When I arrived at Shooting Star RV Resort and Airstream Motel in Escalante, I felt immediately safe. (The desert frightened the heck out of me – I was so isolated!) Troy, the easy-going, friendly owner, led me via golf cart to my new abode and showed me how everything worked. It was a 2003 Airstream in beautiful shape, with tin tile in the kitchen, leather armchairs and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid everywhere (including a signed script!). If you know me as well as my oldest friends know me, I was supposed to be in this place because I was a nutjob for that movie when it came out and for Paul Newman in particular (okay - still am).
I have been going pretty hard – driving up to 8 hours one day and painting the next. I immediately knew that this was a place I would relax, though my schedule remained the same. I took my painting day easy. At Troy’s suggestion, I went to breakfast at Kiva Koffeehouse, about 14 miles south on Highway 12. It is in between two little towns, set into the side of a cliff, and the view is breathtaking. I sat outside with Charlie at my feet and enjoyed a lovely, leisurely conversation with a couple from Northern California. I felt that we spent enough time with each other to get a toehold on actual friendship. We shall see. They told me of a Zen Retreat where I can stay if I paint north of San Francisco (CA is slated for my next trip). After eating a savory meal of an over-easy egg on a quinoa-potato pancake on a bed of spinach (fabulous!), I went inside and asked the cook/owner if I could set up and paint above the restaurant. Of course!
It was a perfect temperature (mid-60s), sunny and not very windy. Charlie sat in the shade of my easel with a water bowl. I did a pencil sketch and started to paint without delay. The truth is, the composition was already made for me - the valley below is full of newly-green cottonwood tress that create a perfect zigzag between the red rock walls. I was not in a hurry; I was in heaven!
And then, after such a fabulous day, I grilled and shared a steak with Charlie, had 1.5 glasses of wine (practicing temperance) and painted two watercolors, all on the deck. Soon after sunset I sunk into the comfortable bed with a good book. I felt like I was in my own private ship. I can definitely see myself returning to this place to paint for a longer period of time. Utah - I'll be back!