The image is serene—snow covering a small ravine with winter killed trees and tumbled, broken limbs. Silence radiates from the canvas. A sense of quiet solitude and awe sweeps over me each time I look at it.
This painting is more than a peaceful image. It is a reminder of kindness and gratitude, both mine and that of the artist.
He was a slender, dark-haired young man from one of the Asian countries, here in the United States to get an education. He signed the painting “ ’92. S. Zeong” but what the “S.” stood for is lost to me. The young man had a wife, a young family and too many responsibilities. He lived in a cramped apartment and was a student at the university where I was the library director. He was also an artist.
One afternoon, a staff member came to me and said, “You need to check upstairs on the fifth floor, someone’s painting up there.” I went up, and sure enough, S. Zeong had set up his easel on the fifth floor near a window where the light was good.
Oil paints and carpets with no protection are not a good idea in a public building. But here was a young man with a passion to share his inner vision. Kicking him out of the library didn’t seem appropriate or kind. We reached a compromise.
Our basement storage room didn’t have the wonderful windows to let in the afternoon sun, but it had a tile floor and space where he could work.
I don’t remember how long he painted in our basement, maybe over a summer, maybe over a semester. His courses changed and his schedule changed so I didn’t see him around the library for a while.
Then one afternoon when I least expected to see him, he came bringing me my treasured painting.
It isn’t the image I see when I look at my painting although the scene is quietly beautiful and it was executed very professionally. It is instead the blossoming of a young artist and my miniscule part in that. His painting hung on my office wall the remainder of my tenure at the university and it came with me from Oklahoma to Colorado where I now live. Currently it hangs in my new office, giving me peaceful sanctuary when I need it.
I searched the internet for S. Zeong, hoping to find that his life has been a happy one with lots of success and lots of growth as an artist. I didn’t find him. I’d like to tell him how much his gift meant to me and how I will treasure it forever.