Monthly Archives: January 2015

Memory Triggers

Memory Triggers Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops saguaro cactus and her young daughter being lifted high in her chair.The first thing I noticed in Tucson was prickly pear cactus. It looked like bunches of lollipops. They were all over. Tucson, with its sculpted mountains and cactus statues everywhere I turned, was like no place I could remember. The desert, the canyons, saguaro, and javelinas; it was all strange territory.
The event that brought me to Tucson was almost as foreign as the landscape: my cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah, a coming-of-age celebration in the Jewish religion.

Religion and bar mitzvahs have little to do with my life. Years back, I had tried to give religion to my children, wanting them to have what I did not. But those days were long gone. My daughter gone, my son going off to lands stranger than this, I’d forgotten their bat and bar mitzvahs. I was in Tucson for my Aunt Terri and my cousins. And I was excited about the hike I would take, meeting up with friends from Ithaca who would show me mountains up close, and canyons. There was the promise of sunshine, temperatures in the 70s, tamales, good Mexican food. Tucson might be the place I’d retire to someday. I had only happy thoughts.

Maybe it was the passage that the bat mitzvah girl read, an old favorite of my kids’, about the Nile River spewing frogs all over Egypt. Or maybe it was when the lollipop cactus started to look like bouquets of flattened balloons deflating, falling to the ground. Or the sight of the girl’s long hair pulled back revealing tiny earrings, the lace on her princess-perfect dress, the bright thirteen-year-old smile. Maybe, when the cacti began to resemble carousing dancers, I started to notice the prickly thorns. Soon thorns were stinging my eyes, grinding in my stomach, all over, everywhere. So by the time the crowd cheered and lifted the girl high up in her chair over their heads, something in me burst. I dashed off, frantically running out, away, fast, anywhere.

Outside there was blinding sunshine. The sky was vast and blue. My feet stopped at the edge of a small ravine and I howled for who knows how long. Riots of lollipop cactus hugged the ground around me. I photographed them as I waited for my eyes to lose their red grief-struck look. Damn. Darn, I thought. Good thing I wasn’t wearing eye makeup. It seems, no matter where I go, sweet memories of my daughter will follow.


What strange things have triggered your emotions?


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Robin Botie in Ithaca, New york, Photoshops her daughter who died of leukemia as a young girl surrounded by balloons

Positive Thoughts on Life

When the mud ices over and rain turns into snow, I think about the Balloon Girl. Not the girl who stood with outstretched arms, looking up at the balloon she lost. No. My head is filled with the image of the Balloon Girl who held onto as many balloons as she could and wondered how many more she could gather in order to fly.

In the dead of winter, what pretty things do you think about to lift yourself up?

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Signs from the Other Side

Signs from the Other Side -- In Ithaca, New York, Robin Botie Photoshops brownies and a glass of wine in front of a raccoon that sits, waiting on the deck of her home.A big fat raccoon stood peering into my dining room from the other side of the sliding glass door. My inherited dog scrabbled at the door, yelping. For a second I froze in fear. Big. Too close. Rabies. Sharp teeth. Claws that could scrape my flesh.

The dog raked her nails on the glass. I banged my palms and howled alongside her.

The raccoon hardly budged. The dog and I continued to shriek at it. But the coon just stood there with paws begging limply before her. She stayed, looking at us a little too long, looking more hurt than scared by all the carrying on.

It wasn’t until I got out my camera that the raccoon retreated to a corner of the deck. There she sat, watching us. Like she was expecting to be served brownies and wine.

It’s just too easy sometimes to wonder if the fox that trots by everyday, or the bird that flies multiple circles overhead, or the wind that drops a dollar bill by my feet isn’t my daughter who died, keeping watch over me.


Have you ever received a “sign” from your loved one who died? Do you believe it is possible?

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