As we enter the winter holiday season I am reminded of the walk we took last winter with the guest from Wisconsin, who it turned out was a wind engineer looking to leave the industry because of the way its ethics had changed when she got in 10 years ago idealistic about its possibilities (coincidence and she took this photo) who said, when she saw where the turbines would be over out lakes, “Anyone in the wind industry knows that is the worst place to put wind turbines, the most intermittent availability in in wooded hilly areas”. So First Wind and Baldacci and Angus King must know this too but do they care? We fought our case in court WED DEC 12 and now are fighting their ability to get  a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers based on the endangered lynx and eagles in our area. Honestly we wish TR were here to help us fight this corruption. We are sure he would:


Wind is a concept we had to consider if we were going to take the silver aluminum clunker canoe out on the lake. Wind was a concept we also had to consider if we were to take our 14 foot also silver aluminum boat out on the lake to go to town to get supplies or  if uptown getting supplies, to keep an eye on to see if the wind was bringing in a fast thunderstorm, in which case our boat became a lightning rod. Mother instilled the fear of God into us about taking the boats out in lightning or even if it looked like it might lightning. And it could come up fast. Definitely we could not go out when it was very windy, which was mostly the autumn when we were back in school in Connecticut.

Sometimes, laying in the quiet, the dead quiet of night, at the cabin 5 miles away from anything and anyone I could hear the wind rustling in the trees. It was a beautiful sound, reassuring and haunting at the same time. When my mother hinted that she might sell the log cabin, built by her cousin when he was a young man of 30 and his father, I whispered to her “Please, no, mom, that place is my soul.” I was not one given to whispering but at that moment I wanted to sound like those beautiful leaves speaking to me in the night or watching me in their movement in the early morning, warning me in the afternoon that I

had to move the boat in to the cove to keep it from slamming on the rugged rocky shore in front of the cabin. My mother loved the cabin as much as I did so it must have relieved her to know that one of her offspring actually cared. Our relationship had been a complicated one but we had one thing in common- a love for nature, for Maine and for the total healing and spirituality of it all. My sister had long ago escaped to California, moving there right out of college in the Midwest and never returning East except for visits. My brother, institutionalized for mental problems in the 60’s, would never function in the “real” world ever again even though he lived in a halfway house in Hartford, went back to live with my parents, who then bought him his own condo as they approached the inevitable.

Who would have thought, when I took a leap of faith and purchased my great grandparents’ homestead “uptown” (since their amazing lake property and tourist business had been sold out from under our family with no warning by a relative who could no longer keep it going and, for whatever reason, didn’t think to ask the family for help) that the wind would become my enemy? Not the wind itself exactly, but the people who greedily claimed they could use this intermittent energy to create electricity for people outside of Maine, outside of our State? What sense did that make? To blast our hills, to kill and scare off our wildlife, to ruin our topography forever, the one Henry David Thoreau and Theodore Roosevelt wrote about, the Maine woods, forever? Who would have thought, when I decided to make decidedly unlikely and irrational go of a retreat for the weary city dweller, a place where the industrialized views and sounds of progress were so very far away that people always commented “ I had no idea you were so far away from everything” “ It took forever to get here but boy was it worth it”, that we would be fighting this wind battle? Not I. Fifteen years in to putting our all into it, people had come from all over the United States and even rarely from another country- England, Finland, Holland- it seemed to be actually working. My Swedish husband and I had been married in the backyard in 2003, good reviews came in from the press and individuals. Season by season we managed to keep it going- putting all we made back into it- wallpapering, insulating, replacing mattresses, upgrading appliances, bit by bit making it better and better for our guests, who were amazing people looking for some silence, some beauty and some solace in their lives. And remarkably they found us.

And even more remarkably it worked.

We had issues with the local factory, which supported the town. Located nearby us it emitted a 24-7 hum. We knew the perils of noise pollution. One manager was brashly rude at my requests to see what they could do about it. Eventuallu another manager came on board who worked with us, decreasing the sound so it was more tolerable. They had been laying people off for a few years, only employed 75 anyway,  then finally closed. We learned here about big corporations and how challenging it was to get anywhere with them. When the factory closed it was sad for the town but we found our silence, which was much better for our purpose.

