Tag Archives: Photoshop

Duetting: Memoir 66

Duetting: Memoir 66 Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photoshops images of the ones she loves in order to snuggly wrap up and put away into neat and safe nests.

Some things cannot be wrapped up, tied up and put neatly away. Like people. Like the love you have for them. There is no closure when it comes to the ones you have loved. We all talk about moving on but it doesn’t mean we have to purge ourselves of the memories and beautiful parts of our past lives.

I will go out into the world again, and see what I find, and find how I fit. This is what I tell myself in the spring of 2013, two years after my daughter’s death. I did not get to launch Marika. Instead, in 2013, she is launching me.

Typically, a child is sent forth fortified by the lessons and leanings of the parent. But now it’s me venturing out into the world, and I’m taking what I’ve learned from my daughter. Each new day, I drift farther from the course we shared, yet I carry her with me. Her spirit. Her smile. Her words. Her way of riding the wave of a birthday or victory or something she deemed exceptional, by celebrating the heck out of it. Her gravitation toward the light of others, toward gatherings. The ease with which she could snap out of a funk or get a friend to. Her stubbornness and resolve. These things grow in me now. And they are setting me in motion.

Except for the grief. It’s always there and it has a stifling effect on any movement forward. Grief is just all this love I still have, cooped up inside me, which I don’t know what to do with. It drains me. And it feels like I won’t ever be able to love again. It’s like when a friend comes over unannounced at dinnertime on a day when you have only a few leftovers in the fridge. And you think your cupboards are empty, that you have nothing to share. But somehow what’s there ends up being enough to feed you both. I have to remind myself: I’m still enough. Even with a wounded heart. The friends who keep calling, even though I’m often horribly unapproachable, see something worthwhile in me.

My friends. They listen, worry, and sometimes still raise a brow when I mention Marika. They’ve come to understand that I need to hear and talk about her, that I can’t stand the thought of her being forgotten. When they phone me on Marika’s birthday or send me flowers on the anniversaries of her death, I gush with gratitude. For the closest ones I make a huge salad every weekend. My salads are pure celebrations of life. Of the sweet and savory, the bitter and the bland. Into the greens I throw local ingredients and exotic delicacies, colorful vegetables, cheese, nuts, legumes, seafood, fruit or edible flowers. Each toss is a song of love for those who have hung in there, seeing me through hard times.

Almost every day, I hike with Suki and friends, all over Ithaca and beyond. In between, there are photo shoots, long sessions in Photoshop, and writing groups. I write daily and post a weekly blog. And fumble on social media sites, trying to expand and keep up with a growing group of followers. It’s exhilarating. It’s like flying. Tweeting and Friend-ing people; Marika would have loved this. It’s my life now. And she is my lodestar.

Once a month I take Rachel, I mean Ray, going on 526 days of sobriety in the spring of 2013, out to dinner. With his new wife. They chatter about their puppy, new jobs, and the upcoming move to their first shared apartment. Every so often Ray relinquishes a scarf or shirt that once belonged to Marika, and it’s like getting a precious gift from a past lifetime.

Laurie, as always, is only a phone call away. Late nights, we talk about going to Australia. Her knee has healed but I’m not sure about her heart. She collected the photographs from Marika’s Facebook page before it disappeared, and put them on a thumb drive for me, not knowing how for years I’d pick photos from it to virtually visit with Marika in Photoshop. Laurie treats every one of her patients like they’re her beloved niece.

“Mom, I leave for Afghanistan in two weeks,” Greg announces in April 2013, having accepted a position with a private security contractor. In my head a huge wave swells and I have to catch my breath to jump over it. For a long time I knew this was coming. My days disintegrate anyway. It snows at the end of April. The driveway floods. Another friend is diagnosed with cancer. But on Facebook new friends cheer me on. In Photoshop I dress Suki in armor, and superimpose several selfie-shots into one picture so it looks like I’m hugging myself. Maybe I like to ‘shop because it lets me control my universe. In Photoshop I’m not at the mercy of cancer or the changing tides. I can shift-click, drag-and-drop a girl running with her rabbit into the flaming sun. Stars shine and flowers bloom in my living room. I can move the moon. I can pretend I’m snuggly wrapping up the ones I love in intricately crafted nests. I ‘shop my son safe in his red Hummer in the driveway at home, far from the dangerous places on earth he’s drawn to.

“I love you, and I’ve loved having you here,” I tell Greg after his announcement about Afghanistan. “How can I help?”
“Uh, can you iron this shirt for me?” he shrugs.

 

 

Giving Gifts to the Dead

Giving gifts to the dead, Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a new dress for her daughter who died.It’s birthday time again—for my daughter—who’s been gone physically for eight years now. Happy Heavenly Birthday to Marika, some people will say. I love it when she gets birthday greetings; it warms my heart even after all this time. Bereaved parents, other than getting their beloved deceased ones back, just want their children to be remembered. And often, on birthdays, they feel compelled to do or get something ‘for’ their beloved. So, as our big day approaches, in my resolution to keep Marika close and include her in my world, I am considering the various options for giving her a present.

Maybe you’re thinking, I’m taking this a little too far. But I did not invent this idea of gifting the dead, myself. Since the Neanderthals, people have been burying their dead with all kinds of offerings. And today, Cambodians, Mexicans, Chinese … people all over the world have holidays where they leave flowers as well as food and drink at the burial grounds of their ancestors and other deceased loved ones. Go visit any cemetery to see lovingly placed teddy bears, toy cars, … balloons. It is a positive coping strategy for mourners. The folks at The Conversation call it “restorative giving,” recognizing that giving gifts to the dead is one way to deal with the pain of loss while maintaining ties with a deceased loved one.

If there’s no grave, a griever who wants to gift the dead has to be more inventive. Some possibilities for making a meaningful and beneficial contribution of some sort that day: I could buy a gift Marika would have liked and, with the help of a local pastor, I could give it to some girl from a needy family. Or I might leave a pretty bracelet in Marika’s favorite park for some lucky person to discover. I could make a donation to a charitable organization in her name. Maybe I’ll plant a rosebush. Maybe I’ll make a small campfire in the yard and invite a couple of old friends over for s’mores. Or I could bake (or fetch) a cherry pie and do a ritual with peach tea by candlelight, reading a special poem aloud.

And, in addition, because Marika opened the doors to social media, technology, and photography to me, I will take this opportunity to Photoshop a new dress for the girl who, even dead, still changes my life every day.

 

What do you do to honor a deceased loved one on a birthday?

 

 

Come Back to What You Love

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a picture of her daughter Marika Warden on Bells Beach in Australia.Keep coming back to what you love. A friend told me that. Years ago. I don’t remember the exact circumstances under which she said this. But, thankfully, these words echo in my mind whenever I find myself antsy, anxious. Immobilized.

A photograph of my daughter Marika on Bells Beach in Australia is what I come back to. The original photo was taken by her friend Carla when, during a brief time of remission, for two weeks Marika escaped cancer, chemo, her doctors, and me. Marika was planning to go back to Australia to become a nurse. This was one of her happiest times.

Last week, when CNN News announced another Consequential Week, one with much at stake for our country and the world, I turned off the TV. I dragged and dropped the tiny digital photo into Photoshop for the umpteenth time. Then, for most of the weekend, I expanded and embellished it, and lovingly rendered it into a comforting appliqued-quilt type of design. With all the ups and downs of the world , it helps to know what you love and what you need to balance your life. Sometimes you need to revisit and rework every little detail of the past. Sometimes you need to look back in order to move forward.

 

What do you go back to when facing your own weighty moments?

No Time Out From Heartbreak

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a cow trapped in the piping of a dairy products facility.There are some things in this world I am never going to understand.

Like massacres. Killing. Cold-bloodedness. And inhuman cruelty.

Last week too many mothers had their hearts broken. Their stories and the faces of their children filled my head even after I turned off the TV. I tried to escape the images of their agony, but wherever I turned, in Wegmans, in the woods, Netflix, Facebook, …their despair followed me.

It was too difficult to write about people senselessly losing their lives. And the tormented families and friends left behind. Memories of my own pain resurfaced each time I tried.

So I sequestered myself in the quiet corner of my living room, in the depths of my computer and the distraction of Photoshop, thinking I could paste together a pure fresh collage on a blank canvas. There was no escaping. Even there, in the limitless layers of Photoshop, I found traces of my own heartlessness.

Flight from Reality

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, in a quest for joy, photoshops a lone girl with her head in a pink cloud.“I love being home with you,” I told the dog, when everyone I knew was out somewhere having fun, and I was feeling antsy with nowhere to go. “But now let’s find something beautiful and joyful to photograph. Something besides you,” I said, and followed her flickering tail around the pond, stopping to take pictures of the water and wildflowers. A colossal pink cloud floated overhead. I snapped a dozen shots of it, awed by its rosiness.

The cloud would be a perfect illustration of joy, I thought. After weeks of watching the garden dry up in the drought, after howling my grief songs and driving people mad trying to move boulders, I desperately wanted to blog about something joyful. So that night I stayed up late, turned on the TV, made popcorn, poured a glass of sherry, pulled over a cozy chair for the dog, and began playing with the image of the pink cloud. And over the weekend, I missed a picnic and passed on a dinner invitation, as I Photo-shopped the cloud in the water, in my face, around a lone girl. I Photo-shopped the heck out of that cloud.

Then, I Googled “pink cloud” to get an idea of why I was so taken with the cloud, and what I might write about it. But there was no joy in any of the articles listed. It was a term used in alcohol and addiction recovery programs to refer to “unrealistic feelings of well-being and happiness experienced during times of despair.” It represented “ignoring life’s problems in a dangerous euphoria,” … “flight from reality.”

I looked at the picture I’d spent hours composing. I looked at the dog. And then I had to consider that maybe I’m the one walking around with my head in a pink cloud, convinced I’m solidly planted on a sure path to healing.

 

Where is joy?

 

Holding Up or Hanging On?

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, as a toddler holding up her younger sister, Laurie Botie.“Hold up yaw sistuh,” my mother said years ago as she posed us for a photograph. But my sister didn’t need my support, even then. Most of my life I’ve hung onto her because I depended on and needed her, and didn’t want her to fly off without me.

This past weekend we got together to celebrate her birthday, at my mother’s place. Shortly after we arrived, the conversation turned to last week’s blog post where I’d Photoshopped an age progression on a picture of my daughter who died.
“Why do you feel the need to do that?” my mother asked.

I am not going to share who said what about letting go, hanging on, moving on, and so forth, in the skirmish that followed. It got me wondering about the differences.

Holding up is to keep something from getting away or falling, to keep in high regard, to endure. You’re holding up quite well under the circumstances, I like to hear, as opposed to why do you have to keep hanging on? Hanging on is to hold tightly, to grasp, perhaps in desperation. Hanging on is waiting, persisting with some effort despite difficulties or setbacks. It is clutching at something and letting it lead you who-knows-where, maybe even allowing it to drag you backwards or under.
“I am not hanging on,” I insisted, and then announced, “I’m gonna hold Marika forever.”

Are you hanging on to someone or something for dear life? Or are you holding up your dearest memories of a most precious one in order to honor her and recycle your love for her into something more. Can you carry the one you love, and thought you lost, into your future even when others are telling you to get over the loss?

I’m not saying whose resolve was not budging and who was close to tears defending her position.
“I loved your latest post and the age progression photo you did,” my sister said. I shut up and smiled gratefully. She had my back and was holding me up this time.