A Black Hole

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops the eye of a flower to represent the black hole that happens when a loved one dies, that happens when a writer falls into creative block.A black hole can happen when a star dies. It can happen when someone you love dies. And when artists or writers run out of inspiration, losing the ability to create new work, they may wail, “I’m lost in a black hole.”

In a black hole, the pull of gravity is so strong that nothing can escape it, not even light. Powerful tidal forces exert pressure that compresses matter, making it plunge at the speed of light, stretching it out lengthwise and squashing it sideways, tearing it to pieces, smashing, disintegrating, instantly incinerating and obliterating it to ashes.

I remember the early days after I lost my daughter. I remember the crushing feeling, the slow leaking of my energy, gravity ripping me apart. The hopelessness. My insides were imploding. I was alone. Aching. Trapped. Lost in a deep, dark, endless emptiness.

Black holes come in different sizes, from micro to supermassive, from death and grieving to creative block.

“If you feel you are trapped in a black hole, don’t give up. There is a way out,” says world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who has spent a lifetime studying black holes. But even he questions what kind of shape you, or any matter that gets sucked into a black hole, might be in upon escaping. Hawking says whatever gets freed from the hole is “for all practical purposes … useless.” Still, somehow, my hope survived my black hole. A battered ounce of hope is enough to fuel one forward.

Last week I started off my “new season” of photographic images. Taking cautious baby steps, keeping it simple, I photographed all sorts of orifices with my newly repaired, cleaned camera. Openings in foliage, depressions in trees, eyes of fall flowers… I made a circle. A square. And the beginnings of a plan to bring joy and color back into my life:

Start with a black hole. Put it in a box, to contain the chaos that might grow from it. Hug the negative space around it. Skirt the edges of its perimeter, aware it could suck in and swallow whatever approaches its point of no return. Surround it. Expand it. Drag it around and poke at it. Keep peeking into it to look for light. Learn to love the black hole that periodically pulls. And find new ways to fill it.


What can you do with a black hole? How can you fill it? Should black holes just be avoided?

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5 thoughts on “A Black Hole

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Maybe it’s because I was married to a physicist, but the black hole analogy usually feels hopeless. Unknown, transformed beyond recognition, gone, forever lost, reduced to the chaos that theoretically promises new life. Somehow you’ve created a black hole from the perspective of the creative and what happens after the darkness. A black hole giving birth to images and possibility. Something new. I’m curious about where this will lead you. I’ll read the next blog now and search for clues.

  2. Lucy Bergström

    Looking at your photo, I think of the other end of creation, when the flower is just a tiny bud. How can all that frilly, elaborate flower-energy come from a tiny bud? For that matter, how is it possible for us to create new people? It’s unfathomable, we just do it like breathing – but you made a Marika! She grew out of a couple of molecules and filled your universe, which then imploded when she died. The metaphor of the black hole that can be hugged, tugged at and filled up is perfect as a counterweight for loss.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Lucy. You’re always able to make sense of what I’m trying to do. I look forward to reading what you have to say as you clarify for me what is going on in my own mind, and expand it so preciously. And this morning, reading your note, I’m thinking of the black hole that is like a warm blanket “that can be hugged, tugged at and filled up,” because you and I, both, have the power to change our black holes into anything. Cheers!

  3. Lynne Taetzsch

    Wow, Robin, this one is truly poetry! And what an inspiration as well!

    Thank you!

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Lynne. I’m trying to start a new “collection.” Have you ever decided to try a different direction with your painting, as in changing elements, colors, mediums, …size and shape of your signature work? I’m not sure where I’m going with it but it’s like suddenly cutting off my hair and putting on new clothes. Not sure it’s me yet but thinking there’s room to grow into it. I wonder what you will think of the next bunch of images.


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