By Roland Micklem
I just completed a short sentence in the Southwestern Regional Jail for my role last September in blocking a road to the Massey Energy headquarters near Charleston. My incarceration was made bearable - in fact, almost pleasant - by the kindness and consideration shown to me by my fellow inmates and also by several of the jail personnel.
But what impressed me most during my stay in Pod A-1 was a work of art. On one of the steel tables was a three-dimensional carving of a cross, flanked on one side by a pair of praying hands as in the classic painting, and on the other an open Bible with the inscription "John 3:16" across the pages. Cross, Bible and hands were framed by a pair of leafy, intertwining grape vines. The quality of the work attested to the skill and sensitivity of the artist, as well as his affinity for the more uplifting aspects of the human condition.
I'd like to locate the artist. His work to me has all of the sanctity of a shrine. I took my meals at that place setting, and sat there as I wrote letters and updated my journal. In an environment of violent rhetoric, reiterated by four-letter inscriptions on other tables, and carvings (also skillfully done) of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, the creator of my shrine seems to have displayed a remarkable streak of character in leaving behind such a singular message of hope.
He needs to know what an inspiration he was for me. Even though I was treated well and came to care for and respect each of my jail mates, the mere fact of being locked up and unable to come and go as one pleases is enough to undermine morale, and I am indeed grateful, as much for his courage and commitment as for his talent.
He left his initials ("W.J") and the year '09 below his work. W.J., if you happen to read this, please contact me.