Swan Songs

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops changing colors of fall foliage as she contemplates death as a beautiful transition rather than death as the end.Ancient legends tell us of the swan, mostly silent during its lifetime, that sings a song of great sweetness and joy in the moments before its death. A swan song.

In the fall of 2011, when doctors announced they’d found a donor and were scheduling my daughter’s stem cell transplant, she told them, “I can’t. My concert. I have to do my concert first.” Everything was put on hold until after she’d performed her songs on a crisp fall evening, to the crowd at The Nines in Collegetown. “I wanna see more of you dancin’,” she’d sung out that magical night. Later, I wondered if Marika knew it would be her last performance.

Now, every day I can, I go out hiking with friends under brilliant blue cloudless skies. In these bright days before the trees are stripped bare to the bone, I gaze at their rainbow of fall foliage. “October is more colorful than Christmas,” I tell my companions, as I gather a few perfect leaves to take home. The wind picks up, and red and yellow leaves fall gently. “It’s like watching the forest cry,” I say. The show of color is October’s glorious swan song.

Death is not the end. Death is change. Transformation. Some call it beautiful. It is a beautiful transition. Birth and death are simply two points on a continuum, the circle of life. We have been dying since the time we were born. Every minute of every day, cells in our bodies are dying. Eventually our physical bodies die completely. But our spirits are still singing somewhere. I have to believe this. I’m still hearing, “I wanna see more of you dancin’.”

Rain and colder weather are in the forecast. This may be the last warm evening until next spring. I’m on the deck singing, with my dog, a ripe pear, cheese, and a glass of Madeira. If I sing and dance and do everything like it’s my swan song, when it’s my time to transition, I will have lived my physical life with my fullest heart.

 

How does one live life to the fullest? If you were to plan out your last great act on this Earth, what would it be?

 

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Swan Songs

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Stacia. And welcome to my online home. I hope you’ll come back to see more. I love when new people dare to leave Facebook’s vast halls to explore some of the sources of all the comotion and chaos.

      Reply
  1. Gladys Botie

    A Swan Song ??? Hell, No. I won’t go quietly into the dark night —. I’m 91 and still fighting the good fight — in spite of enduring the “rewards” of the “golden years” (Arthritis, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, COPD amid various other “cholarias”). While I still can , I say LACHAIM!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Go, Mom! I think we should post this on Facebook. This is powerful. A little scary too as I’m wondering how anyone can put up with so much going on. But as you always say, we come from a long line of strong women. Arthritus, COPD, … no matter. L’CHAIM to you! And thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  2. Elaine Mansfield

    It was hard to be with my brother who was sure death was the end. He didn’t waver on this, but somehow he never accepted his own death as an acceptable outcome. We don’t get to choose. I don’t know what happens after death, but the journey is purposeful and unstoppable. Life is brief. Joy is available if I get out of my head and into nature. The skies are clearing today after days of rain. I’m OK with the mystery of what happens next. I love studying ancient mythological stories about the realms of death. They capture something deep, meaningful, and close. In one Egyptian myth, the stars we see are souls passing through after death experiences in the body of the great sky goddess Nut, being prepared for new birth in the east. After studying this myth and painting many images of those Hours of the Night, I’ll never see the stars in the old way.

    Reply
  3. Lucy Bergstrom

    Dear Robin,
    What I would wish for as a swan song? Seeing the northern lights, or having a close encounter with wild animals doing courting dances. Something that would bring me back full circle to being an integral part of nature, rather than an intellectual observer. The most guttural experiences of our lives, lovemaking and giving birth, bring us closer to this reunification. As you write, we are dying almost from the moment we are born, so why should death come as a shock? It’s all about reuniting with nature, as you do on your long hikes and your life with a pond for a back yard. We need to reconnect with ourselves as animals. And to dance, like Marika exhorts us to.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thanks again, Lynne. So great to hear from you and know you understand. Hugs to my sister-in-repainting life, love, and loss.

      Reply
  4. Annette Corth

    Dear Robin,

    What an interesting shot of the tree, from above, I assume. My swan song would be a celebration of my life while I am still alive and can enjoy the occasion as well as say farewell to my friends. I would like to have all of my paintings on exhibit there and read some of my poems. Sounds like an ego trip. Perhaps it is. What a way to go!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Wish I could fly and hover above the trees, Annette. Nope. But with Photoshop I can pretend.
      I think you’ve been celebrating your life all along. But maybe it’s time for another exhibit and reading. At least a reading since you already have your artwork up all over the establishment.

      Reply

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