Tag Archives: crazy lady

Dancing Wildly with Grief and Joy

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photoshops hostas from her garden as a background for the words of joy she created in Adobe Illustrator.“Do you ever go out dancing?” someone asked an old woman. The old woman looked away, smiling, not sure how to answer. Because she’d been out just the night before, listening to the music of frogs, the joyful trilling of tree frogs and low gunk-gunks of the bulls. And she’d danced in the driveway with her dog.

Quiet and subdued when people were around, most days the woman kept herself in check. But sometimes she just had to run. Or dance. Or roughhouse with the dog. Often, from someplace deep within and unreachable, there was a stirring, a wildness that couldn’t be tamed and wouldn’t let her sleep. Her heart howled with the coyotes, and restless leg syndrome beat through her whole being. Ghosts danced in her head. “It’s the- Marika-in-me,” she told herself, attributing the hungry black hole in her heart to the daughter who died. In the middle of many nights she’d find peace outside singing Sweet Baby James to the moon.

Wild woman. Maybe. But you haven’t seen anything yet. In May she grows more and more alive. As daylight sticks around until almost bedtime, as hostas uncurl in the garden, as the flooded pond goes down and the hills green up, and the forest floor fills with trillium and then trout lilies, the woman yips, “Yee-hah!” into the wind. In a flurry of spring-cleaning, she prunes and rakes and weeds, all the time mimicking the songs of birds. She calls to the frogs and floats candles on the pond. Lights up the deck with battery-powered lanterns. Throws crackers to the ducks. Barks, with the dog, dodging the geese. Crazy lady. Good thing she lives in the countryside, out in the hills where no one is bothered by her rantings.

An invitation arrives in the mail. The RSVP card begs, “Please list a song that will get you dancing.” For days the woman considers this. Finally she responds, yes. But cannot say what might drive her to dance.

It’s mostly on clear nights after many days of rain, when the wind sleeps and stars wink, and the frog-song is at its most frenzied, that the crazy lady does her little dance with the dog. They jump. Twirl. They run and chase each other in the dark. And when she and the dog are both panting for breath, they sit together on a rock at the edge of the pond, and the woman whispers a promise into the dog’s soft fur, “We’re gonna make this summer our best yet.”

 

What does your wild side look like? What song will get you dancing?

 

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Wanting Too Much

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops boulders in her pond.Consider all the ways we cause our selves and others suffering. If, once in a while, we were to borrow another’s view of life, we might find a path to peace.

Late on the second day of excavating to make the pond accessible for swimming, the prized boulder that had been fished out years ago suddenly slipped from the excavator’s grapple and sank into the water, cracking the new concrete staircase as it fell.

“Why is everything going wrong?” I whined to the guy operating the excavating equipment. I didn’t want to yell at this gentle person who, for weeks, had helped me plant flowers and pull up pondweed. He was a Buddhist, I’d heard. But even he was riled now. I’d been greedy, dancing on the deck as he worked, hollering to him over the clatter of the excavator, “yay, let’s move this stone over there next, and that one over here….”

He staggered down off the excavator. Together, we contemplated the maybe-500-million-year-old rock now stuck in the pond on a steep downward-slanting ledge. It would be submerged when the water level returned to normal after this dry summer.
“We can’t just leave it there,” I whimpered, expecting a barrage of cursing. But he simply grimaced, and stuffed his words into small grunts. I sobbed, “It’s like losing a daughter.”
“It’s not moving,” he said. Calmly. Then he gathered up the equipment, and left.

I cried. I sat by the boulder until it got cold and dark out. Grief and shame were like rocks in my gut. My head pounded. The boulder. The Buddhist. All the money I’d spent. Two sleepless nights went by. Then I googled “Buddhist Principles” and found the four Noble Truths:

Pain and suffering are integral to life. When life doesn’t go our way we make ourselves miserable with wanting. If we learn to love what we have and live each day at a time, we can overcome our suffering. We must face reality and open our hearts to change.

In the early morning, the dog and I stood looking over the mess. We sat quietly in the tousled soil by the boulder, long enough that frogs moved in around us. The sun rose. Birds sang. It was beautiful. It was enough. And – call me crazy-lady – I begged forgiveness of the boulders, and told them I would love them wherever they ended up.

What will I say, I wonder, to my Buddhist?

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“Over the Rainbow” Video

“Is that to go priority or certified mail?” the clerk asked, eyeing the carefully wrapped package I clutched to my chest.
I would have been sending my daughter off to nursing school in Australia. Instead, I am sending the DVD of her singing “Over the Rainbow” made 8 ½ months before she died, to my web-master, at Ameriweb Hosting. For weeks I’d put this off, afraid to lose my only copy of Marika’s DVD. Then, sitting over dinner with friends who all had daughters coming and going, achieving and shining, I just wanted to talk about my daughter too.
“Way to kill the party, mom,” a small voice hummed from the back of my head.

Okay. She’s been dead over 3 ½ years so there’s nothing new to share.
“But I’m so proud of you,” I tell her life-sized portrait later. And inside me, she is still alive and singing. From not-so-deep within she tells me, “Go for it, mom,” when I pause to consider a red dress in a mail-order catalog. She says, “Sushi for dinner?” Now she’s saying, “Way to go, mom. You just showed all your readers how insane you are” and “Mom, TMI.” (Too Much Information)

Wait. I do not play the video over and over again. In fact, it took a long time before I could even watch this performance from the EAC Montessori School of Ithaca 30th Anniversary Musical/Reunion though I knew she always loved being seen and heard (please watch it). I am already filled with Marika. Her voice and starry eyes are the film through which I see the world.

Call me the crazy-lady. Maybe I deserve that title because for years, that’s how I labeled too many others. The ones who lost children and seemed to lose their own souls. The ones that looked liked they’d fallen to Earth from the edge of space, broken the sound barrier, their hearts, and every moving part of themselves in the fall. Is that what I look like now?

“Does it get better? Do you ever not think of your child?” I asked for months of everyone I found who’d lost a kid. And it turns out I’m doing nothing that eons of bereaved mothers haven’t done before. Only I’m coming out about it.

 

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