Australia Trip: Beyond Appearances

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, hops around a barricade that conceals a construction site in Adelaide, on her recent trip to visit with bereaved mothers in Australia.“I’m kinda nervous about this,” I confessed to the leader of the tour group, as I waited for the stranger I was to drive off with. Before going to Australia I’d put out pleas on Facebook to meet up with Australian bereaved mothers on my free days, “to make my trip more meaningful.” This was my first. Dianne. Complete stranger, all I had was a name and phone number. She had messaged back, “No worries, hun,” to everything I’d written, which made me feel icky, reminded me of extinct relationships with men. But when Dianne pulled up in her shiny black RAV, I plopped into the passenger seat, and immediately knew I’d found a sister.

“Where d’you want to go?” she asked. Envisioning a peaceful quiet place to talk, I replied, “Can we walk along the Yarra River?” She took me to the Crown Casino.

She paid $50 to park in Crown’s endless garage below the snazzy scene of casino, hotel, shops, and restaurants. Huge dripping chandeliers, Prada, expensive jewelry displays…. As we trotted by I snapped photos of the colorful lights and our distorted images reflected in the mirrored facades of slot machines. I wondered if photographing was permitted in the casino. Trekking up and down escalators and elevators, we finally found ourselves outside, on a boardwalk lined with oyster bars and ritzy cafes. There was the Yarra.

We strolled, sharing the stories of our kids who died, and then sat on the edge of the Crown dock with our feet dangling off the edge. It didn’t look like the quiet clean river I’d thrown a good portion of my daughter’s ashes in, five years before. An old, bloated tennis ball floated by. It didn’t feel at all like I was littering when I tossed in my daughter’s dolphin necklace and tiny gold ring.

At a nearby outdoor café, I bought lunch for almost double what Dianne paid for parking. As we sat, a butterfly hovered between us. Long enough that I suspected one of us would get a visit from The Beyond. It was a butterfly like no other I’d ever seen. Giant. Rugged, like a moth. Its colors, blues, browns and gold, matched Dianne’s outfit perfectly. It flitted around her, and finally landed near her heart. The butterfly rested there, like a precious opalescent brooch. And then it perched on her hand. I snapped photos.

As we retraced our path through the casino and the dazzling courts of the palatial Crown to the RAV in the depths of the garage, I clicked away until we drove off to my hotel.

And when I got back home after my trip to Australia, I found that all the photos I had taken that day with Dianne disappeared. The picture you see here of me hopping around barricade panels concealing a construction site was taken by the next mother I met up with, two days later, in Adelaide. Miserable, in disbelief, I took my camera cards to various technicians but they found no trace that I ever took photos that day. I still see them in my head. The casino lights. The butterfly. The Crown chandelier shining, like starburst. All ghosts now. But so clear in my mind, I sit at my computer, stunned, still awaiting their appearance.

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4 thoughts on “Australia Trip: Beyond Appearances

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    “There was the Yarra.” You must have wondered where you were going, just as I did. And I waited for the butterfly image. I get upset when my photos disappear. It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while. I’m sorry you lost that butterfly and images of a new friend who understands. You painted a photo of the butterfly here.

    When losing something important (or at least important at that moment), I remember how I’ll have to lose everything in time. It helps keep perspective when I recall how fleeting everything is–our homes, our photos, our kids, ourselves.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh. Uh…. Well. Losing everything in time, huh. Not what I needed to hear. Well, yes, I did need to hear this. Just wasn’t prepared for it. Gotta think more along this line I guess, ’cause you’re right, Elaine. I am, we are all, gonna lose everything.
      I hate it when I get kicked in the head with perspective on a Friday night.
      Maybe I can shelve this until after the weekend?

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    Sometimes things just disappear, Robin. I don’t know what it means. But you still have your inner vision, beautifully expressed here.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      You’re right, Lynne. I think disappearing is the theme of life. And some of us try so hard to fight it. And grieving our losses takes so much of our time (which itself disappears all too quickly) and energy (loss of energy? – don’t get me started on that one). Maybe Buddhists have worked this out, how to deal with things disappearing and dying, but I’m not there yet. Letting go takes a lot of work. Unfortunately, it’s stuff like this that keeps me awake nights. Beating myself up about it, trying to remember, trying to substitute or simulate, losing myself in Photoshop trying to recreate it.


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