No Wonder You Were Afraid to Ask #38 – Donna de la Perrière – The Meaning of Life: Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind and Have Lots of Cats!

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Donna de la Perrière lives in Oakland, CA and is a Poet, Professor, and cat wrangler. Here is more about this Inspirational Soul in her own words.

I was born in Athens GA, moved to Providence RI in my 20s, lived in Boston in my 30s, then spent 4 years in MI before moving to CA in my 40s. Been living in the same apartment near downtown Oakland for almost 14 years now. I’d love to promote the online literary journal, Aspasiology. Some fellow writers did a great literary study of my work; you can take a look at it by clicking here. I’m passionate about animals. Please, adopt a your next companion animal at your local shelter. Be kind to one another (a.k.a. do unto others as you would have others do unto you). The thing I am really proud of is that I’ve helped some human and non-human creatures along the way.

Connect with Donna online here:

Twitter: @ddelaperriere
Instagram: @donnadlp
Personal Website: donnadelaperriere.net
Personal Site: donnadelaperriere.net
Bay Area Poetry Marathon Website: bayareapoetrymarathon.net

Now check out her great answers to the Bonus Questions:

What is the most adventurous thing you ever did?

Become a poet.

If you could cure one disease in the world what it be? Why?

Mental illness. Because it leads to despair. Because it can destroy the best and gentlest of people.

What advice would you give the teenage you?

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Have more fun. Pay more attention to your friends and less to your sweethearts. Don’t take everything so seriously; none of this will mean anything to you in 10 years. Know that, much later, you will be strangely grateful for the difficulties of these years because they will teach you empathy and almost nothing is more important than empathy. And know that one young man you date in high school will turn violent; get away from him – now – and if you can’t do that, at least make sure he is arrested so he’ll have a record when he hurts someone else after you, as of course, he will.

Is there a non-profit you would like everyone to know about

Cat Town Oakland is a wonderful non-profit companion animal rescue group that has been helping Oakland’s most vulnerable shelter cats since 2011. Through innovative programs and partnerships, including the Cat Town Café, they’ve helped nearly 1,400 cats, redefining what’s possible for shy, senior, and other at-risk cats who need a second chance outside of a shelter cage. Through a unique partnership with Oakland Animal Services, Cat Town has helped reduce the euthanasia rate for cats at the Oakland shelter from 42% in 2011 to less than 10% today.

How do you think we can fix the racial divide in the United States?

A good start would be for white people to own up to their tremendous privilege and to simultaneously shut up and start listening for a change.

What is your favorite Inspirational quote?

“What is to give light must endure burning.” -Viktor Frankl

Do you have a pet? What’s its name? How’d it get that name? Supply a picture.

Our current creature family members are:

Whitman (so named because he is deeply emotional and “contain[s] multitudes”)
Whitman (so named because he is deeply emotional and “contain[s] multitudes”)
Dickinson (so named because she is small and fierce and her “beauty is not caused. It is.”)
Dickinson (so named because she is small and fierce and her “beauty is not caused. It is.”)
Slinky Malinky (so named because… well, just look at him)
Slinky Malinky (so named because… well, just look at him)

Do you have a nickname? How’d you get it?

My two childhood nicknames, both given to me by my parents, were “Brook” (short for “Donnybrook”) and “Tor” (short for my toddler pronunciation of “monster”).

What is one attribute you got from your Mom? How has it been a benefit to your life?

My love of and respect for language. I wouldn’t be a poet or a professor today if not for that gift. It influenced the trajectory of my whole life.

What is one attribute you got from your Dad? How has it been a benefit to your life?

My strong will. I wouldn’t have survived many experiences if not for that strength, which was born out of the safe harbor that he was in my youth.

Did you have a particular birthday cake you had every year when you were growing up?

Caramel cake, which is the most divine cake in the world and is only made correctly by little old Southern ladies who call you “sugar”

If you could give any gift to any person who and what would it be?

My 92-year-old mother: I would give her peace of mind.

Three songs on your funeral playlist?

