Donna Sandstrom

Donna Sandstrom
Seattle, Washington, USA
September 10
Born in Brooklyn, raised in L.A. Studied at U.C. Santa Cruz, waitressed in San Francisco, found my way to Seattle in the early 80s. Career in high tech (Aldus/Adobe) until 2007 when I left to do The Whale Trail. Writing on Open Salon since May 2008. Go Obama!


JANUARY 3, 2009 5:46PM

Whales, Mac Davis, and Praying in the Dark: My 25 Things

Rate: 20 Flag


 1. I have spent the night on a schooner drifting among humpback whales in Alaska, their blows echoing across  Frederick Sound.

2. The northern lights are one of the most awe-inspiring, naturally psychedelic things I have ever seen. Great bursts of color draped across the sky, pulsing in curtains of gold and green…if you didn’t believe in God before, you might after.

3. I won a city-wide poetry contest in the 8th grade for a poem I wrote, called Love. Besides being published in The Daily Breeze, the prize was an inscribed pen-holder, which is sitting on my desk as I type.

4. I remember the blog I was reading the first time I met Freaky Troll.

5. I was an extra in a movie with Mac Davis called Cheaper to Keep Her. He flirted with me on the set but I really, really hated Baby Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me so I ignored him. I’ve never seen the movie.

6. I am famous among my friends for meeting famous people. I don’t really try to, but I’m not above nudging fate in that direction. The first celebrity I met was Dennis Wilson, who was walking in front of us on our way to the hotel in Pittsburgh where my friend’s mom was going to pick us up after the show. We slip-streamed behind him into the lobby where the rest of the Beach Boys and Steely Dan (the opening band), were holding court. I chatted with Carl Wilson while one of Dans made a move on my friend. She wanted to go to the party upstairs but her mother was on the way, and truth be told, we thought they were too old. For years this incident gave me standing among my peers, not for having met the Beach Boys, but for having seen Steely Dan live.

7. In 1999 I hosted a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony on the beach at Alki for the spirit of a gray whale who had been killed by a local tribe. The Tibetans believe that when a sentient being meets a violent death in a state of trust, its spirit is confused. When the monk blew the conch shell at dusk, the whole beach reverberated. I was inspired to do the ceremony from a dream.


8. I have been remembering dreams my whole life, using them as touchstones and signposts on the map of my life, a compass to guide my way. I feel sorry for people who say they don’t dream, because of all the good information they are not using, all the richness they are missing. You can choose to remember them or not, and you can train yourself to do it. 

9. I was voted Most Likely To Succeed in my high school class. 

10. I waitressed my way through college, San Francisco, and the early years in Seattle. My first restaurant job was serving meals to patients at a hospital in high school; my last was at an Italian place in Pioneer Square that goes crazy on Seahawk Sundays. In between there was Polar Bear Ice Cream in Santa Cruz, which made me the most popular person to invite to any potluck; a Szechuan restaurant in Capitola, where a customer found a band-aid in his snow peas; a nightclub in North Hollywood, where we sold people two drinks a show whether they wanted them or not; a diner in North Beach owned by Francis Ford Coppola, where I learned how to pull a good espresso from one of the producers of the Godfather; and a 5-star hotel in Seattle where I learned the miracle of salmon in parchment paper, and blueberries in fresh cream. 

11. My first non-waitressing job in Seattle was at an architecture firm in the 80s. A psychic had told me she saw me in a place surrounded by blueprints and that is the only reason I applied for the job, I was sure I would die a slow creative death in an office. Over 100 people applied for the low-level administrative position, and I got it. It was my first job with benefits, bonuses, the whole nine yards. The firm had clients like Microsoft and Nordstrom, and soared to new heights with them, faster than anyone had dreamed. Eventually that job led me to Aldus, which merged with Adobe, and a career in an industry I never could have foreseen.

12. I’ve been in love three times, and in what looked like love at the start a lot more than that. The last one knocked the wind out of me, but I’m back on my feet again.

