Look for the Light

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops borders around a picture of her daughter Marika Warden riding in fields with horses.“Look for the light, Marika. Follow the bright light,” my sister Laurie called out when my daughter died. That was almost five years ago. Since then, I’ve learned to keep my daughter close. Since then, light is not what it used to be.

On cloudy days, I imagine Marika riding off into sunlit farm fields with beautiful horses. Or standing in the driveway, laughing at the sky as snowflakes land on her iridescent eye-shadowed lids. In my mind she’s always smiling. Nothing’s as bright as my daughter’s eyes were, when she was happy.

“I’m stuck in black and darkness here. The light’s so near,” Marika had written in one of her poems. Walking her dog in the driveway on frosty moonlit nights, I scan the sky for distant lit planets and sing to the moon. Because, wherever Marika is or is not, she would look to the moon in the dark.

“Look for light,” said Harry my photography instructor at the community college. In the windowless classroom, I’d fallen half asleep on my feet as students spoke endlessly about their work. “Look for light.” It startled me awake.

Three mornings later, on the coldest day of the year, I headed down my long driveway to catch the early morning sun kissing the field across the road. By the time I reached the edge of the field and tore off a glove to adjust the settings on my new camera, the sun had disappeared. I waited, the camera before my face, the glove dangling from my teeth, thinking the clouds would break up. But it turned dark, and it was too cold to stay outside for long. The weather report said the sun was not due to shine again for days. Before turning back for home, I stood in the wind a moment, with hands bunched in pockets, and planted a picture in my mind of Marika racing across the field with ponies. Finding light in winter, in Ithaca, New York, is harder than hanging onto the ghost of my dead daughter.

 

Where do you find light? What lights your life?

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18 thoughts on “Look for the Light

  1. Carol Bass

    Marisa’s beautiful and so are you. You touch so many with your love and your light. Love does not die
    as you beautifully show it in your loving words. You have honored her….blessings.

    Reply
  2. Elaine Mansfield

    I saw plenty of light in this piece, Robin. And sunlight glimmers on the snow this afternoon. There’s so much sadness for so many in this life, but also the joy of birds at my feeder, longer days, and a blog post finished for next week so I can visit my brother this weekend without feeling pressured. He and I both need that as he faces the ravages of cancer again. I never get used to this–and yet I know much better how to support my family, particularly my sister-in-law.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I’m sorry you are dealing with cancer again, Elaine. I mean, cancer of a loved one. The ravages, yes. I remember it so well. And yet, I keep thinking, if I could help another through it again, I would. And yes, like you said, I’d be better at it now. And there’s more – I must be weird – Those almost-three years in and out of hospitals with my daughter were blessed times in that I knew exactly why I was where I was. Everything else, all other pressures, dropped out of my life. Except my daughter and cancer. Why would I want to repeat that?

      Gonna go finish a blog for next week too. Visiting mother and sisters. By the time I return home there’ll be even more light, even longer days. Birds. How I miss those birds. Hugs.

      Reply
  3. SusanB

    Your paintbrush made of words created images of gray cloud and yellow sun and a rainbow girl inside my head Robin. Wonderful effort dear friend.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      You’re the one with the fields and horses, the big changing sky – you’re living it, not just painting it in or trying to describe it, Susan. So I’m glad you appreciated my effort. What beautiful lives we gave our children. Horses and dogs and adventures …we love them to pieces. And those memories, yes, they are like a “rainbow inside my head.” Cheers!

      Reply
  4. Jill Swenson

    I really like the images you’ve created the past few blogs. This one is stunning.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thanks, Jill. Photoshopping is so healing. I spent the whole day ‘shopping this last image. Photoshop has all these great “tools” to work with, like a magic eraser, a path selector, an add anchor tool, a magic wand, and a healing brush. Perfect for someone who feels compelled to fix things or needs to control something. And it uses multiple layers for each image. This last picture had about 32 different layers until I flattened (condensed) them. One day in the digital photography class, I freaked when all my work disappeared. That’s when I learned that nothing gets lost in Photoshop, that it’s all simply hidden in another layer. Yikes, did that hit me (and my manuscript) in a positive way. Cheers!

      Reply
  5. Annette Corth

    Another great image, Robin.
    I don’t consider Ithaca a place bereft of light There is beauty to be found on the grayest of days. For example, the colors of objects stand out much better when the sky is gray and they don’t have to compete with the blue of the firmament. Where do I find the light? In friendship and love, in music and art, in viewing nature’s vistas, and in contemplating chocolate.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yes, I’ve been too quick to dismiss Ithaca. Must take the new camera out in the cold damp forests and gorges of Ithaca and see what I can find. But let’s first contemplate chocolate together. That sounds like something I can handle. And I know at least there will be a lighting up of your face when we find some chocolate. As to the “blue of the firmament,” I’ll need some time to think about that. Cheers!