Then the dry town became a wet one. What were the chances? Since the town of Island Falls was founded by my great great grandparents the Sewalls and the Craigs in 1845, the town had been dry. In 2004 the old library, the beautiful big old green Nina Sawyer building, became a bar. The first few years it was civilized and contained. Then it became a rowdy crowd, with blaring bands on the weekends and booming bass sounds from the jukebox other nights. People had fights on the street, screaming and hooting and pealing out. I went on a mission  calling the State Police, became partners with another neighbor who argued with the town that this violated the existing noise ordinance, only to meet with the bar owners’ wife screaming at me at town meetings that I was the one who tried to close the starch factory (not true). The neighbor and I joined forces, the two Donnas, calling the selectman in the middle of the night and the authorities. The more reports we had in the more they were likely to listen. Eventually they closed; Mismanagement we had heard, also the possibility of some illegal activities, though never proven. Once again we had won the dead silence. And our business survived somehow miraculously.

Things come in threes. This one was bigger than the others. When the other two were happening I thought nothing else could be worse- and what were the odds of any disturbances in this quiet hamlet off the beaten path, population less than 800?  It was like going back in time, people waving at you as they took their daily walk or drove by, friendly hellos at the post office and small talk about the weather, always something to watch in a beautiful nature filled spot like Island Falls. My great grandparents had settled there for the beauty of the location, a tiny island sandwiched in between the rushing river water we called the “falls”. Their first home had been just opposite the falls, now the Briarpatch Gift and Flower shop, one of the few businesses surviving in Island Falls.

Soon, all too soon, we were to face this warp in time, this never changing simplicity, as going forward in to a destruction I could never have fathomed would come this far north or to any part of our pristine parts. And my heart was feeling cracked every day, as many other hearts had cracked in Lincoln, where views of Mt Katahdin and lakes now saw skyscraper sized wind turbines, whooshing when they worked, though their efficiency was low, sounding like a helicopter or airplane where once the deer and moose heard only silence and the natives viewed only breathtaking scenery like Mount Katahdin, which meant the Great One in the Native tongue. In Mars Hill, adjacent to homes and the ski slope, 25 of the monsters did their damage. In the name of what? Who will listen to our pleas when the sounds of the wind turbines change our wildlife and our lives forever?Image


During Sandy I was in NYC at our apartment in Little Italy, where I have lived since 1988 and in this apartment since 1990 when not in Maine.

It has seen many NY memories and moments. This is my poem written after Kent left to check on Sewall House and a day before we got back


Hurricane Sandy Observations of a Ghost Town

Doomsday he said half jokingly

Depart with me

Sirens the only sound

Occasional voices in the dark

Where you dare not venture

Quieter and quieter as the days past

During daylight

Free Food from Fancy Stores

The $10.99 green juice  FREE

Avocado and figs             FREE

Buttery croissants from Gitane   FREE

The blind kitty climbs in the windowsill

Let the cool air in

She pleas

Walking 5 miles a day

to see activity

+ power

in the same city

Returning to your ghost town

Dark at night

Like the country sky

Quieter than the country

No crickets

No sound

Little Life

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If you are a yoga retreat guest or someone coming to our site for the first time this is my personal musings..for news and things about the retreat please go to the blog at the top of the website homepage..meantime here is a bit more education about the personal challenge I am facing, we all have them,  and maybe something that is educational if you think wind energy is green….. This was printed in the Bangor Daily News along with some other stories of the Great One..thanks for reading..and to learn more go to wind watch or Maine Wind Task Force online or see the movie WINDFALL available on DVD.

ImageDonna Sewall Davidge of Island Falls relates what the natural beauty and history of Katahdin means to her and her family.

Mount Katahdin means the “Great One,” as the Indians called it. It rises majestically as you view it from the scenic overlook on I-95 or from various points in Island Falls, where Theodore Roosevelt started from when he climbed it. It means wilderness and wildlife and, thanks to the vision of Mr. Baxter, it meant preserving it for Maine and its people.

When Theodore Roosevelt climbed it, he was with my great grandfather William Sewall. It means a lot to me to keep the tradition alive — of friendship that can be made in nature, which doesn’t judge you for what you have or who you know. Nature treats all equally.

