daily Facts, The Sun, and The Inland Valley Bulletin.

On Sunday, November 10, 2019, the column ran in the print editions. I enjoy driving around the region to purchase a copy of each of the papers to see how they varying in their presentations.

Photo of Wilfred Owen in public domain

I allude to the British World War I poet Wilfred Owen in my column. For my undergraduate thesis to earn my BA in English, I utilized James Fowler’s faith development theory to analyze the life of Owen and consider how his transitioning stages of faith appeared in his poetry. I was privilege to meet one of the major Owen biographers and scholars, Dominic Hibberd, when he came to Atlantic Union College to visit with Professor Deborah Leonard who had taught with him in China. Ms. Leonard served as advisor to my thesis.

Open Words

Enjoyed reading for the first time at the Open Words poetry reading I wrote about for the newspaper back in May. Located at the Ironbark Ciderworks in Claremont, this open mic reading occurs on the first Sunday of each month.

1420 N Claremont Blvd Ste 107B, Claremont, CA 

Mari (pronounced like Marie) Werner and Terry Wilhelm organize the reading. One of them typically starts the evening to warm up the crowd and the other closes the reading.

Terry Wilhelm opening July’s reading
Iron Bark’s Event Calendar

I arrived about ten minutes before the reading began and was about the eighth reader to sign-in. The dozen or so readers for the evening showed a wide array of comfort and skill. The audience facing the microphone and the general customers were audibly receptive to all. It’s a great venue for both the novice and seasoned poet to read.

Me (David Stone) reading “Earthquake at Taco Bell,” written in response to the Ridgefield Earthquake which recently occurred on July 5, 2019
Mari Werner read an engaging prose piece about the tragic loss of trees at her former home to close the reading.

Ironbark provides a vivid, artistic environment for a poetry reading. The staff were friendly and helpful (I think one of the staff was even a reader), but not obtrusive. A teetotaler like myself felt no pressure to drink. Other readers shared how much they enjoyed the fermented cider offerings. I only wished Ironbark sold food as well as beverages.

Retro decor really pops!

After the reading, the closing host encourages the audience to share news of upcoming local poetry readings and publishing opportunities. Mari noted Karen Maya-Greenbaum in the audience and suggested the Fourth Sundays Poetry Readings at the Claremont public library. Victoria Waddle, Managing Editor of Inlandia: A Literary Journey, encouraged the readers to submit to the adult edition of the online journal before the August 31st deadline.

Inlandia Literary Journeys Column on Claremont Poetry Readings

My latest column for the Southern California News Group highlights the Open Words and Fourth Sundays poetry readings in Claremont. The column ran in the Sunday, May 12, 2019 editions of The Inland Valley Bulletin, The Press-Enterprise, The Redlands Daily Facts, and The Sun.

“To hear the diverse voices of Southern California’s poets and beyond, head to Claremont, a town that values poetry.”

I never know how the editors of the various papers will title or illustrate my columns. This column ran with the same title in all four papers, but with variations in the number and color of the photos.

Cutting Our Own Tree

April_Snow_(2)_(25733256894)Zebu and Daisy bounded forward, pulling on the braided bailer-twine connecting them to an old runner sled.  They bleated small frosty clouds.  The light dings of their bells resonated across the snow-covered hayfield.  Alfalfa lay dormant below.

Dottie and I trailed the goats.  Feeling like a boy from a Currier and Ives scene, I sang jingle bells as we headed out to cut a Christmas tree.  We’d found an old two-man crosscut saw in the basement. I’d never even seen my grandfather use it, so I was excited to give it a pull.

Zebu’s mostly dark chocolate body stood out against the snow.  She was an Alpine-Nubian mix.  Daisy was a Toggenburg with her typical light fawn coat and appeared more like a pale shadow.  They were both does, just a couple of years old.  I was a husky twelve-year-old boy, and my sister a thin eighteen-year-old.  Bundled up against the cold, we both looked bulky.

We’d followed the road along the east end of the hayfield where the Minneapolis-Moline pulled the hay wagons and crossed through the gap of the faltering fence that bordered the Old Pasture, then more scrub than grassland.  We paused by the spring that never seemed to freeze over to give the girls a drink.  Glancing across the logging road, I stared at the glaucous black raspberry briars that grew under a large elm surrounded by leafless honeysuckle and briefly wished it was summer, but the chime of the goat bells urged me to pull the goats away from the water.  We had a tree to find.

