To the editor:
There ought to be a photo of Donna Lee Carmello next to a dictionary definition of "Earth Mother."
When you peeled away the vernacular — magnified healer, psychic, ethereal guide, spiritual adviser and (yes, hilariously) real estate agent — what remained was how remarkably Donna really, really cared about both your happiness and the planet we temporarily occupy.
You can read her obituary to learn surface details. But it took me 37 years and a bedside hospice vigil last week to fully appreciate how indefatigable she was until her body (not her mind) finally succumbed to multiple myeloma.
We spoke, for the last time, a few days before she went into hospice. Upbeat, she was even then unreasonably marketing events by email for her foundation, A Sacred Place Wellness Center in Salem.
My friendship began as a social guest and later as a musician, supporting Horizons, her early version of a wellness consortium. In 37 years, we fused healers and entertainers to sponsor dozens of successful concerts, dances and backyard parties in a seamless array of fundraising and consciousness-raising. From that amalgam, I was graced with tangential friendships that renewed annually (and measurably) as the winter solstice generated the inevitable potluck dinner and a "circle of light" in her living room. I literally drove through blizzards to be there.
Our ties took an odd twist when she inherited my daughter's cat more than a dozen years ago. Malik, always serene like his new owner, became a staple of Essex Street, delighting tourists with his sphinx impersonation on the old Essex Institute steps. Now he'll reside with Donna's brother, and David needs to know I'll be watching; Malik is, after all, my grandson.
I can't believe she's gone. She was the center and soul of an ever-expanding group of people who revered her sensibility. Ironically, she passed only minutes before the East Coast celebrated Mardi Gras, an event originating as religious observance but sweetened by the overturning of social conventions.
Donna's dogma was light and love. Even as those around her on Essex Street commercially exploited all things Wiccan, she remained sphinx-like, too, celebrating social justice, feminism, a clean environment and kindness. She did it without rhetoric, and preached by simply smiling.
The friends will have to mark time and ensure there is a solstice celebration in Donna's honor this year. I'll drive through blizzards to be there.