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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4 thoughts on “Dancing Wildly with Grief and Joy

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Beautiful, Robin. Thank you. I loved dancing and rarely dance now because I can’t hear the music. But sometimes I dance with Willow and sometimes I sway to the songs still left in my head. I’m grateful that when I’m outside, I can still enjoy the simple sounds of nature–bird calls, mating frogs, and coyote calls. Sometimes the wind on my hill gives me all the reason I need to dance.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Speaking of frogs and birds and coyotes making noise, Elaine, do you think all these creatures are louder than ever these days? Maybe it’s my imagination or maybe I’m just more attuned to nature now. But day and night, I’m hearing a racket outside now that the weather has turned warmer. Simple sounds, yes. But haunting. I’m so glad you can still here them.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Wishing you the same, Lynne. Sometimes we have to recreate our “wild side.” I’m sure they change over the decades. They probably lie dormant for long periods of time while we go through various stages of our lives with all sorts of responsibilities quashing them. And maybe our wild sides come through in our creations. I’m pretty sure I’ve noticed a wild thing or two-hundred in your paintings. Cheers!


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