16 Horsepower – “Wayfaring Stranger”
Julie & Buddy Miller – “All My Tears (Be Washed Away)”
David Byrne and Brian Eno – “One Fine Day”
Patti Smith – “Paths That Cross”
Ben Harper — “I Shall Not Walk Alone”
Bob Dylan (or) Sarah Jarosz — “Ring Them Bells”
Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling — “The River”

Which teacher had the biggest impact on you?

My college professor, Paul Oppy, because he showed us all how to make a life in which art was central and in which we could be good to one another. He remains one of the best, most deeply generous people I’ve ever known.

What do you think is the meaning of life?

Be kind, be kind, be kind.

Do you have a favorite dinosaur?

Brontosaurus, of course!

Are you curious about what goes on behind closed doors in other people’s houses?

Completely.

Where do you think your soul comes from?

I think it comes from the Source that we call God, although I also think we can’t even begin to fathom what That is or how It works or what we are in relation to It. I think that maybe our souls are all little parts of a larger Soul that we call God, that maybe this part—the best in us—is how we’re all connected, and that we forget that connection at our great, great peril. I also think we probably build our own souls during our time here on earth – which is a daunting, humbling, and somewhat terrifying thought. (And I wish I felt I was doing a better job of building mine.)

What is one word you use all the time?

“Actually”

Do you collect anything?

Cats and terrors (kidding) (sort of)

If this was your last day on earth, what would you do?

Hang out with Joseph and the cats.

If you won the lottery what 3 things would you do first.

Save a chunk of it so I wouldn’t be destitute in my old age. Hire someone to help my elderly mother so she won’t have to move to a nursing home. Give a giant load of it to the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center because I fear the next 4 years are going to be uglier than any of us imagine.

Tell me about a time you were bullied.

I was the only child of older parents, so in retrospect I think I grew up not really knowing how to relate to other children especially well – being “sensitive” and “too serious.” In high school, this got interpreted as my being “stuck up” (although in reality, it was just social confusion and mammoth shyness on my part). One choice moment was when, after a “donkey basketball” (don’t ask…) fundraiser, some girls stuffed my purse full of donkey shit. There were many other choice moments, some involving kids, some involving adults. People can be gleefully, pointlessly horrible, can’t they?

Do you have any strange fears or phobias?

Being photographed is number one on the list. Also earthquakes, enclosed spaces, being dunked under water unexpectedly, sitting anywhere other than an aisle seat in movie theatres or on planes, feeling in any way “trapped.”

Have you ever thought of killing yourself?

Yes

Why is reading books so important?

Because they teach us empathy and because language is beautiful

What was your favorite toy as a child?

Junior the bear (second favorite: BearBear the bear)

Do you think slaughterhouse animals feel pain? What do you think they are thinking when they are being slaughtered?

Yes. I think they are terrified. I also think that 100 years from now, most humans will be horrified by how we currently treat non-human animals. I think they will wonder how we were able to live with ourselves.

What is your favorite picture of yourself? Please provide it.

favorite-pic

Is there something that you wear every day? What is it?

Black clothing, a rose gold cross, my wedding ring.

Is there a book you really want to read, tried several times, and still haven’t finished?

Proust

Would you rather know where we came from before birth or if there is life after death? Why?

The latter, because the older I get, the more important the answer seems.

What is something that scares you?

Mortality, despair, earthquakes, late-in-life poverty.

Tell me about a time you hitchhiked?

On the Isle of Skye in the mid-80s. Was picked up and driven around the island by Ray McDowell of Northern Ireland. Ray and I still exchange Christmas cards.

This interview is In Memory of Our Beloved Creature family members who have passed, and whom we miss every single day, are:

Rilke (so named because of his huge eyes and his enormous, poetic heart)
Rilke (so named because of his huge eyes and his enormous, poetic heart)
Little Sister (so named because she was my soul sister and dearest girl)
Little Sister (so named because she was my soul sister and dearest girl)
Zuey (short for Kudzu, so named because of her deep green eyes, her sweetness and grace)
Zuey (short for Kudzu, so named because of her deep green eyes, her sweetness and grace)
The Colonel (so named because of his regal bearing, long beard, and gentle spirit)
The Colonel (so named because of his regal bearing, long beard, and gentle spirit)
Jinxie (so named because he was my first love, my best luck, my saving grace in darkest days)
Jinxie (so named because he was my first love, my best luck, my saving grace in darkest days)

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