Black Holes: Making Peace with the Darkness

For #ProjectWorldColors, we’re doing something different this month. The color for July is, interestingly, Black. In addition to the “Black” photos I posted on Pinterest, we have also been challenged to think about this concept in multiple media, using text as well as images.

For me, this concept takes the shape and context of Black Holes, questions I don’t have answers to. Here is what “Black” means to me, how it has shaped me, my own Life Lessons.

I have long wondered how it is that certain people seem so comfortable in the expat or traveling lifestyle and others have never had a desire to leave home. What shapes people in one way or the other?

Once, at my Dad’s home on Lake LBJ in Texas, just north of Austin, I talked with a lady who had never been more than 35 miles from her home there. Ever. Never been on a plane. Never been to Austin, and had never had any desire to!

By contrast, my growing up years seemed very foreign to her. For me, I thought travel was how everyone lived. I didn’t really know any other way of life. I had already moved 6 times by the age 12. Just like my father.

The commissioning  program from the USS Samuel Roberts in Orange, Texas, 1946. My  father was 19.

The commissioning program from the USS Samuel Roberts in Orange, Texas, 1946. My father was 19.

At 16, my father lied about his age to join the Navy. He had been on his own since the death of his own father. His mother remarried, choosing a  kindly cowboy who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, assigned to the Navajo Indian reservation near Shiprock, on the western New Mexico border. Not being a very hospitable place, she sent her two kids to live with their paternal aunt in rural eastern New Mexico. When my father had had enough, he hitchhiked to Santa Fe and enlisted. As a Texas ranch hand, he was tall and plenty tough enough. And in 1943, it was all hands on board, so off he went.

Unidentified Photos, Unanswered Questions: Who, Where, When?

Unanswered Questions: Who, Where, When?

I know nothing about his father, and little more about his grandfather. The Stuart men seem to be strong silent types who leave little behind when they go. There are few answers; just lots of black holes.

After my father passed away a few years ago, I received a photo album marked “Aloha Hawaii” on the cover.

Photo Album Cover, Aloha Hawaii

Aloha, Black Holes of Hawaii

When I opened it, appropriately, I found mostly blank pages, a few with old photographs signed, “Love, Joyce” or “To my Darling, from Mary” but no clues as to who Joyce and Mary were or what they meant to my father, aside from the general idea that he was fairly popular with the ladies wherever he went, as sailors in those days often were.

By the time he married my mother, an unlikely choice of a 21 year old Nebraska native with two kids of her own already, he had been around the world and back and forth across the equator (a rite of passage for sailors) several times.

Sketchy memories tell me that we moved from the base in California where I was born, to Hawaii before it was a state. My younger sister was born there; my older brother, his first born son, died there. Understandably, no one talked about that time. It’s just another black hole. But I do know, that’s when the abuse got worse.

My mother told me years later, after their divorce, that for her being overseas in an isolated place, as Pearl Harbor still was then, with no family support and an attitude that what happens in the Navy family, stays in the family- meaning you don’t talk about problems to any outsiders- was almost unbearable. Beyond that, nothing more. It was the darkest shade of black.

Despite the unknowns, I see today that I was indeed my father’s daughter. I remember looking forward to family travel to the Gulf of Mexico to go fishing the summer my father was home. Maybe it was the unknown of crossing the border (it certainly wasn’t traveling cross-country in the family station wagon!). Maybe it was wanting to be well-traveled like him, or, maybe it was just the faintest chance to get to know him. I remember watching him. He could sit and fish for hours, one beer after another, and not say ten words. He was a man of solitude.

I always wanted to know my father. But between his black moods and his inability to share and engage with us kids, he always seemed just beyond reach. I never knew that he was proud of me or his only grandchild, until after he passed away. Those words became my own black cloud; I was angry I had been away; angry I had given up on trying to get to know him; angry that my daughter had so little memory of our visits with him that his passing left virtually no impression at all. Most of all I was angry that these black holes would never find answers.

They say that the color black is the total absence of light. I can relate. There is no one left to shed light on these questions about my father. In the absence of light, all that remains are Black Holes.

The lesson for me? That I share what I can, filling as many black holes as I can with as much light as I have. A hard way to learn a lesson perhaps, but ultimately, I’ve made peace with the darkness.

8 thoughts on “Black Holes: Making Peace with the Darkness

  1. Wow. This was not our typical light-hearted “share your color-related photos” post! Thank you for opening up, sharing yourself … I can relate to quite a bit about the correlation to our memories of our fathers … and the matching color.

    (I’m from Nebraska as well!!)

    Thank you for this J!!


  2. Thanks so much for the encouragement! I was hoping this wouldn’t be too edgy- that the explanation up front might help. I debated this piece for a while, being that it isn’t, as you say, “our typical light-hearted ‘share your color-related photos’ post”. From what you have shared in your “Box 53b” posts, I thought you might relate. It’s tough to share but these things have made us who we are, and others might benefit.

    Interesting that we share Nebraska roots, practically neighbors- my mom’s family was from Lincoln. Oddly enough, she was a Stewart who married a Stuart. Both mothers were writers who knew each other. Small world!


  3. Wow, Jonelle! Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this and for taking World Colors to a new level of meaning. I think we all have feelings or memories associated with certain colors, and this certainly got me thinking. I look forward to reading more from you.


    • Thanks so much, Anne, I appreciate your comments! This one was interesting. The thing I like most about #ProjectWorldColors (, is the freedom/ challenge to associate colors with memories through photos, imagery, textures, shadows and the written word. I enjoy seeing so many takes and perspectives on each color.

      For the same reason, I love your it’s the beauty/reality of the images you bring from your travels- I see places and cultures from a different vantage point with each post. And that’s really what this is all about, isn’t it. Provoking new thoughts and open new conversations. Can’t wait to see what others are finding this month!


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