As the road veered eastward, we passed the orderly rows of white pines my grandmother’s brother had long ago planted.  They were way too large for the living room, and their boughs too flexible to hold our ornaments. The road turned north again and began to rise.  Through the bare trunks of yellow birch, sugar maples, and beech, I spied the stand of hemlock that grew along the steep slope circling back to the ravine that ran at the back of our family’s property.  We took a northern fork in the road and began to scan among the mountain laurel and rhododendrons along the slope for just the tree we wanted:  six to seven feet tall, less than five feet wide.  It needed to fit in the space in front of the silent grandfather clock, between my grandparents’ color television and the roll-top desk where my grandmother kept wrapping paper and tags from my father and aunt’s Great Depression childhood.

Leaving our sled at the road, we climbed up to the hemlocks, holding onto branches and vines. We discovered an irregular oval area where the snow was thin and the evergreen leaves of the partridgeberry could be seen against the brown mat of the surrounding deciduous plants’ winter debris.  We had discovered a deer bed among the protective low branches of the hemlock. A trail of their two-toed prints marked the surrounding snow, leaving a trail of upside down hearts. Following an intersecting rabbit trail, I spotted our tree midway between the hemlocks and the road below.  I didn’t know exactly which kind it was.  It wasn’t a white pine.  Its needles where too short, and it wasn’t a hemlock, but it was definitely fuller than Charlie Brown’s tree on the television special.

“Look there, Dot.” I pointed to the tree rising near the base of an outcropping rock on the hillside.

“You really want that one?  It’s too steep to get there.”

“Not if we slide,” I said, plopping myself down on the snow and pointing my boots towards the goal of the tree.  I drug the saw behind me.  Dot soon followed.  Just before the desired tree, I pressed my boots down and reached out for surrounding branches to slow me.  I swung the saw away from my sister.

We had a hard time working a way into the trunk past the lower branches, but the intoxicating smell of the needles encouraged us.  We pocketed our mittens and grasped the handles at either end of the saw.  Hhhckk.  Hhhckk.  We pulled back and forth.  Foolishly having started on the downside of the trunk, our blade was getting bound by the weight of the tree.   We moved to the topside of the trunk and periodically pressed its trunk down towards the road.  The tree toppled with a crack at the base.  A stubborn strip kept it attached to its stump. A final couple of cooperative strokes set it free

Rotating the trunk towards the bottom of the hill, we pulled it down to the sled, centered it along the slats with its top hanging off the rear.  We secured it with old twine I’d brought in my pocket. Tired from sawing, Dottie and I guided goats who pulled the sled, happy for them to do the work.

The afternoon had nearly escaped us as we headed back along the road, past the white pines, past the spring, and through the gap in the fence of the Old Pasture.  The sun was setting behind our family’s farmhouse.  If we didn’t hurry, I would have to put the goats back in their pen in the barn in the dark.  We picked up our pace with the house in sight.

We had to drag the tree through the back door, through the kitchen, and through the dining room, and across the living room to get it to the traditional location for the tree beside the grandfather clock.  My mother’s initial pleasure in our find, turned to concern as the challenge of maneuvering an unbound tree through the house became repeatedly evident with each turn.

Finally positioned in the living room, we tried to place it in the stand.  The base of the trunk was simply too wide.  We had to cut off numerous low branches and cut more than six inches off the tree to get it to fit.  Stepping back from the tree, screwed at last in the stand, I sighed in frustration.  Starting two-thirds up, the tree bowed to the right.  Who wanted a crooked tree? The tip tilted towards the radiator pipe that usually went unnoticed.  It ran up in the corner behind the clock to the second story, but now stood out like a pole in a fire station.  I twisted the tree so it curved toward the back and anchored it with a string. I hoped now no one could see the radiator pole. Somehow cutting your own tree didn’t seem so simple anymore.

“Oh, David,” said my mother.  “Don’t worry.  Go ahead and cover the tree with ornaments, run the garland at crossing angles, and tilt the star just so.  No one will notice the tree’s top.  The focus at Christmas lies at the bottom where once lay a manger and soon will lie your presents.”

With all the extra work of setting up the tree, I ended up having to go out in the dark and feed the goats.  I prayed as I stomped loudly in the barn and rattled the feed drum to scare off the rats I feared.  I thought of Jesus as I placed hay in the goats’ manger.

I got back to the house just in time to be my mother’s tall boy to stretch up and adjust the star.  I knew then what I know now.  My mother was right. Christmas is more about giving than looking just perfect, and most about the humblest boy who came to lie in the manger to bring the world light.


Commonplace Books

Recently, I’ve been exploring the use of a commonplace book for myself and for my students. My Inlandia Literary Journeys column for this morning appeared in The Press Enterprise, The Inland Valley Bulletin, and the San Bernardino Sun.