Monthly Archives: August 2015

Doing Something Dangerous

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops her inherited dog Suki sinking in cracked concrete.In the first sentence of the book I was to choose a word or phrase from, it said, “… about to do something dangerous.” There were easier phrases to choose from beyond that first line, words that immediately painted pictures in my mind, words that would be less challenging to make six photographs of. But I kept coming back to that phrase. About to do something dangerous.

Maybe because I don’t ever do anything dangerous. Or, at least, not intentionally like some blog-sites that scream, “Do Something Dangerous Today.” I hardly ever take risks. After losing a daughter to leukemia, I know peril comes stalking a person sure enough without one’s flirting with it.

Trying to exercise some dangerous behavior to aid in executing the assignment, I squatted behind my camera at the bottom of the college’s huge staircase. Then I walked the halls looking only through my viewfinder, purposefully knocking into students I didn’t know and snapping their pictures.

Over the week, to complete the assignment, I considered what dangerous things I’d done in the past. Like walking alone in the city at night, exposing myself on social media, swimming by myself in strange waters, advertising on Craig’s List to rent my guest room, taking a ride from a bartender I didn’t know in Australia, getting my pilot license, … trusting another human being, getting romantically involved. Earthquakes and scorpions are dangerous, although I’d experienced neither. Rabid raccoons, jellyfish, high cliffs, losing control, … I had experienced. Menacing claws, lightning, lighting a match, and ground breaking beneath my feet are dangers I am wary of. And cancer.

Doing something dangerous has adverse consequences. Like the time I hiked in a slippery streambed, I fell and broke my wrist. When I carried a heavy bag of cat-poop I fell into my front door and broke my nose. Why would I want to do something dangerous?

Early in the week, Suki, the dog I inherited from my daughter, stopped eating. I watched as Doc Orzeck poked around the lump on her throat.
“A fifty/fifty chance it’s cancer,” he said. I held Suki tight for days. We snuggled each night. When she started wagging her tail again, we went for a hike. I fell. I got up and we kept walking. The next days we hiked and walked and sat in the sun. Danger is everywhere. Living your life, or daring to love, or just walking, is doing something dangerous.

 

What dangerous thing have you done? And why?

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Pursuing Joy

Pursuing Joy Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs a rhododendron and then Photoshops it over the face of her laughing daughter.Blooms of rhododendron, big as children’s heads, bobbed with the wind as I hovered over them behind my camera. The bright blossoms seemed to laugh with me the way my young daughter did years ago when we blew seedy dandelions into each others’ faces.

A new week, and I am still photographing flowers and scanning my thumb-drives for photos that display joy. But, in a funk over last week’s pathetic depiction of it, I came to realize that all this stuff about looking for joy, finding joy, …is not a universal reality. There are people who are looking for food, or for God, or for their car keys. In a world of a million things to be seeking, it may be a privilege to be looking for joy.

I mean, if our grown children, the ones off chasing dreams and living like there’s no tomorrow, were to say, “Mom, I’m looking for joy,” we’d immediately demand, “What about looking for a job?”

 

What do your children search for? What are you searching for? And what gives you joy?

 

 

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Finding Joy

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York uses a selfie to photoshop a picture of joy.My mission last week was to produce a photo that depicts joy. It would be one in a series for a photography competition entitled Three Graces: Beauty, Wonder, and Joy. I’d already assigned Beauty and Wonder from my previous works. For Joy, I was starting from scratch. What does joy look like? I wondered.

When you Google ‘joy’ you get images of people leaping with outstretched arms. You get laughing babies and sunrises, rainbow skies filled with butterflies or confetti. Try Googling it yourself. You will find a cacophony of bubble letters and bouncing people, nothing remotely resembling the elegance or refinement requisite of a grace.

I considered the picture I shot last year of my sister smiling over a full plate of food at a fancy restaurant. It had a joy I could relate to. But “joy is not dependent on external circumstances or material objects” (like food). I found that on the Internet too.

A photo of my dog standing high on a hill displayed a quiet joy that I have known myself. On sites like pursuitofajoyfullife.com they say that reaching a goal or accomplishing something is a good way to find joy. Suki, panting in the picture, had worked really hard to climb up that hill. But that, and the pictures of glorious day lilies, did not represent the humanness of a grace.
There would have to be a joyful person. This was disheartening as I had several joyful friends but none who like to be photographed and exposed all over Facebook and Twitter.
That meant it would be a selfie.

Time out — A message for my mom, as I can hear her hollering, “What’s a selfie?”
“Mom, go on Google.com and in the little box, you type ‘selfie’ and then click on ‘images’ and you will get thousands of pictures of people photographing themselves. There is no grace.”

All the slogans and headings from inspirational websites splashed around in my mind as I set the self-timer and stepped back from the camera. Joy is being content with your self. Feel happy. Forgive yourself. Find what is wonderful and amazing around you. Joy comes from within. Recycle your pain into joy… I held my head to keep the simple joy of being alive there. Finally, I thought of my daughter who died and how if she saw me now, she’d roll her eyes and say, “Mom. Seriously?”

Okay, I admit, this photo looks like I’m in pain. All over online, blogs talk about embracing pain to find joy. I welcome your suggestions. Let’s just call this a work in progress.

 

So, where did you find your joy this week? And how has the Internet influenced your concept of joy?

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Mothers Together

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops mothers walking a labyrinth in the woods at Wiawaka Holiday House in Lake George.We are mothers healing together, returning from our retreat at Wiawaka Holiday House in Lake George, renewed and fortified. We are a mighty bunch.

Do not tell us to move on or get over our loss. Listen to our stories rather than try to give us advice. In different ways, we carry our children who died. They go with us into our future and inspire us to keep dreaming and tend to new endeavors in their honor.

If you see us singing to the moon, hooting with the steamboat Minnie-Ha-Ha, doing yoga in the woods, wearing our children’s clothes, sniffing summer blooms, relinquishing our private storms to reiki, laughing and crying simultaneously, singing our daughters’ songs, throwing pebbles into the lake, holding hands with thumbs facing left, looking for signs from angels, walking labyrinths while ringing bells … do not think we are mad. We are simply living our lives – for two, maybe more.

 

What do you do to keep alive the memory of a lost loved one? How has your loved one inspired you to change your life?

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Missing Boys

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, uses Photoshop to restore an old photo of her son as a toddler.

When you lose a child, every news article about missing children grabs your attention and then beats the breath from you. All week I was captivated by the story of the two missing teenagers in Florida whose capsized boat had been found, empty. I agonized for the families of the lost boy boaters. Two more heartbroken mothers.

Losing a child to the sea is different from losing a child to leukemia. I got to hold my daughter and watch as the part of me that could sing disappeared into nowhere. I waited, so still, like she might reappear. But wherever she was, her body was empty. The absence was so physical; I knew she was gone.

If you don’t see the vacant body of the one you love, it is difficult to convince yourself that he is not somewhere out there still. I look to the heavens and the night sky to talk to the daughter that I miss but no longer worry about. These other mothers will look to the sea as long as they live. They will wonder and worry the rest of their time about their missing boys.

Where are they now? This is the question bereaved mothers ask. And a mother who has not had to witness the vacancy of the body that housed her child will hold the hope that he is not dead. He is only missing.

And how different is that from the thoughts of the mother of a grown son off in the world? Where is he now? Where is the little boy who I chased on the beach, the toddler on my lap who gazed lovingly at my face as I read stories, the baby boy who only wanted to be held by me? Where has he gone?

 

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