Monday, October 23, 2017

BLOG OF THE WEEK ~ AN UPDATE WITH DONNA DONABELLA

This week, my friends, we are visiting with Donna Donabella, who blogs at  Living From HappinessDonna was away from the blogosphere for a time and, when she popped back up again, I thought it would be nice to catch up with her and see what she's been up to. Let's dive in.





Sherry: Donna, we last talked with you in 2014. Would you fill us in with what is happening for you these days? Maybe you can tell us a bit about your time away from the poetry circuit,  and what brought you back? 

Donna: I retired from education after 30+ years in 2014, and had just started my second blog, Living From Happiness, when last we talked.  And I had begun writing poetry again after a pause of 40 some years.  Living From Happiness has been more a creative writing project these last 3 years.  And my gardening blog, Gardens  Eye View, focused on my gardening adventures.  And it was these gardening adventures that took me away from writing, as I had overdone it in the garden and injured my shoulder.  One of those repetitive injuries that can take a year or more to heal.



Sherry: Oh, I am so sorry to hear that, Donna. We are so happy you have healed and are back!

Donna: So during this physical healing, I was forced away from blogging and writing.  Writing had become a healing outlet for me, so without it I had to find another way to healing.  And so began a spiritual journey where I read, learned, cried, healed, went within and discovered more about myself.  It was a deep healing physically, mentally and spiritually, and I think my poetry now, actually all my creative endeavors, have a different tone.  I reclaimed my power, my truth and my voice in this last year.  




I had given away my personal power, through bad relationships and various jobs, where, as a woman, I had to compromise too much of myself. Thankfully I have been married to an extraordinary man who has helped me heal, and be myself…even like myself as he likes and loves me.  We celebrate our 20th anniversary October 11th.

Sherry: Congratulations to you both! I am so glad the past year has been such a fruitful year for you.

Donna: I wasn’t sure I was coming back to blogging and writing after so long away.  And I was convinced no one would miss me; after all, I have such a small following.  But the death of my Aunt Mary hit me hard.  She was 95, and had been such a big part of my life.  And with her death, the healing I had been doing finally came full circle and my soul poured out many words and 4 poems.  It felt so good and I knew I wanted to rejoin the blogging community, and get serious about this next part of my life’s journey….writing.  I attended a writer’s conference and am working on a project with a blogging friend.  That’s all I can tell about it for now, as we are still in development.  But I will share more as it unfolds.




Sherry: This sounds really good, Donna. We look forward to that. I remember how powerful your poem for your Aunt Mary was. 
  
Anyone who reads your blog knows you are an avid gardener. Your photos are so beautiful, and I especially love your pond.  I remember that you garden for wildlife. Maybe you can tell us a bit about what that involves?




Donna: When I began gardening, I was in love with those pictures of beautiful English gardens and so I created some in my garden.  But I live in an area that has wild areas that are designated “Forever Green" so no one can develop them.  My back yard borders one such area, so we see lots of wildlife.  I learned about this new idea of planting wildlife gardens through blogs, and became quickly interested.  So I started replacing some more invasive non-native plants with plants native to my area.  And I learned about what plants birds, butterflies and pollinators needed, and I was off planting them.




Naturally you need water, so we built a pond to give the birds a bath, and entice the snakes, frogs, toads, dragonflies and others to the garden.  And I seeded a wildflower meadow at the back of our property.  You should see it light up with fireflies every summer.  Part of being a wildlife gardener also involves using no chemicals in the garden, so we use natural remedies and planting methods that work to control garden diseases and issues.  I have organic veggie gardens too.  A passion that has so many rewards.






Sherry: Sigh. It sounds so wonderful. I adore natural areas, and yours is magical.

Donna: It has become a bit much for us now, with my injury, and the upkeep is hard, so it looks more like a roadside with weeds and wildflowers than a garden at the moment.  Of course once you build the garden, the critters just naturally show up.  All are welcome, but learning to live peacefully with all, even when they eat your beans or tomatoes or flowers, is hard.  A great lesson though.  And that is the best part about building a garden that is home to wildlife….you create your own nature reserve.  A perfect spot to find peace, solace and serenity. And my garden is the muse for much of my writing.  



Sherry: You have created a wonderful life. For yourself and the wild creatures. Remind me when it was that you began writing poetry? What do you love about it?

