I’d like everyone to meet Patty Sabatier, a poet who contributed several poems to Leaves from the Valley Oak.
Patty, your life has been an open book, literally, to those of us in the Visalia Writers’ group. Tell my readers a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in southern Louisiana, near New Orleans. As an adult, after spending two years with the Navy as a nurse and 12 years as a Catholic nun, I traveled away from Louisiana. and gained a broader view of life. Learning to deal with a diagnosis of bi-polar mental illness at age 28 has been the biggest challenge of my adult life. Along with this, and through this challenge, I also learned the key to compassion as a nurse. Non-judgmental, active-listening to myself and others, has helped me become a better person. I now work as a public health nurse with the Tulare County Health Department and am emerging in my personal life as a writer.
Where does the inspiration for your poetry come from?
Most of my poetry comes to me in the early morning hours when I rise to greet the day with prayer and meditation. Just reading one line from my favorite passages in the bible and other meditative books, stimulates me to wonder and wander in thought. Writing helps me ground this thought in reality and express it so that others can share these private moments in my life.
How long have you been writing poetry?
I began to write down my morning meditations in 2009, so that they could be critiqued by the Visalia Writers group. I have always kept a journal of my daily thoughts and actions, but never written in it for the purpose of sharing with others. In 2009, I left graduate school where I was focusing on becoming a therapist. I then turned to writing as a means of expressing a desire to do more with my life. The Visalia Writers group has helped me develop my writing into poetry.
How did your upbringing color your poetry?
As a child, I was often awed by the presence of God I found in simple things like the wind in the trees, or rays of light streaming from the play of clouds and sun. I felt very isolated and lonely, and this tendency towards intuitive, introverted thinking brought me great joy and companionship. Today, my prayer life which is mostly introverted, intuitive meditation has blossomed into a desire to share this joy and inner companionship with others in writing.
What books and authors have influenced you?
In my young adult years, reading authors who taught about prayerful living like Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton filled my reflective time. They taught me how to approach prayer and God. Then I developed an interest in Carl Jung and his second generation writers like Marie-Louise Von Franz, Murray Stein, and Monika Wikman and their stories of a Jungian approach to the spiritual life. I was particularly helped with my bi-polar illness by the writings of John Weir Perry, a Jungian psychiatrist. I suppose that most of my poetry has been encouraged by these authors who try to express the mystical, mysterious side of life and personal growth.
What’s your latest project?
I am in the process of completing my life story and how I used Jungian therapy and spirituality to heal my bi-polar mental illness. I believe this psychology of personal growth has many insights for people with mental illness and can give them tools for seeking a balanced and whole life instead of a life broken by neurosis or psychosis. I am hopeful that my story will also help therapists and families of the mentally ill.
What’s been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?
Having to verbalize and express in a concrete manner so that others can understand something as subtle and mysterious as a spiritual journey. Its healing force has encouraged me to discover the exact words and events that led to my growth. Writing my story as a book was not easy. Like the wind that you cannot see but you know exists, my spiritual life has been forceful in my history, helping me cope with disappointments, failures and even, at times, moments of ecstasy.
The Visalia Writers group asked questions about the writing I shared and forced me to clarify and explain aspects of my healing and personal growth. Their questions led me to a firm grasp on my integrity as a woman, dedicated to a faith-filled life. I am very grateful to them for their perseverance with me as a writer.