– Johnny Cash
Last week I took a road trip to Escalante, Utah, which is in the middle of nowhere. Hours of driving through winding canyon roads and no cell reception, just endless land and red rock. Towns with abandoned buildings, coffee from machines, and only artificial creamer. Sometimes I love it when you just get down to the bare bones in life. (Relatively speaking).
I was asked to teach a workshop at the Escalante Arts Festival. A student who had taken my E-course had won a prize in their Plein Air Competition, and had suggested they invite me.
We painted mixed media all day while rain plastered the pavement and flushed the slot canyons of logs and rocks and anything water could move. Every black streak on the canyon walls became a waterfall.
Escalante is famous for its amazing slot canyons, which are incredibly picturesque when it’s dry, and incredibly deadly when it rains.
The laughter and color and textures of the day faded into the sounds of more torrential rain on the metal roof of my small town hotel room at night. I had experienced this once before, when camping near the Needles, Utah, where the night would come to a complete calm and then in the distance, another storm would move in. And then, the wave of water and hail would hit our tents, staked on tiny patches of raised red earth, and everything around us became a river or a waterfall. After all that, it would come to a complete calm, and then start all over again.
On the way home, I drove through Green River, Utah, in slow motion down the main street, gawking at the number of abandoned buildings. I wondered what it would be like to live here. I remembered staying in a little hotel here, long ago, when I was married. I hadn’t seen my husband in six weeks, he’d been climbing a mountain in Pakistan. A Bob Dylan documentary played on the TV. The whole hotel was filled with oil and gas workers, living there, when the work was good. And the little diner next door had a damn good breakfast.