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.

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The Letter that Made Me Write

My mother’s failure to write me for three months after she had written me regularly for over thirty years scared me.  I feared I had received my last letter from her.  My Inlandia Literary Journeys column this Sunday, December 14th in the Press Enterprise came from my personal reflections and research into the world concern about the decline in personal letter writing.

Not All Is in the Cards for Sure

Unsigned Christmas cards disappoint me. Digital ubiquity has inverted my heart’s rate—one handwritten word is worth a thousand pictures. A sentiment I expressed in a poem earlier today:

Unendorsed

Your glossy photo card

bore my address,

but wasn’t worth the

envelope’s rip without

a single letter written

by your hand.

I feel doubly disconnected when my family and friends who live afar don’t write or call. I’m addicted to social media like most Americans, but likes and emoticons are not enough. I crave audible conversation and handwritten correspondence. I cherish slow exchanges. That’s why I write something personal in each of my cards, even though I include a typewritten Christmas letter.

When my older brother Benny spent over forty minutes on the phone with me this past weekend, I was ecstatic. I felt valued when he called me back the two times our call got dropped.

In Essays After Eighty Donald Hall reflects, “Apparently Facebook exists to extinguish friendship. E-mail and texting destroy the post office. eBay replaces garage sales. Amazon eviscerates bookstores. Technology speeds, then doubles its speed, then doubles it again.”

We can sidestep the destructive impact of technology. Take a tech-free afternoon this weekend. Turn off the television. Disconnect from your electronic devices. Take a nap. Buy a card or create your own. Postage is more expensive than it used to be, but with its relatively higher price comes the sense that you care enough to pay.

Some, like Miles Brignall of the British newspaper The Guardian, worry the 147-year-old tradition of Christmas cards are endangered, as others fear for the older art of letter writing. (See my forthcoming column in this Sunday’s Press Enterprise.) Let’s make a future for personal cards and traditional correspondence.

If your budget is tight, consider sending just a few cards. If time and money allow, send a bundle. Imagine how festive you make others feel as they place your card above their fireplace or hopefully if they have received enough cards, to ornament a doorframe. But best of all, will be your signature, your personally chosen words.

Orangelandia

Over a hundred and fifty people gathered at the Sunkist Activity Center of the California Citrus State Historic Park for the launch of the anthology edited by outgoing Inlandia Laureate Gayle Brandeis. Orangelandia: The Literature of Inland Citrus.

More than half of the anthology’s contributors read from the anthology which includes poetry, fiction, essays, drama, memoirs, and recipes.

Reading my own poems included in the anthology (“Wishing for a Ladder,” “Redlands’ Sunset,” and “The Navel Line”) and listening to the writings of others reminded me how much oranges are symbols of the golden dreams so many of us have formed in the fertile landscape of Southern California.

David Stone and Inlandia Laureate (2012-2014) Gayle Brandeis at the launch of the anthology she edited, Orangelandia:  The Literature of Inland Citrus

David Stone and Inlandia Laureate (2012-2014) Gayle Brandeis at the launch of the anthology she edited, Orangelandia: The Literature of Inland Citrus

David Stone and Anne Chaffee

David Stone and Anne Chaffee

Ben and Naoma Stone on their first visit to California in 1996

Ben and Naoma Stone on their first visit to California in 1996