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 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 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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10 thoughts on “Finding Joy

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I saw honeybees in my vegetable garden this morning, many swarming and sipping in Cleome flowers. I’d seen only a few this year. They gave me hope for the Earth and a sense of reprieve. “They’re here this year. All is not lost.” I hung out with them for a while and took many photos. They were interested in nectar, not posing. Since returning from California, my breakfast walks bring joy. Willow is all for it.

    Your photo isn’t quite joy, but it’s interesting if I don’t try to define the feeling. A little awe, a little fear. Lots of WOW! Joy is so fast and illusive. A little flash of light and fire. II hope to see your Joy photo sometime.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Honeybees, flowers, morning walks with Willow, …beautiful joys. I tried again this week to depict joy. Maybe it’s a little closer. Isn’t it sad that joy is fast and elusive? Why can’t it be more everlasting? Is it related to not being able to eat ice cream for dinner? I mean, does one need pain and loss like one needs broccoli and fish in order to thrive?

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    Well, Robin, I think you’ve stumped me. I’m finding it hard to come up with an image of joy. I like the photo here and could believe it to be joy.

    I think I connect joy to music and to spirituality, but have no good ideas on how to represent those in a photograph. Whenever I’ve felt joy, the moment was transitory, arriving suddenly and dissipating.

    Fascinating post–got me thinking. Good luck with the contest!

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Well, Lynne, maybe I need to produce a photo that dissipates or suddenly self-destructs. Music and spirituality – now those are not all that easy to portray in a photo either. I have not yet tried googling for images of them yet. Maybe I’d find ideas there for depicting joy. Thank you.

  3. Annette Corth

    I like your image. My first impression was that of ecstasy and revelation. How is that from an atheist? Only after you mentioned pain, did I discover that the image a might reflect that emotion as well.

    I found joy recently in visiting Perry at home after he was discharged from the hospital.

    Whatever the interpretation, your image is very compelling.


    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Annette. We’ll have to see that you get to visit Perry more often. You’ve just mentioned one of my problems of looking for joy online. In addition to being linked to pain, it seems that joy is always related to the Bible and Jesus and living a good Christian life. A little problematic for those of us who are not Christians and who need occasional relief from pain. Cheers!

  4. Mary

    I surprised myself when I’d awakened on the cot in the screen tent. The day grew old and it’s light difuse. Still, I opened my eyes catching twilight and gardens, and my breath took in good August air. Wow, whst a nice surprise it was. Even more surprisingly, and without really thinking about it, I was smiling. It was as if a moment of joy stopped by unannounced.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh, to wake to these surprise moments of joy! To wake smiling. You are blessed, Mary. Thank you for sharing that.

  5. Lucy Bergström

    Joy, like happiness, is something we experience in glimpses, flashes of clarity and enlightenment. It comes upon us when we notice a spiderweb between two bushes covered in dew, each drop reflecting the morning sun. We have to stop and take a quick breath – nature has, by chance, made something perfect but invisible suddenly a glory of symmetry and tiny mirrors. It’s the opposite of how we feel when there’s trash alongside one of our favorite hiking trails. That’s a minus, joy is a plus. It can also be the way you must have felt, Robin, when you braved a thousand fears and barriers to get to the beach in Australia that Marika loved.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      This is beautiful, Lucy. I could remember how it feels to find such fragile beauty. And my brain wretched at the part about trash on the trail. Yes, finding Marika’s beach was a joy, although a bittersweet one. Cheers to you, Lucy. May you experience these joyful glimpses every day.


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