Involved in the battle to keep the wind turbines from harming our wildlife and hilltops viewed from Mount Katahdin, I never thought the day would come that the area is so jeopardized. Even if [natural landscape] is ruined nearby (if a miracle happens, the people of Maine may wake up and rise up and say, “Please do not change the way of life we have known all these years.”) the mountain will remain unchanged, even as everything around it does not remain the same. If [Katahdin] had a voice it might cry out, “What are you doing to the brothers and sisters I look out at every day? What is the blasting and the machines as high as skyscrapers? What purpose will they make? How will they serve my beautiful land and woods?”

I climbed Katahdin 1999 and again in 2010. The second time, I was with a guest who returned to my great grandfather’s home in Island Falls, where we host people as he did. She was determined to climb Katahdin. She had climbed mountains as far away as Ecuador and lived in California. I always say Susan Hopp made me go to the top. It was a glorious October day. I so hope and pray the next time she returns we will have the same views, free of industrial wind turbines that would ruin our experience of nature.”

Besides teaching and studying yoga, balancing New York City students, some I have had since the late 80’s-early 90’s!, and our wonderful  retreat guests in our wonderful historic home in Maine, my time has been consumed seeing if we can preserve the highly ranked lakes near our retreat.( the header is the view from our cabin 5 miles down the lake) The lakes will still be there but the wind farm will ruin so much of the wildlife and natural beauty that I have to do what I can..if you think Wind Is Green and Good so did most of us when we started. It has become very confusing because environmental groups have even obviously received monies (by the way, our tax dollars are subsidizing this) to say wind is good..even organizations like Audobon, who should be most concerned for the life of the birds. Jim Wiegand from Berkeley has been studying the impact of wind turbines on birds and none of it is good..carcasses of birds and bats are found under turbines in numbers. The companies argue birds hit windshields. I still cannot support  that way of thinking, They have lied to people in Vinylhaven and other parts of Maine to get what they want and once they do, they either pay them off or force them to leave their once peaceful and pristine homes. Maine- the way life should be. What happened to their motto? These turbines require blasting into hills that are untouched for thousands of years, clear cutting 5 acres of beautiful forest for each turbines, the low frequency noise and the audible noise drives the creatures from their homes as well..and see the movie Windfall for an example of the impact on humans and will NOT get us off fossil a matter of fact, it requires back up because it is so intermittent..want to learn more? Google Wind watch, Save the eagles or Wind Task Force. We have appealed the DEP, the BEP and watch the corruption of the expedited wind law that Angus King and Baldacci should be persecuted for – acting as if the beauty of rural Maine does not matter and sneaking in to the towns before they knew what hit them. True, some people are apathetic- true, the ones against them have personally told me they don’t want to lose their friends so say nothing..but we will do what we can as we always do. Yoga lifestyle means living your truth with courage and clarity and strength and grace. It is not simply about asana.

As T.R. , (while has was at Harvard) who trekked these woods and lakes for 3 fall expeditions with my great grandfather William Sewall while staying at Sewall House, said:

“Nobody knows how much you know until they know how much you care”

and as one of my beloved NY students wrote me yesterday knowing the challenge I am dealing with

“Everything will be all right in the end and if its not alright it will not be the end”

It is the yoga principle of ahimsa, non harming or nonviolence, that I feel deeply when fighting the fight of the wind warrior..for all the life taken for the cause, whether it be trees, birds or frogs..

This is my personal blog- the retreat blog is on the top of the webpage.


So DEP turned a deaf ear to the beautiful letters written and the comments made about the damage First Wind will create over and around our beautiful untouched lakes in a proven low wind area- logic is not prevailing here, sadness fills every cell of my being- and messages come from unexpected places to assure us of who we are.

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thanks Michael for sending this with your payment for Kent’s wonderful peanut butter that you ordered:

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening the circle of compassion and understanding to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty”..Albert Einstein

Friday was the last day we could provide comments to the DEP for their sad form draft permit for the 50 45 story wind turbines overlooking our historic highly ranked lakes which are wildlife preserves..for eagles, bats, loons and enjoyed by humans who love the tranqulity and healing of nature-in the last monet the Sierra Club wrote them saying this is the wrong place ..will our DEP protect the Wind Companies or the people of Maine ands those who enjoy our part of Maine? this link tells it all
donations accepted as we continue our legal battle..


