Monthly Archives: July 2015

To See Inside Others’ Hearts

Edie the Dog looks unapproachable. Photographed by Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York.Don’t mess with me.
I am not who you think I am.

I crawled all over the floor trying to get Edie The Dog to look at me. Later, when I examined the photos I’d taken, I thought I recognized something in her eyes.

You think I look mad and unapproachable. You stick your camera smack in my face and try to get me to smile. But I won’t smile. Today, all I can think about is what I’m missing.
You don’t know my story. The story that might make you cry, or maybe cringe. If it makes you uncomfortable, consider how it makes me feel.

How you feel, how I feel. I don’t care.

Then I found the shot that reminded me of my own dog, and all the love and emotional support she gives me. And I wondered if maybe we could better read what’s inside others’ hearts by first remembering what’s in our own. Because we all struggle with sadness, pain, worries, and fears. And we all have known hope and joy.

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs Edie The Dog looking up lovingly at the one who loves her.How much kinder the world would be if we all stopped to see what others’ stories entailed, and then treated each other with respect and compassion. Suddenly I understood something different from Edie The Dog’s eyes.

This is who I am now. Look at me.

And if you show me you care, I will be your friend forever.


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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.

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Missing Children Photos

MarikaAgedFor the past two weeks, all over the media, an image of a little girl who was found dead in a trash bag along the shore of Boston Harbor has yanked at the hearts of more than 51 million viewers. Having lost my own daughter four years ago, I was mesmerized by the picture. Someone’s beautiful daughter, her riveting eyes. Thrown away. How could this happen?

The computer-generated image was produced by Christi Andrews at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Using autopsy reports, morgue photos, and stock images of facial features, Andrews constructed a digital composite that should come close to what the toddler looked like in life. Andrews selected a similar face shape, added eyes that matched the toddler’s in size and color, and filled in the features with stock photos. She likened the process to building a Mr. Potato Head.

Forensic artists like Andrews often include age progressions in their composites, modifying images to reflect the effects of aging, to show likely current appearances of long gone missing children. They use the same Adobe Photoshop program I use. When I investigated further, to learn how Andrews recreated the face of ‘Baby Doe,’ the child found near Boston, I made a discovery: many bereaved parents find age progression on photos of their deceased children to be healing. They use services such as Phojoe Photo in order to see what their children might have looked like as adults.

With all the photo manipulations I’ve done on my daughter’s image, aging her face had never occurred to me. What would Marika, who died before turning twenty-one, look like at my age, I  wondered?

On one half of Marika’s face I deepened her natural lines and then added from my own stockpile of wrinkles, sags, and age spots.

So now I have something else to stare at.


What images do you find comforting?


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The Joy of Bugs

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York Photoshops moths from Moth Night with Cornell University Insect Collection manager.“I don’t like spiders,” my son says, glancing down at me with a look that communicates more than a trivial dislike. I often call him Bug, because as a boy, he had a little bug-nose. Now, his tattooed deltoids are at my eye level as we stand side by side in the mudroom, looking up at two mysterious round sacs attached to the tiniest web in a high corner. “You know, any day now those things are gonna hatch and millions of spiders are gonna be all over the place,” he warns.

“Well, I don’t like spiders either,” I say, giving him a look meant to convey that he is the warrior of the house and should take care of the spiders, and that I am his poor weak mother who keeps the refrigerator stocked with food. Most of the time.

A few hours later he has purchased munitions at Wegmans, fumigated the room with Raid Max, and captured the threatening cocoons in a bundle of multiple plastic bags that is now mine to dispose of. “You can spray the outside of the house so they don’t come in,” he says, pointing to a huge unopened can of Bug Barrier.

It feels like a fair solution to the spider problem. Over half a century ago, my sister and I used to flip a coin or something to decide who was to kill the spider and who was to remove the carcass from the wall. That had seemed fair too at the time. Well, maybe not for the spiders.

Getting rid of bugs is just a yucky job.

But a day later, when I get an email with a link for National Moth Week and Moth Night, presented by the manager of the Cornell University Insect Collection at a local park, I decide it is time to consider changing my attitude towards creepy-crawly insects. A party for moths. Maybe I can learn to live in peace with the bugs in my life. After all, anything’s possible – even joy.

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York attends Moth Night with Cornell University Insect Collection.

What bugs you?


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