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  • Writer's pictureRoeh Art

Can You Hear Me?

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

The Story Behind the Picture

Can You Hear Me, as is sometimes the case, was born out of a struggle. During a particularly difficult time, it was suggested that I should try to help others understand what I needed. I didn't know where to start and definitely didn't feel strong enough to try. Finding myself with no-one to talk to about this, I wrote in a journal. I'm not keen on writing down my thoughts (let alone sharing them), as too often, I find that what made sense at the time seems gibberish shortly afterwards. Here's part of what I wrote which turned out not to be such gibberish as I feared!

Acknowledge my pain.

It makes me feel less alone.

Please, don't tell me it will all be OK when I see no prospect of improvement, but don't imply it will never get better, because I still need to try to hope.

Don't tell me you feel the same way - you may, but I may not be able to see that just now.

Don't tell me (or imply) that I should try harder, or do better, or try to hold on longer, because right now, I'm giving it all I've got and to suggest otherwise won't help.

Don't remind me there are others worse off, I feel guilty enough bothering you with my pain as it is.

Just acknowledge it.

Tell me you care, tell me it's OK to have told you, that if it matters to me, it matters to you even if you can't fix it or understand it.

I'm not asking you to carry my pain, that's not your job and if I see you trying, I'll feel too guilty to tell you another time.

I'm not asking your advice - generally, I've got 200 advisors for every person I can just be honest with. Your advice may be brilliant, but maybe, I can't see it clearly yet; perhaps I will see more clearly when I feel heard.

Acknowledge my pain.

Job had plenty of advisors (supposedly 'comforters'). It didn't help. What helped was an encounter with his maker. So, when you've acknowledged my pain...bless me.

If you feel I need advice, direction, fixing, perspective, backbone, talk to my maker about it - just you and him. I don't need to know. If you're right, don't you think he can sort it? He didn't use the well meaning friends to sort out Job, he just met with him 1:1.

So, acknowledge my pain

Bless me

& contact my maker

The following day, I was in a church service wondering how I could express that longing to know someone had listened in a picture. I found myself seeing it as the act of putting a message into a bottle & throwing it into the sea hoping that someone would find it and understand. Not just one message in one bottle, but message after message, hoping against hope that someone would 'get it'. I produced an ink and watercolour sketch before the image could be forgotten.

Some days later, I began to work on it as an oil pastel. If you look carefully, you can just about see the messages that were sent out earlier, but the focus is on the current message which stands out against a glorious sunrise (or sunset - it all depends on your viewpoint).

Messages in bottles are hardly an efficient way to communicate, but when we are struggling, even the most articulate can find themselves struggling to express themselves coherently.

My hope is that this picture will encourage you to send out your own messages and that, as I did in the days that followed, you will find someone willing to receive them.

Painting Details

Can You Hear Me is a 42 x 39 cm oil pastel on acid free linen textured paper using Sennelier oil pastels.


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