This week’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge is “Beyond”.
In the fall of 1934, a young Californian turned his back on city life and set out into the wilderness. As he traveled he wrote vivid letters to family and friends, and carved block prints of his surroundings, mailing them whenever he crossed paths with a post office. Sometimes he sold his prints for supply money. A profound restlessness led him to explore deeper and deeper into the wild. In the Sierra Nevada he abandoned himself to the “utterly, wildly, tumultuously effervescently joyful” mountain scenery, and in Navaho country he learned to speak the language and sing the songs of people who had lived on that land for many generations. Though he appreciated the stimulation of Los Angeles and San Francisco, he chose the hardships of traveling alone in the wilderness over the intellectual company of his city friends. A true mystic, he often sensed “the brink of things”. Every day contained surprises as he reveled in magnificent wastelands, unnamed canyons and long summer days in the high country with no people in sight.
His final trip, at the age of 20, was into the deeply wild, desert high country of southern Utah. He found his way into the small town of Escalante by trekking over the mountains without a trail. He saw a movie in town and shared venison with locals around a fire. He wrote that riding into the red rock country was like coming home again.
The last letter anyone received from him was dated Nov. 11, 1934 . He spoke of dwarf, twisted pines and towering orange yellow cliffs, a rough country of sage and brush and canyons so steep his burros could hardly stay, lest they all tumble. He wrote of strange tinges of unreality on what seemed like “the rim of the world.” And he warned that there would be a gap of months between letters, because “I am exploring southward to the Colorado, where no one lives.”
He was never heard from again. The gap was permanent, but Everett’s dream of going beyond lives on.
For close to eighty years people have tried to find him but every clue turns down a blind alley. He leaves us letters and prints; many are collected in a small, wondrous book by W.L. Rusho, titled Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty, 1983, Gibbs Smith, Inc.
Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts, Broadway, 2012, is a newer biography of Ruess.
Ruess truly went beyond during his short life, and though many have tried to find some physical trace of him, he has moved beyond us. But he is not beyond us in spirit.
These photos were taken in the general area where Ruess was last seen. Please forgive the poor quality – these are scans of old snapshots taken with a small camera when I visited southern Utah. If you have a chance to go there, do. If you have been there, you must know of the deep spiritual release that Everett Ruess found in this extraordinary country.
More about Ruess:
The WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/weekly-photo-challenge-beyond/