Yellow for Courage

Yellow for Courage - Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs on vacation in the Rocky MountainsIn preparation for my trip to the Rocky Mountains, I had my toenails painted yellow. I did this gutsy thing to remind myself I’m capable of anything, and can overcome my fears. The deep yellow matched my hiking attire: the shirt that belonged to my daughter who died, an old bandana, and the leather bracelet my mother recently bought for me. It was a happy yellow to cheer me as I first attended a bereaved mothers’ retreat, and then set out on my own for four days of hiking alone in the Rockies. It was the yellow of road signs that said Avalanche Area, Falling Rock, Runaway Truck Ramp, and Beware of Animals Crossing.

Let me just unload a few things right now. At the Crazy Good Grief retreat they called this a “Brain Dump.” I call it my current, ever-changing list of things to worry about:Yellow for Courage rainbow - Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photographs a rainbow at Arapaho Recreation Area
The headaches and nausea of altitude sickness, avoided by drinking tons of water which means having to pee every hour. On trails. Driving a strange rental car on unfamiliar, narrow, two-lane twisting roads that wind around mountains and have shear drops on the sides instead of shoulders and guardrails. Add fog and the possibility of ice and snow to that. Trying to remember what to do when encountering a moose or elk – stand my ground and make a loud ruckus or run for my life? Being alone. Staying by myself at my cousin Neal’s cabin, a construction site in a remote area up a steep dirt road that I won’t be able to find after dark. Not to mention snakes, roaches, spotty cell-phone service, no Internet, and getting lost.

Kids Yellow for Courage - Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, finds six women on the Tundra Communities Trail in the Rocky Mountains.A rainbow happened on the evening of my first day at the cabin. And it followed me the next morning on the way to the Rocky Mountain National Park where I alternately drove and hiked through a year’s range of weather systems in one day. Was that when things changed? Or was it when a young elk and its mother crossed the road right in front of my car? Was it after singing to my daughter and blowing bubbles into Bear Lake? Or did things change when I met the women on the rocks?

Six women were posing on the huge rocks that marked the end of the Tundra Trail. They must have been waiting for me, watching as the wind jolted me up the path, because one handed me her cellphone to take a photo as soon as I reached them.
“C’mon up here,” said Lillian their leader, after I snapped a few shots. They were climbing up beyond the designated trail end, scrambling to the highest point.
“I’m sixty-four. I’m too old to do that kind of climbing, I said.
“Well, I’m sixty-five. We’re all sixty and older here,” Lillian yelled from her perch above my head.
So I climbed.
“Are you alone?” Lillian’s sister asked.
“No. I’m with the spirit of my dead daughter,” I blurted out.
“How did she die?” She asked. It was just the invitation I needed.

On the last day, on my last hike, a notice at the trail head said BOBCATS IN THE AREA. Travel in Groups. Make Noise. Don’t Run. Stand Tall. FIGHT BACK.Yellow Bush for Courage - Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs the aspens turning yellow in the Rocky Mountains.

Like I didn’t have enough to worry about.

But by then, something had definitely changed.
Testing the never-used whistle attached to my backpack, I trotted to the trail, and came up with this:
THE MORE YOU FEAR, THE MORE OPPORTUNITIES YOU GET TO TEST YOUR COURAGE.

Yellow is the color of aspens in Colorado in the fall. Over my week in the Rockies, I watched as more and more of the hills and mountains turned bright yellow (a hue that is more attractive on trees than on toenails).

 

Share Button

17 thoughts on “Yellow for Courage

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Beautiful, Robin. Exquisite in all ways. Your honesty. Your feelings. The photos. The rainbow, women met along the way, and elk mama and baby. The wild Rockies. Thank you for sharing your trip and the inner work of finding yourself after your old life ended. So much of my new life is about pushing past fear. “You worried about that?” I ask myself. “After what you’ve seen and been through, this is nothing.”

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yeah, Elaine. Look at who we are now. It’s amazing how far we’ve come. It was just about this time three years ago that we got lost walking on your land. You felt so bad, that you weren’t “taking care of me.” I think we both figured out that getting lost here and there is simply part of the journey, that there are things to be learned in the getting lost once in a while. Cheers to you. And to us both.

