Finding Everett Ruess
Examines the life of the vagabond artist Everett Ruess, from childhood up to his mysterious disappearance, and beyond.
“I have been one who loved the wilderness — Swaggered and softly crept between the mountain peaks I listened long to the sea’s brave music; I sang my songs above the shriek of desert winds.”
“Everett would continue to work on this poem — arguably the best he ever wrote — for another two years. It was published posthumously in 1935, under the title “Wilderness Song,” in the Los Angeles Daily News. Its penultimate stanza (quoted in the prologue to this book) has served ever since as a kind of autobiographical epitaph for Everett: Say that I starved; that I was lost and weary; That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun; Footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases; Lonely and wet and cold … but that I kept my dream!”
“One of the least attractive aspects of Everett’s five-year swagger across California and the Southwest is the way that, surrounded by the detritus of the Depression, he managed for the most part to ignore the hopelessness and poverty he saw at every hand. And when he did not ignore it, he sometimes railed against the stricken men and women whose paths he crossed as if their blighted dreams and everyday misery were their own fault, the natural outcome of failed imagination and sedentary torpor. All this, while Christopher and Stella were subsidizing his endless ramble.”