As an artist that specializes in oil painting, Sharon Miller has a profound appreciation for the mountains and wildlife that surround her home in Danville, WV. She often says that you can take the girl away from the mountains but you can't take the mountains out the girl! Most of her paintings are of the wildlife in her region.
There are probably few people that treasure the natural wonders of our planet more than does a creative artist like Sharon. This is why she is puzzled by all of the “hoopla” about coal mining. She has lost count of the positive changes that occurred in her area thanks to reclamation of mines. She assumes people don’t understand and explains what a mountaintop looks like before mining.
The mountains are straight up and down, with craggy rocks and no accessibility, says Sharon. Now, thanks to surface mining, they are more visually pleasing and more physically accessible. The mountaintop has trails where people can hike and enjoy all kinds of outdoor pleasures. A personal favorite pastime of Sharon’s is watching the deer drink water from the pond on the mountaintop near her home. These mountaintops now resemble a gorgeous national park.
Sharon hears talk of bringing wind power to Danville. Experts state that the forests will be cleared of all the trees to make room for the windmills. One fails to grasp how a landscape strewn with windmills is kinder to the environment or more beautiful than the forests and mountains indigenous to West Virginia. Supposedly, environmentalists care about birds, but, have they thought of the bird life that will be destroyed if they clear the forest?
Sharon's husband used to work in the mines and her son and son-in-law are current employees of the mine. Sharon remembers a particular mining site her husband worked on 20 years ago on a mountaintop. She had not been back there in 20 years and was shocked by the difference. She would not have recognized that mountaintop! It was so much more beautiful, useable and accessible than it had been before. It was such an obvious leap forward and she cannot fathom why anyone would have wanted to keep that mountaintop the way it was.
Sharon loves to spend time with her husband, two children and spouses plus her grandchildren. When she isn't busy painting her latest masterpiece, she loves to go fishing and swim and hike the mountains. But, sometimes it is hard to relax and enjoy your hobbies when you are worried about the people you love. Her son just bought his first home and she knows that if he loses his job he will lose his house. She can't stand the idea of her grandchildren, or any children, for that matter, losing their homes. She knows that her daughter works many hours just to make ends meet, and that the loss of any of the family income would be an unbearable burden. She knows West Virginia already has one of the highest poverty rates in the country and there are not a lot of economic shocks that this system can bear.
Sharon hopes that her oil paintings inspire Americans to come to West Virginia to see the natural beauty of the landscape and wildlife that is present in her hometown – and largely the result of mine reclamation. She wants to save the mining jobs in West Virginia, because if you save the mining jobs, you save the state.