We arrive at Tecopa Hot Springs after dark. It’s too late to use the pools. Due to an incident (significance expressed on the attendant’s face) the unisex bath is out of service. The sign on the door reads CLOSED IN PERPETUITY. Alison notices that someone sort of like a beaver rigged an unsanctioned hot tub in the feeder spring by our campsite. She has a soak. The next morning we see that it’s filled with pieces of garbage like candy bar wrappers and beaten up fragments of waxed board. Disturbed, she fishes them out. I figure what the hell and get into the makeshift pool and wish it were hotter and felt less like the decomposing lake bottom at Girl Scout camp in the Poconos. Even the texture of trampled grasses underfoot on the way to the lake is replicated at the edge of this hole. I get out and take a shower in the bathhouse and Charlie and I go for a look around. Right behind our campsite is a fenced area and within it a pond that has two straight edges and one that looks natural. This pond is lined with black plastic sheeting and steams slightly and there is a duck toward the middle. I had not imagined myself seeing a duck in the desert so I have no idea what kind. Or I expected a mirage and got one. This is the first time I have seen a sewage lagoon, you know it when you see it even though it is placid and odorless, and when we turn back toward our spring hole to gauge the distance I see my first roadrunner, fervently imagined, standing on a picnic table looking marvelous.
We heard, many years later after our artistic self-perception was fixed, that the teacher improved our paintings in the evenings when we were gone. She had a rigidity to her process and desired outcome, which was rolling bucolic landscapes with no livestock. Houses abandoned when the surrounding timbers were cut. Always a perfunctory wash of color first, blue to underpin a warm fall landscape and orange for a spring one. The impulse is to give the impression of talent and the harm that’s done is people end up thinking they should be artists, or that they should be artists a particular way, with prescribed materials and vernacular. I picture her applying little hillocks of the difficult ultramarine she kept in her office with the narrowest brushes. I never noticed anything weird. I agree that art shouldn’t be solitary but it sure is.
Teleportation is possible through like objects (the color wheel and the circle of fifths), mists and gases, nice smells, and the obvious portals like word choice and holes.
No one notices the improved quality of my mark-making.
I am trying to stop excluding things I hate or find boring or upsetting from my pictures.
Next steps: gossip; saying what I mean all the time not just when mad; intrusive thoughts about fixing the boring post-war paintings at the museum; sublimating futility into very small particles; endings that are openings.
I can draw a thousand ways to feel empty or open.
The river is frothy white and narrows away from the glass. A variety of tree trunks appear alongside it, cut off beneath the canopy, and rounded old green-blue then gray-blue mountains peek between them “in the distance.” There is a seam where the painted background and the arranged shrub-like and fern-like materials meet, so well done it’s difficult to discern. If you press your face in, which is not recommended because of suspended disbelief, you can see an improbable clear sky with cirrus wisps curving forward to meet the glass. This is almost like real life.
Smooth bare tree limbs criss-cross the sculpted portion of the river. The trillium and nettles aren’t visible. Cinnabar chanterelles are hidden beneath scattered detritus. Beautiful soft rocks you can grind up and paint with are in such a river, and hard ones like unakite and jasper, and black and orange salamanders, and juvenile rainbow trout, and wolf spiders. None of that is visible. The inhabitants are out for repairs and there is a placard explaining everything.
For Charlie Macquarie, Alison Jean Cole, and Claudia La Rocco.