      Reply
  2. Suzanne Nussbaum

    Thank you, Robin! I loved this–the rainbow, the elks (mother and child), the spirit of your dead daughter. Thank you for sharing them with me.

    Love,

    Suzanne

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hi Suzanne. Welcome to my site and blog. It is so good to hear from you again. Funny, I just found a picture from a long ago Halloween where Marika and Miriam are dressed up and smiling. We had some great times. Thank you for “listening” and responding. It makes me so pleased. Cheers to you.

      Reply
      1. Suzanne Nussbaum

        I’ve been reading your blog for a while–you and Marika have definitely been in my thoughts. I wasn’t moved to comment, though, till the last one–not something to analyze (I don’t think), and it certainly says more about me than about you (if that makes sense)…. Very happy to reconnect through this medium, in any case. We surely did have some wonderful times, and right about now–late September, the season is turning, the Montessori children are no doubt visiting the apple orchard–I remember so well the first time I really noticed Marika, in one of her big hats, the first year our little girls visited Littletree Apple Orchard (on kind of a drizzly day)…

        Reply
        1. Robin Botie Post author

          Yes, as the season turns, and as Halloween approaches I remember well all those times. The drizzly days, the excitement of what to dress up as on Halloween – we went trick-and-treating together one year. Oh, to go trick-and-treating again. Well, maybe not. Between that and all the school plays, I wonder how many costumes our girls went through.

          Reply
  3. Lucy Bergström

    I got a postcard recently that says “Always do what you’re afraid to do.” It gave me a jolt and got me thinking. And look at you, doing things I wouldn’t be able to do at all. You’re so brave!!!! Marika must be cheering, shouting, “Go for it, Mom!”

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Okay, new mantra. “Always do what I’m afraid to do.” I like this, Lucy. Please don’t share this with my Mom. She worries. Yes, it is definitely what Marika is shouting. That’s what gets me out of the house each day, off on adventures, and out of my comfort zone. But you’ve already stretched your own comfort zone. I’m in awe of you and your ability to find a new life in a new place. Cheers!

      Reply
  4. Gladys Botie

    I’m glad I didn’t realize that your trip to Colorado was going to be so treacherous — ’cause then I would have worried. Your mother.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I guess there’s a good reason why daughters don’t share everything, Mom. But I never intended it to be treacherous, and I’m a scaredy-cat anyway. Everything I do is done with such caution that I usually miss out on all the good treachery and adventure.

      Reply
  5. Lynne Taetzsch

    Wow, Robin, kudos to you! This is an amazing adventure. Thank you so much for reminding us that doing things in spite of our fears helps us grow.

    But I’m glad you didn’t run into a bobcat!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Well, now that I’m back, and in one piece with relatively little to report or complain about – I kinda wish I’d seen a bobcat. Or at least a bighorn sheep. My photos of elk are pretty poor. But it was amazing and I’m proud of myself. And thank you for making me feel like I did something grand. Cheers, Lynne.

      Reply
  6. Annette Corth

    Robin,

    I loved this tale of your conquering the Rockies on your own. It fills me with nostalgia for my hiking days. Gorgeous photos. Welcome home.

    Reply
  7. Joann Giovannone (Jo)

    Robin, love & am going to use as my newest mantra, “The more you fear, the more opportunities you get to test your courage” !! It resonates with me. Courage is a trait all bereaved parents need to have within their souls in order to survive each day without our children. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thanks Jo. It came so easily. Making up mantras and resonating phrases is not something I usually do. But fear is definitely a big part of my repertoire. Yes, we sure do need courage. I guess I better garner up some courage and send another shout-out to Mike Huber, who I haven’t heard from yet. Cheers! I’m so glad you are out there and here and keeping in touch.

      Reply
  8. SusanB

    Robin! Super, wonderfully inspiring and uplifting! Yellow is also for childhood cancer so it seems you carried for me as well. Thanks, loved this.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *