fifteen years ago my friend bonnie died. she was truly my sister, closer to me at that time than was my sister by birth. bonnie taught me so many things in the twenty years i was privileged to know her.
she took it upon herself, for instance, to impart information which could, if i paid attention, keep me from succumbing to the dangers of the desert when the desert was a new and exciting adventure to me. “always keep water with you,” she’d say. “keep extra water in your van just in case you get stuck somewhere.” and, “if you decide to go exploring in the desert alone, leave a note on your desk at home indicating where you are headed, what day and time you left, and about when you expect to return. that way, if your dad or i start to worry that we haven’t heard from you, we’ll know where to start searching. the desert can be a dangerous place.”
the desert is also one of the most fascinatingly, sometimes even hauntingly, beautiful places to explore. this i learned from the many wonderful excursions taken with bonnie, with my dad, and on my own. bon would call me on a thursday to extend an invitation to fun and adventure. “hi. we’ve decided to take a mini-vacation this weekend and we’d like for you to join us! we rented a convertible, bought a bottle of midori (one of our favorite summertime drinks), and are headed to the chiricahua mountains.” our dear Bonnie sure knew how to have fun.
it’s not hard to see why she had such an affinity for otters. she delighted in watching the desert museum otters play, and when her birthday came around many of her friends would give her otter gifts. at some point, bonnie, overloaded with otters, gave me a sweet picture of an otter, framed with a flat thick cardboard-type frame, though with no hardware to hang on a wall. i created a hanger by cutting a square of tough fabric, making a small hole in the middle of it, then gluing it to the back of the cardboard. it fit perfectly, sliding down tightly over the nail in the wall.
eventually, the breast cancer that had prompted a radical mastectomy seven years before returned with a vengeance, metastasizing throughout bonnie’s body, particularly attacking her pancreas, and stole her from us in a matter of months. because she loved the botanical gardens, all of us who loved bon took up a collection to buy a bench for the gardens to memorialize her. the plaque affixed to the bench gives the date of her death, her name and the words, “gone ottering.”