13. I identify more with my Chinese horoscope sign – Monkey - than my Western sign – Virgo. I get along well with Dragons and Rats and am very wary of Tigers. 

14. When the Council of Animals comes at the end of the world, I don't want to represent the humans, unless I am standing behind Jane Goodall. 


15. I was a Girl Scout until I was 15. We canoed down the Colorado river, camped on Catalina Island, and streaked on our way to Palm Springs. I always came home hoarse from laughing so hard, singing so much, and staying up too late.

16. The most overwhelming place I’ve ever been is the Old Delhi train station at 4 AM, when the platforms are filled with sleeping people as far as you can see. Most Americans live like kings compared to the rest of the world. I have lost patience with a lot of what we worry about here. 

17. When I visited Philadelphia I was unexpectedly moved by seeing Thomas Jefferson’s walking stick on a desk at Constitution Hall and understanding for the first time, fully, that they were only people too—people who risked everything to hatch the grand vision of democracy, and that every generation has to keep it in play. We just pulled out a big save.

18. I was part of the anti-nuclear movement in the 70s, and participated in a 5-day vigil in front of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. We fasted and camped on the sidewalk. When the NRC ruled to suspend the license for Seabrook, the police closed off the street so we could celebrate. I kissed a guy from Baltimore, and still wonder where he is.

19. I love to dance. If I am depressed, playing early Beatles really loud will almost always get me right out of it. The band I’ve seen the most is Los Lobos, and the movie I’ve seen the most is A Hard Day’s Night 

20. My favorite feeling is laying on a towel in the sun after having just gone for a swim in the ocean. I love the feel of the salt on my skin.

21. Though I’m not Catholic anymore, I like to visit churches in foreign cities and wrap myself in the familiar cloak of the half-dark—the faint smell of incense, the creak of the kneelers in the wooden pews, the red votive candles flickering at the feet of the saints. I always light one, prayers rolling across my tongue like sweet forgotten candy. When I get scared, I say Hail Marys.

22. The thing that I am most proud of is that I was part of a project to help an orphaned orca be reunited with her pod. It is the only successful orca rehabilitation in history. The project is not done for me until I've told the story.


23. Because of 22, I was invited to a potlatch in Alert Bay. For two days we sat in the Big House watching dancers around the fire, sun glinting off the house poles, smoke rising through a hole in the roof. It was hard to keep track of time, or what century we were in. 

24. I am the third of four children. My brothers both surf and I love to watch them slice across the waves, agile as seals. I worry about my younger brother, the long-term effects of the cold water on his ears, and the great white sharks that live in the waters where he surfs. My older brother is the one who knows me the best; we have always seen eye to eye. I idolized my big sister as a child. I loved to watch her do her hair, and she taught me how to dance. I have two nephews and a niece. I love them all more than they know.

25. My best friend from high school passed away almost exactly two years ago today from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was 51, and her dying changed my life. I feel her on my shoulder, every day.

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Awesome! thanks for bringing my favorite city alive for me, because of its magical qualities, that you seem to harvest and nurture.
Lovely list. Ah Mac Davis, you must be filled with might have beens (I kid, I kid).
Thanks, aim...have you been to Seattle?

Ah yes, T&D, I was so young and foolish ;) Thanks for stopping by...
Very interesting list. I love #20 too as long as the ocean is in Hawaii.
Thanks, Roger...Hawaii sounds pretty good right now! But any warm beach will do for me, so long as it's salt water...
Donna, You have successfully brought to life the west coast. Sure sounds like fun there.
If Iever have the money and I am heading your way I am giving you a call.
peace my friend
be well
It's a deal, Suzy - thanks for stopping by - and hope you do make it to the West Coast someday. Start at the top and drive to the bottom, or the other way around...
Beautiful, sister. Ever since reading your first post on harvesting oysters, I've felt you are the most naturally, spiritually connected person (does that make sense?) on these boards. And your writing is out of this world. Peace. Blessings. Happy New Year.

