A public facade is lifted today. The repugnant infliction is no longer concealed. Belief that all is okay is shattered by a slash in stained canvas. Tormenting motions of a loathing mind prompt the trembling of limbs. Crimson lips turn gray as a breathless mouth pleads. Sorrow is not seen among swollen eyes. Reveal. What does the pristine tulip veil with its fleeting life? Suffocate the foreboding. Emerge from the earth. Release poisons from exposed roots. Chew the pigment back into lips. Show no sign of pain. It is now the hour to be okay.
At Grand Staircase-Escalante, we visit Big Water Visitor Center. Here, we meet a man named Merle Graffam who is a commercial artist, turned amateur paleontologist. He tells us about a dinosaur that he recently helped uncover and explains a thirty-foot mural of the Late Cretaceous period. As we are about to leave, our new friend walks over to his desk, picks up a stamp, and imprints a business card with an image of his face. All it takes is a look and I know that Alfonso agrees with the fact that he’s one of the most interesting characters in our story.
Driving through Unita National Forest, we discover an unrepaired leak from the car crash that we had in Tucson, so we drop our vehicle off at a dealership in Salt Lake City. A young Mormon man at the shop drives us back to our hotel and explains how the Mormon temple is the exact center of the city. Every road name is numbered based on its distance North, South, East, or West of the Temple. I would be better off if the street signs were written upside down and inside since my brain can digest neither numbers or direction so instead I focus out the crystal clear glass on how the entire city is blanketed in tulips and the Temple garden is flawless. Streets are pruned to perfection. Later, we meet a downtown gallery owner who enthusiastically displays the Nevada painting. She addresses those same gardens as “eerie perfection.” She goes on to explain to us that since she never sees anyone maintaining the flowers, it must be gnomes who push the blooms up from under ground. This insight, while playful and humorous, causes me to think more about what secrets are hidden beneath these perfect rows of flowers. The appearance of this city despite religious tension and unique laws. But what is hidden below any of our perfect appearances and fresh scents? Could it be that we are all built on a ground of buried beasts as large and hidden as those extinct terrestrial reptiles preserved in the Utah earth?
As I am addressing these questions in painting the Utah-inspired piece, phone calls and emails interrupt my progress and begin to overwhelm me with emotion. I can no longer ignore the issues from home that have gnawed at me since our time in California. I feel only pressure guiding my aching wrist and it becomes unbearable. There is no escaping the invasion of my own blood. In a moment of complete despair, I slice through the painted fabric with the end of my brush, and crumple defeated into a heap of tears.
We have been on the road for almost six months now. I am creating the dream that I’ve longed for all my life and would not replace for anything. However, I can only cover my pain with dirt and tulips for so long. Hiding behind these steady eyes is a desperate and confused child. One who never learned how to communicate, but instead buried her voice in drawings. It is time to exit this masquerade. There is no more glass to look through and the masks have lost their glisten. I finally pick up the phone.