BREAKING
Lee County 7 1 20
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What is in the painting?
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Looking at the painting in the setting of a prison for boys makes one think of different stories. One tells of someone approaching the cottage after a long journey. It may be home; it may be only a temporary shelter from the miles traveled. - photo by Joseph Cramer, MD
There is a painting hanging on the wall of the non-denominational chapel at the juvenile jail. Al Rounds is the painter. It hangs above and behind the piano. How long it has held that spot on the wall is unknown to any of the current volunteers.

It is smaller than an ordinary sheet of paper. It is a watercolor of a house in a meadow backed by a dark wall of conifers.

The small cottage is a single-level structure. It couldnt be more than a couple of rooms big. It is in the near distance off to the left. It shines a bright white with a reddish roof and chimney.

In front of the building is the edge of a meadow. The rest of the field is off to the right and beyond. The viewer does not see what is to the rear, but there is something. The trees are close to the cottage. They continue in a tapering line sweeping away to the right. The distance and the darkness preclude a definition of individual trees. Neither does one see a path through the distant forest.

Above the field, the house and the trees, there is a solitary peak. It silently rises in the background like a sentinel over the house and valley.

Looking at the painting in the setting of a prison for boys makes one think of different stories. One tells of someone approaching the cottage after a long journey. It may be home; it may be only a temporary shelter from the miles traveled.

It may also be simply a building that a traveler passes on his way. The painting doesnt tell where he is going. The destination could be to climb to the top of the mountain.

The third thought provoked by the painting is of someone turning back to look at the home they are leaving. The viewer can decide if the departure is for a short moment only to return soon. It may also be the final goodbye from a safe place into the tougher world. The colors seem to say that the departure is not in anger or in escape. Nonetheless, there is sadness in spite of the bright colors

For these boys of Juvenile Justice Services, what do they see in the picture that has been hanging before them for so long?

To the boys, beyond the triple locked doors is The Outs. It is where they came from. It is where they are returning. Is The Outs in the painting the mountaintop? Has their expensive stay in a building without open windows encouraged them to seek higher ground? Strengthened by the therapy and activities while incarcerated, they will start the climb and continue to struggle, but hopefully grow.

Beyond the imagery of the painting, too often the boys leave eager to summit the peak, but they come tumbling back. Sadly, we sing farewell to a young man, and he is locked up again in a week or two. Today, the volunteers whispered that one hopeful young man who left recently is on the run.

Is the bright house the facility they left or the home to which they are returning? Are they going to walk past their troubles that often are kindled from the chaos of a dysfunctional family without a father? The building, in spite of the bright, may hide poverty and abuse.

The boys may see their time in lockup as a stopping point from their fights or flights. It is a sanctuary from the violence or the homelessness that was their world before. Confined by a judge, they are not cold in the winter, and they dont go to bed hungry.

The incarcerated residents also could see the safe house and walk on by. It is too often the story of such engrained patterns of thought. On the Outs, their gang family embraces them. They walk past the security that was there for a moment.

There is a painting above and behind a piano at a youth detention center in the nondenominational chapel. I wonder what the boys see.