Donna: I began in high school, but it was never encouraged and carving out a career as an educator was first and foremost in my mind.  Then when I was at a crossroads in my career with but a few years left until retirement, my job was cut and I had to find another one in a hurry.  As I was waiting, I ran across a call for poems to be published in a women’s anthology.  A high school classmate entered hers, and I thought, what the heck.  I revisited my high school poetry (which I still had) and found 2 poems I had written about grief when my grandfather and first beloved dog both died within a couple of months of each other.  So I entered both with a couple of tweaks, even though they would only pick one.  To my amazement, the editor wanted both and they were published.  Her words to me were to keep writing, and especially keep writing poetry.

I have found poetry to be a pathway to my soul…my inner self.  It allows me to speak aloud about who I am, what are more core principles, my thoughts, my passions.  Words are constantly forming into lines of poetry that just push themselves out through my brain, my voice, my pen.  They are anxious to sing their own song.  And I have come to realize that this is part of my life’s purpose.  To learn and then teach through my writing, my voice.  It is where the next part of my path is headed now, so I am going along and just letting it flow.




Sherry: Poetry is a journey, for certain. It charts our path quite wonderfully. I was struck, recently, by your powerful poem, "So Far", a remarkable response to what is happening right now, and I would love to include it here, if I may.

How Far


How far can a tree bend
against the fierce howling wind
before it breaks in two.

How deep can my spirit plunge
into the dark depths as it witnesses
these horrors against humanity.

How low can a people sink
in the name of greed and self-servitude
bowing in worship to hypocrisy.

I fear a comeuppance is at hand~mighty~
laying waste before the howling gales of lies
forging a path back to truth and kindness.

My heart is near breaking,
knowing the pain that must be dealt
to bring us back from the brink.

Many spirits will break against these storms
as we swing back along a line of sanity
or some semblance we can salvage.

But without these storms we lose all~
our planet, our humanity,
our very souls!

© Donna Donabella 2017



Sherry: One does wonder how much worse it has to get before humanity, as a whole, wakes up to our reality. Would you choose three more poems to share with us, and tell us a bit about what inspired each one?

Donna: It is hard to choose just 3 but let’s start with one I wrote before my injury.  I was celebrating my blogs second anniversary.  I had been feeling melancholy as life seemed to be standing still, and it seemed I wasn’t moving forward or even sure in which direction I wanted to head.  And I was remembering a happy childhood, wondering can we go back to those times.

Some days I sit with melancholy moods.
Slipping back to yesterdays,
where memories are strongest,
yet so very far away.

And I long for those days,
such an absence,
aching now to regain playful flashes.
  
But they seem gone, those firsts….
riding a bike with no hands
learning to swing to the sky
eating hand churned peach ice cream we just made
Yet so many of these memories flood back almost drowning me.

And like an old friend I visit them,
and all the emotions they bring.
These memories relived, an old black and white movie
scratched, moments fading on the screen.some almost gone now.

Can we ever really relive those first times,
going back to yesterday?
Perhaps we can take up where we left off,
building new memories, no longer standing still.
  
Catching up, no time elapsed in our absence.
Senses renewed and awed, reimagined.
New flashes, forever a part of me.

Like watching a fawn discover a grassy meadow,
running free and wild on fresh legs for the first time.
I travel back to that first tree I climbed so high,
with views still magnificent and full of wonder~even in my absence.
©Donna Donabella 2016
  

My next poem was written right before I took time away from blogging and writing.  I had read a quote from Mary Oliver about the gift of a Box Full of Darkness.  It took me a long time to appreciate what that box full of darkness meant to me and my journey to healing one of those painful old relationships.  It seemed it had come round again needed further work to heal it.  And this poem was just the ticket to that healing.


I open this box again.
Its dark demons still survive there.
The bruises, the slaps, the cuts-
Pain still runs deep in the scars.

You told someone recently you remembered me fondly.
And my snort of derision was a surprise.
Maybe a slap back.
But this box full of darkness has risen again.

No longer all neatly wrapped and stored in the attic of my heart,
Where it had burned a hole.
White hot with searing anger,
With anguish and betrayal.

And as I gaze upon this box, I know it is never forgotten.
But it no longer defines me.
Abused, Used, Victim!
No this box I hold, shows me I am a survivor.
I have risen.  Strong of heart, shame resilient.

And while I may feel some residual pain,
And a tear may appear at the corner of my eye,
This box, oh this holy, blessed box is your gift to me.
One you never knew you gave me,
Perhaps the only one you ever gave me.