WOOF (of course)
Ah, CCC, I'm blushing here in Seattle. You just made this whole thing worthwhile. Thank you. And the same good thoughts for the new year right back to you, the missus, and the rest of the family especially, of course, the boxer. Cheers!
Donna, I think this might be the most interesting list for me.
I am awed by the breadth of your experience, and the way you have found yourself in unusual situations. There are many more great stories here I am sure.......

I am sorry about the loss of your dear friend.
Thanks, Gary...I had actually planned to write about my friend when I sat down to write - once I got started on this it just kept going, funny how that works...and she ended up in here anyway ;) Some of the things here will be jumping off points for future posts, I am sure...thanks for stopping by!
My dear Mlle Sandstrom, this is a most evocative list from a most enchanting OS presence.

"Most Americans live like kings compared to the rest of the world. I have lost patience with a lot of what we worry about here. "

I do share this particular peeve!
Why, thank you, Monsieur! (Have I told you lately how good it is to see you back?) And yes, it is a sobering thing; we take so much for granted here. That time is coming to an end...
I read and rated, but did not comment the first time around. So let me correct that now... These are 25 wonderful and telling things. They speak so well of you. Not that we didn't already know that you are a good and generous person.
Aw, thank you, Susan - especially for coming back! I am still musing on a more seductive title ;) thanks again -
I can only add to what others have already said by saying that this is indeed a lovely list and I, too, am sorry for the loss of your friend.
Thank you for the kind words, OTandN...there are many of us who miss her...
What a lovely list Donna!

My favorite part is that you fought off Mac Davis. I never cared for the fellow either.

Can we have an OS movie night with all the movies you have been in?
Thanks, Nutkin :) And, okay! It won't be a very *long* film festival, but I will happily provide the viewing room and popcorn ;)
I don't know how I could have missed this for so long, I swear the Friends list doesn't work.

With that off my chest, this is a beautiful list from a beautiful person. I can so identify with #16. And in remembrance of #25 and for you, Donna: Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.
Thank you so much, Smithbarney. You have no idea how much your kind wishes mean to me, today. I am so glad you found your way here - it *is* getting so hard to keep track of everyone! Wishing you and your family all the very best in the coming year. Om shanti, too...
this is straight up lovely - how have i missed you until now? as for number 9 - i'm another one and what a pain that particular designation still feels like! forget about the intj's - how many of us were MLTS? :)
Thanks, bahHMMblog (great name!). And that *would* be an interesting topic - in my life it has been a blessing and a curse. Something I'm really proud of and at the same time wonder if I'm living up to...Thanks for stopping by, and very nice to meet you :)
Terrific , well thought out list. You seem very kind and sweet.
Interesting list - you had me at #2. My father often woke my sisters and I up to go out into our cornfields to watch the northern lights. You described them very well. I remember how exciting that was and how it helped instill a sense of awe.
T-bucket, thanks...I have my moments ;)

Heidi - love that your dad woke you up to see the northern lights! Smart guy...I really had no idea of how powerful that experience is, until I saw them...

Thanks to you both for stopping by -
Whoa, Donna, you have been around. I feel like a hick compared to you.

My boyfriend threatens to become a flight attendant, so we can travel all over the world for free. I wish . : )

A great list and a well-lived, incredibly rich life.
Thank you, Mari! This piece was fun to do - I resisted it (like all these types of things) but once I got started, it was surprising what came out. Thanks for visiting the archives, and I totally encourage the flight attendant/free travel plan!
What a beautiful list. Hard to say which one was my fave but the ceremony for the whale is up there. Your points on dreams really resonate with me as many are so disconnected to them!

I really feel like I know you better, which is what these 25 things are about, I suppose!
Thanks, Beth! The first quarter of college, I took a seminar called Poetry, Myth and Fantasy. I had to interview to get in and was the only freshman in the class (can you tell I'm still proud of that! ;) The instructor had us keep a dream journal, which got me in the habit of writing and remembering them. What a gift that turned out to be. Thanks for stopping by!