      Reply
  6. Laura

    Oh, Gosh, I couldn’t have said this 6 years ago, but today it is so easy for me to say, and so true, I find the Light inside of myself. In a very Buddhist/Vedic/Eastern Philosophy kind of way. The time of day or season no longer matters. Not place, not time. The Light is always there. It’s taken a lot of practice – spiritual practice, that is, but that is where I have a sense of true knowing that All Light exists. Meditation helps.
    Often as is the case, a semi-crisis time in my Life spun me into seeking some relief and I found it in meditation. First, I used guided meditations, then came a desire for knowledge about spiritual practices, so I began this journey of learning and now I know that it will continue as long as I do.
    Feeling the Light within myself came naturally to me. I had been unhappy for many years, but knew that inside I had a very, very happy Self. As Lao Tzu said so famously, “When I let go of who I am, I become who I might be”. I knew, finally, that it was time to let go of who I thought I was, and time to simply surrender to who I might be. Easier said than done. Letting go, as you know, is a huge process. I have been practicing the Art of Letting Go for 6 years now, and it is still a working practice, but so worth it.
    In this process, I have learned to find my Light inside. At first it was just becoming the observer, witnessing my thoughts – quieting my mind in meditation and then practicing more attention and living more intentionally on a daily basis. Becoming aware of the coming and going of thoughts, and not identifying with them, and then focusing on the stillness within. That is where I found the Light inside. In that stillness, underneath the thoughts of the mind, underneath the senses of the body, underneath the physical body, even below, what one might call the Soul, below it or above it, that is my Light.
    It’s a kind of a trusting thing, kind of a connection thing, kind of a feeling thing. Sitting still helps. In that stillness, there is always Light.
    I am definitely a Sun Child, so I will always do better, feel better in the sunshine than during the overcast days, but the weather doesn’t shake me the way it once did. I know the littlest things will cause dissatisfaction, and that things will always change, just like the thoughts in my head. But, I also know what doesn’t change, that stillness I found within. That’s my Light. -Laura

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Somehow, I know there’s light inside me as well. Laura, you’ve given me a glimpse into what might be, if I work at this. Meditation has always been on my list of things to delve into. And now you’ve practically outlined a course for me here, if I can sit still long enough and tamp down the craziness of my external life. Letting go has never been easy, and trusting? Trusting oneself? You make it sound like it is so worth the struggle. Thank you so much for this. And welcome to my online home. This is beautiful and encouraging. I hope to hear from you often. Cheers!

      Reply
      1. Laura

        Yes, it’s there, I see it, Robin, I see it in your words and your artwork. Your words make me feel very open to Life.

        No need to “work” at meditation, it should be playful as well, you don’t have to make time for it, simply integrate it into what you already do, walking the dog, doing the dishes, photoshopping. A few moments of awareness is all you need to be still. Quieting the mind is something you probably already do when you are blogging, it’s just shifting the focus ever so slightly each time, a little more inward, a little more open-hearted, a little more universal, a little more Light. Check out the Buddha in Blue Jeans on kindle for free – he has some good words to get you started and then you just blend it right in to your every day stuff. No yogi required.

        Shifting the focus. That’s my new thing. That old focus was okay, but it’s never going to be me again, my focus has shifted. ♥ ♥

        Reply
        1. Robin Botie Post author

          Okay, I listened to a reading from The Buddha in Blue Jeans on YouTube. This sounds like a good thing to incorporate into my daily routine, not that I have a daily routine, but maybe this is a good beginning to making a daily routine. I’m still not sure about the sitting still part but right away, it came out in the reading, “The only way to learn sitting quietly is to do it.” So I tried it. Thanks for your encouragement. I’ve been talking about trying this for years and no one else has gotten me this far in actually doing it.
          My mind is definitely not quiet. But the Buddha is pretty easygoing, luckily, and says to enjoy my thoughts coming and going. The Buddha even accepts, right in the first few minutes of the reading, that there may be pain as I try to sit still quietly. So it seems I have a future in meditating. Especially if I can make it a fun, “playful” part of my time. Thank you for getting me started gently in this, Laura. We shall see if I can keep it up, and where it leads me. Fun. “Playful. Blend it in.” That definitely makes it more approachable. Cheers!

          Reply

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