Altered Horizons 22

Altered Horizons 22 Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a fabricated landscape of rocks and stones in her dealing with grief and loss and depression.

At University Sand and Gravel in Brooktondale, NY, there were mountains and mountains of rocks. Scooped up and lifted onto conveyor belts, rocks and stones were sorted and then dropped into huge piles. Walking around them on a hot sunny day, I was reminded of how my grief had felt: endless, heavy, hard, cold. Pummeling. My thoughts turned to mining accidents and death by avalanche. But there was also something jolly about the intermingling of the almost-blue momma-bear, poppa-bear, and baby-bear sized boulders. I imagined a moonscape.

 

Altered Horizons 21

Altered Horizons 21 Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photoshops fabricated landscapes to heal from child loss and depression.

For most of my life I was searching for someone, wishing for someone. A soul mate, a partner, my other half—maybe. But recently I decided that I, myself, could become that person I was hoping to find.

In these fabricated landscapes I compose, often it just seems like something’s missing, like there ought to be a sun. So I concoct a sun of sorts. It’s not the same as a real one, but it fills space in an empty sky. And it satisfies my need to feel the scene is complete.

Altered Horizons 20

Altered Horizons 20 Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops fabricated landscapes in dealing with depression and coping with loss.

Long ago, someone told me I shined like Christmas. Even though it came from a stranger, I have never forgotten those words. Better than being told I was beautiful, “shining” was something I believed I was capable of. For years after, I did shine. I radiated, loved and was loved back. These days, though, I mostly feel worn down and chewed up. Like the light in me has been extinguished.

My friend shakes her head at me, “Why are you photographing the worst-looking plants in my garden?”

“They’re more interesting than the perfect ones,” I said. But it’s more than that. I’m drawn to survivors, to the ones with scars who, though maybe not always beautiful, have a mighty shining about them anyway. It might be evidence of my still unbroken hope that, even in the wormiest cabbage, I can see a sun.

 

Altered Horizons 19

Altered Horizons 19 Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, composes grief landscapes using Photoshop in her efforts to deal with depression and cope with loss.

On a rainy gray afternoon I rummaged through the house to photograph things that reflected light, things that absorbed light, things with grit, and grooves, and threads, and pronounced textures. It happened to be one of my “bad” days. You know what I mean, one of those colorless days when nothing, not even chocolate cake, can calm the deep aching of a shredded heart.

Tossing together all the holey, groovy, scratchy images in Photoshop, I composed my grief landscape. My sun is a tea strainer I pasted onto a crystal saucer. The rainy sky is my bedroom carpet. The hill is the brim of a hat. And it’s all framed with the drainage strip that keeps floodwaters from entering my home.

 

 

Altered Horizons 18

Altered Horizons 18 Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photoshops a fabricated landscape of the week in her ongoing healing from loss and dealing with depression.

To save my pond from choking, I raked long sheets of algae out of it and tossed them into great piles on the banks. Desperate to save their cruelly upended lives, snails and other tiny creatures wriggled in the folds of the stuff. I threw it all off into nearby bushes. But not before photographing the exquisite felting of the raw fibers.

Much later I came upon the photo of the white allium ball I’d shot earlier, and knew I had found my landscape of the week.

Altered Horizons 17

Altered Horizons 17 Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a fabricated landscape using old photos instead of newer shots of aged plants, and wonders why we can't appreciate the beauty in aging.

At the beginning of summer I photographed fresh hostas and dahlias in my garden, well before the ravages of time, heat, rabbits and slugs, too much rain, and not enough rain. Early September’s photo-shoot of the same patch of plants showed brown-tipped, yellowed and nibbled leaves with dusty spider webs between them. For my contrived landscape this week, I decided to go with the earlier photos. Transporting them to Photoshop, I crafted the young dahlia into a sun rising over a field of bright raindrop-splattered hostas.

Walking along a trail with friends recently, our conversation somehow turned from comparing favorite foods at Trader Joe’s to lamenting about our growing old. It seems many of us are now experiencing devastating loss of our former beautiful, strong, young and healthy selves. And it’s kinda sad how we view our aging faces and bodies as pathetically imperfect. Not particularly eager to display my current bespectacled, slightly wrinkled appearance, I, myself, have not updated my profile photo in years.

In Photoshop, I manipulated images of a favorite ancient scarf to frame this picture. Graceful aging, in some things like vintage clothing, is respected. Valued, even.

There are no great mysteries to sort out in this fabricated landscape. Except, maybe, why I chose to use July’s photos of the greener, fresher plants instead of the dusty, more interesting, older ones I’d just shot. Why is it we can’t appreciate the natural maturing of living things as they approach the ends of their lifetimes?