And so I keep this box full of darkness
Neatly wrapped in the attic of my heart,
Where now it holds a special place on the altar of my soul.
© Donna Donabella 2016

Sherry: Donna, this is a wonderful testament to your resilient spirit. You are wise to understand the unexpected gift that box of darkness held.
Donna: This last poem is part of a series I started and hope to finish this year, epistolary poems, based on letters I wrote to a series of prompts.  It was also written last July before my injury.  And it shows how creativity was beginning to take on a very important part of my life.  It was during the healing months that I realized just how important a part of my life it would become….it is an essential part of my core.

You come to me on crayon-colored rainbows
scrawled on envelopes and walls.
You ride on the wind with swings flying high,
and bike spokes pinned with cards, clapping like hoof beats.
You roll down hills laughing so hard
you can hardly breath.
And you plunk down in a meadow plucking yellow and white petals
to the tune of, He loves me, he loves me not!

You are part of my soul.
Maybe its most important part.
You have been with me for all my life.
And you are my saving grace.
You are what makes my heart sing.
I am forever yours.

Now there have been times I may not
have been open enough to hear you,
But rest assured I will not let
Fear, Worry, Doubt and Self-Judgement shut you out.
Your voice will sing to me all my days,
and we can ride the clouds to new adventures!

As we lay under the leaves of maple and oak and ash.
And dream of forts, and pirates and princesses.
Making braids of grass and playing tunes on leaves.
Laughing until we can hardly breathe.

© Donna Donabella 2016

Sherry: I love the image of you laughing under the trees. What else do you enjoy besides writing and gardening?

Recently, after taking a class, I became enthralled with making ‘artsy’ photos using apps.  You can see many of them here.  

Sherry: I have been admiring them since you began posting them. They are so pretty. Softer than photos, a quality I like. 

Donna: The process is really quite addictive….like creating works of art and using the camera and phone as a canvas. 
 




I also love cooking, especially using fresh veggies from the garden, and creating dishes without recipes….just using my sense of smell and taste.  And I have been playing around with making drawings using chalk or watercolors…all creative pursuits.


Sherry: A lovely and loving life, well-lived, my friend. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Donna: Even though I was away for 11 months, you welcomed me back as if I had never been gone.  Gratitude fills my heart for all your warm wishes, and kind words and comments.  There is no safer, better place to share one’s creativity.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. 

Sherry: Thank you, Donna, for this lovely visit. It is a joy to read your poems and gaze upon your glorious garden. We look forward to enjoying your work in the months and years ahead, and are happy you are back.

I feel like we have been sitting for a time in Donna's beautiful garden. I do love visiting the lives of our poet friends, each one's life so intriguing and unique. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!




35 comments:

  1. I enjoyed the visit with Donna, her garden, her poetry, and her thoughts! I think we all have a "box of darkness" that requires courage to open and make peace with. The term "box of darkness" is appropos. Thank you, Sherry for bringing this visit to us!

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    1. Thanks Bev for joining in and I am so pleased you enjoyed the visit. Sherry is amazing with her interview skills.

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  2. Donna, thank you for sharing your wonderful poetry, your thoughts and your gorgeous photography with us. What a treat it is to visit you and learn more about your rich, rewarding life.

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    1. And thank you Sherry for asking....you make me feel so at home. I only wish we could have been sipping a beverage and strolling around the garden...but the virtual visit is equally nice!

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    2. Me, too. I am entranced by your garden!!

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  3. Good Monday friends, happy to meet Donna a little closer up. Having visited her blog read her poems. In "How Far" featured today I luv this line:
    "I fear a comeuppance is at hand~mighty~"

    much love...

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    1. Oh Gillena I am s happy you enjoyed your visit and the poem. It has become a favorite of mine especially that line. Much love to you too!

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  4. Great to see you back, Donna, in all your resilience and vibrancy.

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  5. Oh what a wonderful interview. My husband is the gardener but I am in love with his garden. I enjoyed your poetry and especially "How far" Amazing poem

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    1. Thanks so much Marja....being married to a gardener you know the love and obsession we have for our gardens.

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  6. This interview was a treat. Thank you so much, Sherry and Donna! I find that the myriad of different ways creative poets find to fill their - non-writing - hours, utterly fascinating. Donna's garden is, clearly, a labor of love and a tribute to imagination and resourcefulness. I'm a big fan of Donna's enchanting and enchanted nature pieces, as well as her lovely introspective poems ... and, of course, her artwork. An awesome job on this, Poets!

