Monday, October 23, 2017


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!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Poetry Pantry # 376

Tofino Botanical Gardens
by Sherry Blue Sky

Entrance to the 12-acre Botanical Gardens in Tofino, B.C.
The gardens have been developed over twenty years.

  Darwin's Cafe in the gardens - a popular gathering place
 for poetry readings, book launches and other social events

Funky Gazebo

A natural pond

Another view of the pond

Another View of Darwin's Cafe

Many trails wind through what was once dense forest. 
Care was taken to displace  as little vegetation as possible.

The inlet - serene and beautiful. A resting place twice 
yearly for migratory birds.

Good morning, friends.  Today we have some photos taken by Sherry Blue Sky on her visit to the Tofino Botanical Gardens. Aren't they beautiful?

Thanks to all of you who took part in this past week's Midweek Motif - "Dark Moon, New Moon. " Thanks also to those of you who visited the poems of other poets who wrote.  Next week the Midweek Motif prompt will be "Journey."

Monday, be sure to come back and read Sherry's update with one of our Poets United poets who had been away for a while and now has returned!

If you haven't read Rosemary's post on Rupert Brooke's poem "The Wayfarers," please scroll back and read The Living Dead.

With no further delay, let's share poetry!  Link your poem below. Stop into the comments and say hello.  Then visit other poets who post.  Come back a few times and see who is new. Enjoy your Sunday!

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

The Wayfarers

Is it the hour? We leave this resting-place
Made fair by one another for a while.
Now, for a god-speed, one last mad embrace;
The long road then, unlit by your faint smile.
Ah! the long road! and you so far away!
Oh, I’ll remember! but … each crawling day
Will pale a little your scarlet lips, each mile
Dull the dear pain of your remembered face.

…Do you think there’s a far border town, somewhere,
The desert’s edge, last of the lands we know,
Some gaunt eventual limit of our light,
In which I’ll find you waiting; and we’ll go
Together, hand in hand again, out there,
Into the waste we know not, into the night? 

– Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

English poet Rupert Brooke's haunting Fragment, Source, which Susan used in the latest Midweek Motif, reminded me about this poet, whose work I was brought up on.

Some of his poetry, in its attempts at poetic language, now seems old-fashioned and even pretentious, with 'thees', 'thous' and inversions. But when he writes from the heart he achieves some minor masterpieces.

This is especially true when he writes of simple, everyday things, as in two of his best-known poems, The Great Lover, in which he celebrates domestic objects as well as the natural world, and the homesick The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. They also reveal his mastery of rhyme. I think this must be the most ingenious rhyme in English poetry:

Ah God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!

It made a great impression on me when I was kid, and I'm still amazed by it.

He also wrote some renowned war poems, and his most famous poem was one of these: The Soldier, which was read from the pulpit of St Paul's Cathedral on Easter Sunday 1915 and has been featured in numerous anthologies ever since. I think it sentimentalises war, but very persuasively, and is also redolent of homesickness.

I love his love poems most of all, and The Wayfarers best of all his love poems.

He died young, aged 27. Although he was known as one of the 'war poets' of the First World War, was commissioned into the Navy and was on the way to Gallipoli at the time of his death, he didn't die in battle but of a mosquito bite that turned septic. He was buried 'in a foreign field' as his most famous poem imagines, but not a field of war. His grave is on the island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea.

It's sad for anyone to die so young, and although he doesn't have the stature of, say, a Wilfred Owen, he was a talented poet whose best work is lasting, and  would surely have gone on to greater things.

He was educated at Rugby, where he won the school poetry prize when he was 18, and at Kings College, Cambridge where, we are told, he was noted for his good looks, intellect and charm as well as his poetic talent.

As an adult he travelled extensively (before war broke out) and wrote travel articles as well as poetry.

You can read more about him at WikipediaPoetry Foundation, or The Academy of American Poets. PoemHunter has his poems, and you can find books by and about him at Amazon.

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright). The photo of Rupert Brooke, above, is in the Public Domain.