Saturday, March 3, 2012

Everett Ruess

I found Everett Ruess when following a Greg Leisz thread on YouTube. Everett Ruess - how could I have missed this man over the years, this story of a young artist, poet and adventurer? After digging through the internet, it would seem that Dave Alvin's song is pretty accurate, except that the kid never reached 21- that we know of. (And don't forget to appreciate the Leisz slide.)

Everett Ruess spent his short life in the wilderness. One day in 1934 at the age of 20, Ruess rode his burro off into the desert and never returned. He was 20 years old. There is a lot of conjecture about Ruess, particularly his death - romantic tales of his being murdered, or of his marrying a Navajo girl and living happily ever-after. Some people have a problem with a young man going off into the desert and having an accident, or making a fatal error. Nature can be pretty unforgiving with solo mistakes. A few years ago remains were found which initially seemed to belong to Ruess, but later DNA indicated they were from a Native American. I think time has buried him where he chose to be. In addition to his block prints, sketches and a few painting, there are two books of his journals and poetry.   

Woodblock prints by Ruess:

Wildernes Song - Everett Ruess
(written at age 15)

I have been one who loved the wilderness
Swaggered and softly crept among the mountain peaks
I have listened long to the seas brave music,
I have sung my songs above the shriek of desert winds. 
On canyon trails when warm nights winds were blowing,
Blowing and sighing through the star tipped pines,
Musing, I walked behind my placid burro,
While water rushed and broke on pointed rocks below.
I have known a green seas heaving,
I have loved red rocks and twisted trees and cloudless turquoise skies,
Slow sunny clouds and red sand blowing.
I have felt the rain and slept behind the waterfall. 
In cool sweet grasses I have lain and heard the ghostly murmur of regretful winds,
In aspen glades where rustling silver leaves whisper wild sorrows to the green gold solitude’s,
I have watched the shadowed clouds pile high. 
Singing, I rode to meet the splendid shouting storm,
And fought it’s fury until the hidden sun foundered in darkness,
And the lightning heard my song. 
Say that I was tired and weary,
Burned and blinded by the desert sun,
Footsore, thirsty sick with strange diseases, lonely
And wet and cold,
But that I kept my dream.
Always I shall be one who loves the wilderness.
Swaggers and softly creeps among the mountain peaks.
I shall listen long to the seas brave music.
I shall sing my songs above the shriek of desert winds.

Judging by the number of books floating around, it would seem I may be the only man on the planet that hadn't heard of Ruess. (Images from Amazon.)

“...while I am alive, I intend to live.” 
                     ― Everett Ruess

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