Tag Archives: joy after grief

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?

Looking for Joy

Looking for Joy, Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops produce and trees reflected in Cayuga Lake at the Ithaca Farmers' Market.Do you ever get stuck looking for something? I mean really stuck like you can’t stop yourself from scouring the house, searching the same spots over again, like you can’t move forward until you find this one thing.
It was stupid. I knew I was being unreasonable spending hours trying to find the snapshot of my son as a toddler holding a yellow umbrella. So much for my plan to Photoshop it with a shot of the stunning yellow tree dropping leaves in my driveway. After three hours of non-stop tearing the house apart it hit me: when you look for something, you always find something else. I found a twenty-dollar bill, my dead daughter’s certificate of live birth, and the watch I was looking for last week. I would have to search for something else in order to find this photo. I fled the scene where now, upstairs and down, small piles of tossed stuff riddled every room.

“I’m looking for joy,” I said, bumping into a friend at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market. “I need to photograph something joyful.” It was gray and rainy. People were cold and cranky. The only things I was drawn to were the reflections of trees in the lake and the stacks of colorful produce. I took a couple of shots, bought lunch at the Macro Mamas booth, and headed home. There were only a few hours until dinner with my daughter’s old friend so I went back to searching for the photo.

It was dark and raining outside Mitsuba Restaurant as Marika’s friend and I stood over the open trunk of his car. He pulled out something red and held it up. Marika’s Ithaca Soccer jacket danced in the wind. There it was, the jacket she’d worn so often before cancer. Was that really seven years ago? The familiar shade of red, the shape of it – it was almost like seeing Marika again. Close to tears, I grabbed it.

Later that night I got lost in Photoshop. There was no thinking, no plan. I just played with the images I’d shot that day, fascinated by the different reds in each photo. It didn’t matter that the picture didn’t match the story I’d written. Warmly wrapped in my daughter’s red jacket, I forgot about the son-with-umbrella photo that still remains to be found.