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    1. Wendy, I have been a big fan of yours too, and to read how much you love my creative endeavors certainly fills me with gratitude and love. Your support is so very appreciated and I thank you from the bottom of my heart! Oh and yes the garden is definitely a labor of love.

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  7. It's so wonderful to see you writing again Donna. What a creative person you are! You idea of the garden to be home to wildlife is really unique. It has its own rewards, isn't it? And thanks for including "Box Full of Darkness" here for us to enjoy it once more. Thank you Donna and Sherry.

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    1. It has been great to be back Sumana...and thank you for such kind words. My wildlife garden is very rewarding and I adore it. "Box Full of Darkness" is a personal favorite and a great reminder for me as challenges rear up again.

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  8. It's good to have you back. There is such strength in your poems.

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    1. Thank you....you are always so perceptive and I appreciate that. I do feel so much stronger.

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  9. Thank you for your honesty and sharing the intervening time Donna - letting us know a little more about what these away moments have been like for you - in stillness we can break down before we break through. A bit like compost heaps ;)
    "You come to me on crayon-colored rainbows
    scrawled on envelopes and walls."
    I love these lines especially Donna - and I thank you once again for all your support over the years between gardening and poetry - it was you who brought me here xx

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    1. Oh, wow, that is so cool, Rajani! So happy you made that connection and found your way here!

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    2. I love this analogy to compost heaps....so perfect! I hope our long association and support for one another continues for many, many years to come! It is so dear to me, your friendship! And I love that you found your way here too!

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  10. welcome back, Donna! though i myself have not been writing much lately and missing from this community. :)

    yes, enhancing photos to make them 'artsy' can be fun and satisfying. :)

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    1. So lovely to see you, kiddo. Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. thank you, sherry. i am always browsing around whenever i have the time. :)

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    3. You have been missed and I do appreciate your stopping by to read the interview and poems. Thank you!

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  11. Donna, I really like the openness and the honesty in your answers. I understand your wondering if you had been missed, as you mentioned you had a small following. Believe me, your words WERE missed. This makes me reflect that it might not be a bad idea to reach out to people who are away for a while and let them know that they and their words ARE missed.

    I am sorry about the injury that kept you away, and also sorry about the death of your Aunt Mary. I remember when you first returned to PU with a poem about Aunt Mary...

    You poem "How Far" speaks strongly to me. Definitely a strong comment on the present, and my heart is breaking too....as it seems we move ever closer to the brink.

    "Yesterday" has a wonderful nostalgia. Nostalgia has mixed blessings, doesn't it? We realize we will never relive those wonderful days that we reflect on. But then again it is good to have the memories & also to learn to enjoy that present moment.

    "Box Full of Darkness" speaks to me. The idea that the 'darkness' will never be forgotten.....but that it does not have to define a person! I do love the depth and openness in your poems.

    I am glad you are back at Poets United. I enjoy your poetry & also your 'artsy' photos of late.

    And, Sherry, your interview was such a pleasure to read. Thank you for presenting it here.

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    1. My pleasure, as always, Mary. I love visiting with our poet friends! Makes my week!

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    2. My goodness what can I say, Mary! To know I have been missed and your support mean all the world to me. I think it is a great idea to touch base with poets who have been missing. Reaching out is so important. Your comments on my poems are always so insightful and I appreciate them so very much. They help me grow and write more. Thank you!

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  12. I'm so happy you are back Donna. I've always enjoyed your poetry and your generosity at sharing your photo art. Your poetry is always so sincerely from your heart, like the three you selected here.
    Thanks Sherry for this interview. As always you really know how to highlight a poets essence.

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    1. Sherry is amazing, I agree Myrna! And thank you for such a kind and generous welcome back. It means the world to me.

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  13. So, nice to have a garden around the house that i in tune with the surrounding nature. All the best and may god bless you with good health

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    1. Thank you for such lovely well wishes!

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  14. I am sitting here drinking a cup of tea and this interview was such a pleasure to read. I can tell your poetry comes from within. May it always be so!

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    1. Thank you dear friend....I don't think I could write any other way!

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  15. Donna, I love the way your poems stitch your life together, how they weave through it experientialy. "Dear Imagination," indeed!

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    1. You see so much Susan...thank you. I do find my life and what I am learning and going through as one of my greatest muses.

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