Infants Gravestones 1860's

One sunny day this summer our neighbor Fred, the head of the Cemetery Committee in Island Falls, drove in to our driveway with something in a small trailer pulled behind his ATV. He walked to our door, knocked and asked if I knew anything about the contents. I did not. But I could speculate. The dates and the names of the parents determined that these were infants that had been born to my great grandfather’s older brother. They died 12 days apart, brother and sister, in October, likely the victims of a flu or, worse yet, diphtheria, that they had somehow shared with each other. The stones had been found in the barn of an older neighbor whose estate was being auctioned off; mysterious the things we store in our closets, so to speak, the secrets we all carry that only are in the halls of our own mind. No, I did not know their story. But seeing these little tombstones my heart and mind recollected a time where life was more uncertain, where we were held more in the grips of the whims of nature, whether it be weather or disease. We have never truly escaped this grip, even with modern medicine and weathermen. Perhaps we experience it more now in a different way by the way we treat our environment and each other, I wonder. Little ones, rest in peace. (age 1- little LEVI GONE ON TO A BETTER LAND, obviously named for his grandfather, my great great grandfather and age 4-DANCING IN HEAVEN MARY ANNIE).

For years now I have spoken about ” writing a book” , have purchased books on writing and on publishing books, even had the courage to take a spiritual memoir class this Spring. With childlike trepidation I read the first two pages to the class, who responded with at least curiosity.  The teacher said he would read 10 pages if anyone wanted him to. I jumped on the opportunity, giving him the part about leaving my first marriage to escape in to my own (selfish?) search in Europe etc etc etc blah blah blah, which is pretty much what he thought of it- “nothing there”. Ouch, I (it) might not be as interesting as I thought! These day so many people in yoga have had these “journeys”( ie The Poser- Eat, Pray . Love, neither of which I can judge because I have not read them but they ARE best sellers) . Is mine really all that interesting?

My nephew wrote me a note when I was 40, thanking me for attending his wedding,  writing (and he writes spectacularly) that I looked like the main character from some Argentinian novel whose life resembles Angela’s Ashes; I was touched by his insightful observation. It sounds so dramatic but it is relatively true. I have had an adventurous and varied life, as someone said to me recently, deliberate. A story like mine seems it should have a different outcome. We could call first you don’t succeed (wow it took me ten tries to type that word, is it Freudian or WHAT?)..or we could call it, well, I cannot tell that story here.

Life nectar is now my personal blog, not my yoga teacher blog, not the Sewall House blog(that you can find now in our menu) so from time to time I will muse on life or little stories.

An agent in NYC that my friend Paul kindly referred me to (much more useful than a cold call) said my idea had merit – in the rejection e-mail an assistant took the time to write. I think that was actually encouraging, though I did not take it that way at the time.

My 96 year old father says he wants to complete his memoirs; I wonder if either of us will.

With the NY Times article last weekend and the response to it in Elephant magazine and the Details magazine on the eroticism of yoga in the hot yoga world, there are a lot of ways to do yoga these days! Why do you do it?? What does it do for you? In case you did not catch the articles- is yoga a lifestyle, a philosophy or just exercise??


Donna bends a bit...

Our most recent trip advisor review says ” All stressed out New Yorkers should have a place like this to retreat to, where people are not obsessed with wealth and status and common sense reigns supreme.” This week Edmund Morris was featured in Metro New York, having completed his third and final biography installment on Theodore Roosevelt. As only an eloquent writer can do so well, as Morris reflects on the issues of TR’s 1912 campaign he sees that TR had a profound mistrust of wealth as a false American value and that wealth these days is “so grotesquely celebrated and regarded as a badge of merit”. Though he only mentions my great grandfather a little in his first celebrated bio of TR, he grasped the relationship so well. I saw the King’s Speech last night and had the good fortune to be part of a Q and A with the screen-writer (having kept my SAG card for a reason) afterward. I could not help but feel very touched and relate to the lifelong friendship between two men of totally different social and financial backgrounds who forged a true friendship based on what counts most, authenticity. So in this interesting time, when our own political parties are so seemingly divided, and where people are doing yoga for various reasons as it has risen in popularity and also fosters the star system our country so admires, we do our best to continue and honor this tradition at Sewall House. Some who come here don’t really know much about the friendship that was forged by TR and my great grandfather but thanks to Andrew Vietze’s book last year, some more know now. And that TR not only forged a friendship in this house but was healed by the nurturing of nature here and a welcoming home and family, I hope we are doing my great grandparents proud.


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