Monthly Archives: February 2015

Wearable Landscape

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, wears a landscape she Photoshopped from her pictures of hiking in Tucson.“You have to go this year: the Oscars 2015 Gala at Cinemapolis, great food and film. You just have to go.” My friends convinced me. But what would I wear? I spent the rest of the week rummaging through the house, looking for the right clothes.

All my life I’ve been looking for my clothes. Even in my dreams I am endlessly looking for a lost sock, a special dress I’m sure is somewhere nearby, an outfit I need as in REALLY NEED and will spend a whole dream tearing the house apart for. And much of my waking time, I search for what I will wear or for some extremely significant piece of apparel like my father’s ancient sweatshirt from his army days that I tucked away in a safe place. In the end I usually opt to wear my default black sweater over jeans. But I almost always go through the commotion of the hunt first.

In trying to solve the mystery of what to wear for the gala, I mourned the half-dozen gowns I’d given away that belonged to my daughter. The daughter who, before she died, loved to dress up for parties and proms, always accessorized with sparkling heels. I was hoping to find something of hers, just one little shiny thing to feel fancy in. But all I found was old baby clothes.

I can do this without going shopping, I told myself. And finally, in the bottom of a storage bin shoved high into a remote closet, I found my mother’s mink stole from before I was born. It was elegant and had a warm sheen that was perfect over my black sweater and jeans.

The assignment in the Digital Photography Studies class this week was to create a self-portrait in a landscape we’d presented earlier in class. Here was something else to stress about. But in the middle of the night, after dreaming about missing a plane because I couldn’t find a black sweater to match my jeans, I decided that for the assignment I would dress myself in a landscape.


What is your special piece of clothing and is it in your closet or in your dreams?



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Cooking Up a Storm

In Ithaca, New York, Robin Botie photoshops landscapes from tabouleh and salmon.“Send me a picture of snow-laden trees,” my friend in Paris pleaded. But I was tired of seeing snow, of freezing my fingers as I traipsed through snowdrifts to photograph more snow. And another storm was coming. It was due on Valentines Day, a holiday I was trying hard to forget.

When a storm collides with a holiday it is impossible for me to override the urge to hunt-and-gather at Wegmans, hunker down at home, and cook huge quantities of comfort food. Shopping at Wegmans  erases any nervous commotion in my head, and all the miserable things going on in the world fade. It’s like coming home to mom. Wegmans is my go-to at the first flash of a Winter Storm Watch.

On Saturday, Wegmans looked like a Valentines Day theme park with huge displays of flowers and shiny red boxes of chocolates. The aisles were packed with people loading up for the minus 12 degrees and 4 to 8 inches of snow predicted for the Finger Lakes. The 5 things I came in for turned into 20 as I considered what else I might need to survive the holiday/storm combo. In the wilds of winter, I had a desperate longing for berries, tabouleh with fresh mint, and baked salmon. I picked up a bright bouquet of daisies and red carnations thinking I should get over my Valentines funk and buy myself a gift. But I put it down quickly; it had no scent and I couldn’t eat it.

So I came home and cooked up a storm.

When the scene outside my window whited out in a snowsquall, I found a fresh landscape in my refrigerator.


What do you do to pamper yourself in a storm?

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Surrounding Beauty

beautiful“You are so smart. And beautiful.” a woman in the locker room at the gym said, after admiring my knit arm-warmers. I stood there half-dressed, pink from showering. My hair was still dripping, uncombed and unruly. I looked like a drowned rat. But I thanked the stranger anyway like I was thrilled she’d noticed. Maybe I appeared needy, like I could use a compliment, some attention, a hug, or a gift. Even my sister had recently sent me, for no apparent reason, a Heated-Seat Cushion tushie-warmer to put in my car.

That evening, when I couldn’t find anyone to go to a restaurant or movie with, I ended up at the mall, at the BonTon Department Store’s cosmetics department.
“I need iridescent white eye shadow, please. On Facebook, someone suggested dabbing a bit of white eye shadow on inner lids for lovelier, livelier eyes,” I said, not able to remember when I’d last worn makeup. With kids there had never been enough time to put on makeup. And makeup seemed senseless during the almost three years in and out of hospitals with my daughter’s cancer. After that, hardly a day went by that I didn’t cry my eyes bloodshot. Now, almost four years since my daughter’s death, my eyes looked worn out and red.
“That’s not white enough. It has to be shiny, opalescent, silvery like a pearl. You know. EER-uh-DES-int,” I said.
“Can we give you a makeover?” the Clinique and Lancome counter managers begged. I asked for a rain check. More snow was coming and I didn’t intend to stay long. But there were few shoppers and the managers all knew my son. So I got a lot of attention. Soon my upper lids glimmered with sparks of lustrous Grandest Gold and frosty Bit O’Honey. For contrast we penciled my lower lids with tiny dashes of distressed Moss.

I walked out into the cold, smiling with shimmering eyes, Super Strawberry Chubby-Stick glossed lips, and a free Gift Bag of tiny cosmetics samples. Why do I get excited about these things, I wondered? And how come I finally feel beautiful now?
I took my lively eyes to Wegmans to buy storm food. And then there was nowhere to go but home. Pulling into the driveway, I noticed the almost-full moon dazzling its way through the haze of a snowy sky. For ten minutes or more I sat on the tushie-warmer in my car, in the driveway, with my iridescent eyes glued on the moon beyond the towering piles of snow, in a blissful appreciation of all the surrounding beauty.


In these cold dark days what do you find beautiful?


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Looking for Joy

Looking for Joy In Ithaca, New York, Robin Botie photoshops Vicky, a friend's fat cat with dancing whiskers.“You’ve been sounding depressed the last few weeks,” a friend told me.
“I’m trying to fix that,” I said. “These days it’s a real stretch to find joy. Like when the temperature’s stuck in the single digits for days on end. Like when is promising more snow and the snowplow has already buried the house in the process of clearing the driveway. And then I finally get to Wegmans for storm food and the store is having a power failure.”

Actually, shopping in the dark at Wegmans was a high point of the week. Picking out produce in dim light by the squeeze-and-smell method was so novel it immediately distracted me from my funk. There was something magical about reaching under the sheets of plastic that draped the refrigerated shelves to grab cool moist packages.
“Would you like anything else?” the guy in the deli kept asking cheerily after slicing tiny batches of cheese and three different kinds of ham.
“Could I have another slice of prosciutto, please?” I could have gone on all day.

Passing by, shoppers smiled at each other as they wheeled their carts in the dark depths of the aisles. They did not appear to be inconvenienced or cranky.
“Good luck in the World Cup,” a guy with a kid in his cart greeted me after I swerved to avoid colliding with them. When the lights came back on, people cheered. I paid, walked out into blinding sunshine, and brought my purchases to friends who were waiting to make lunch.

And maybe the most joyful part of the whole week was my friends’ fat cat. She rolled on the kitchen floor with the dogs and then leaped onto the counter as I unloaded the bag of groceries. Her whiskers almost danced off her face when she saw the ham.

Where did you find your joy this week?

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