Beautifully Blue

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Beautifully Blue © Joan Z. Rough, 2002

Beautifully Blue © Joan Z. Rough, 2002

“This is the way I feel inside. Turmoil in twisted knots. Beautifully blue. And Black. And Purple. A bruise. But one that will heal to be more like the smaller, green outer pages,  Still somewhat chaotic but fresh and very much alive. Still breathing. “

I made this collage in my journal and wrote those words on July 18, 2002.  I was a year into taking care of my mother as her health declined. I invited her to come to live in my house. I thought I could help her through her final years. Bill thought it was a good idea, too.

On a day when Bill was leaving for a week in New York, Mom fell and broke her wrist. I was left alone with her to deal with her pain, her depression, and her growing neediness. It was not a life threatening situation. But it was an inconvenience. I felt overwhelmed and abandoned. I wasn’t ready to be a caretaker. I had no idea what I was doing. I had panic attacks, slept only a few hours each night, worrying about my mother.  I was angry about the disturbance in my life, about Bill being gone. I wanted Mom to go away. I didn’t think about what she was feeling.

It was the beginning of a steep learning curve that brought me to my knees on many occasions. I was constantly confused and wanted out. But at the same time I wanted to take care of her. There were moments when I knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. And times when taking care of her meant the world to me.

In the car one day as I was driving Mom to see her doctor, she sighed and said, “If those old trees could talk it would be interesting.”  I was deeply moved by what she said. She never talked about her emotional state during her last few years. I wasn’t ever sure that she was processing what was happening to her. But when she spoke those words, I knew that she was thinking about life and death and the passage of time. Later that evening I took her words and wrote the following poem.

 She Said

“If those old trees could talk it would be interesting.”
And so we sat and listened.
She began to tell her own story
And when she was finished
The trees bowed to her in the wind.
The river never slowed its pace.

Looking back and rereading what I’ve written in my journals, I often feel guilt and heartbreak. But also very grateful. There is beauty in pain as well as healing.


  1. Joan … my eye was drawn immediately to the picture … the colors and shapes created a familiar mood even before I read your blog. It took real courage — and a loving spouse — to invite an ailing parent to live with you. I am looking forward to reading your work!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Mary, Thanks for your visit. Let’s say it was all an adventure and I learned so much about myself and human nature. And if I had to do it over again, I’d probably do exactly what I did. It wasn’t easy but through the turmoil I found myself.

  2. As a visual person I could feel your emotion in the collage…. I happen to like the medium of collage and abstract art… this was beautifully done. Many years ago when I was going through some turmoil, collages started exploding out of me…. it was my re-entry into the world of art after many decades.

    • Joan Rough says:

      rmw, Thank you for stopping by my blog. I believe collage is one of the best mediums in which to express deep feelings and emotions. During that difficult time, I made numerous collages that really helped me through my pain, and kept my finger in the pie of making art. I’m glad to know that there are others like you who have found the same healing in making art. Come back to visit soon!

  3. Gratefulness
    Beauty in Pain

    Clearly, three ingredients that worked together to create a beautiful human being.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Laurie, I don’t know what to say. You leave me speechless with your kind words. I am not as perfect as you imagine. All I can do is be the best that I can do, with all my warts and all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  4. I am stunned by your poem Joan. I’ve sat under trees since I was young and listened to their stories. One of my favourite new mummy moments came when my eldest son toddled off to a tree in one of Penzance’s lovely parks, wrapped his tiny chubby arms around it as far as he could and closed his eyes. I was smiling and laughing and gently taking the mickey when I asked if he was a treehugger. “Mummy I wasn’t cuddling it, I was telling it a secret.”

    • Joan Rough says:

      Trees are such very special entities. They are the witnesses of so much history. Any one can tell their secrets to them and they will just bend in the breeze of your words. I think children especially connect with trees. I’m happy to see your little one has.