The Essence of Things

Many moons ago I was fascinated by the adventures of Everett Ruess, a young man, who traveled isolated deserts and canyons of the West about hundred years ago and then disappeared. Much has been written about him, including some biographies by W. L. Rusho and David Roberts and more recently a more fictional account of the young man by Robert Louis DeMayo: “Pledge to the Wind, the Legend of Everett Ruess”. That one is high on my “to read” list.

I have seen almost more beauty
than I can bear.”

Everett Ruess

Everett was an artist and he managed to support his journeys in part by painting. He also wrote a daily letter to his parents and kept a diary. I have not seen any of his watercolor work, but I have seen reproductions of his woodcuts. They are amazing. Woodcuts are a god’s end for minimalists. They capture the essence of a scene with a minimum of detail. Everett was a master at that.

I became interested in the technique. Since we are living in the 21st century, I decided to make my first woodcut on a computer. That’s not art, you say? You are right. It’s just a fun way to concentrate on the essence of an object. There is a wonderful tutorial by Cheryl Graham on the web and the robin in it has been treated and mistreated hundreds of times. Here is my version.


Since the nights here are getting shorter by around 6 minutes every day, there will be less chance for working on my woodcut skills, but the prints remind me to focus on the essence of things.


Escalante, UT

“As to when I shall visit civilization, it will not be soon, I think.

I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities.

Do you blame me then for staying here, where I feel that I belong and am one with the world around me? It is true that I miss intelligent companionship, but there are so few with whom I can share the things that mean so much to me that I have learned to contain myself.

It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty….”

Everett Ruess

Those are the words of a young man not dreaming but living his life.

Just passed through Escalante, gateway to the Grand Staircase – Escalante  National Monument. Why would a 20-year old fall in love with this rugged landscape? Maybe it was the solitude, the simplicity, and unforgiving hardship that made this young man feeling alive.

70 years after his disappearance the community of Escalante and friends of Everett commemorate the adventurous traveler every year in fall with an art festival.

It is tempting to take one of the dirt roads off scenic highway 12 to get lost in the wonder world of this amazing gem.



Thoughts of a young traveler

“Three or four years ago I came to the conclusion that for me, at least, the lone trail was the best, and the years that have followed strengthened my belief.

It is not that I am unable to enjoy companionship or unable to adapt myself to other people. But I dislike to bring into play the aggressiveness of spirit which is necessary with an assertive companion, and I have found it easier and more adventurous to face situations alone. There is a splendid freedom in solitude, and after all, it is for solitude that I go to the mountains and deserts, not for companionship. In solitude I can bare my soul to the mountains unabashed. I can work or think, act or recline at my whim, and nothing stands between me and the Wild.”

Everett Ruess

slot canyonThose are the words of a twenty year young traveler and artist. Those are not just words. Everett Ruess lived his words exploring the most remote parts of the Southwest in the 30s, when the country was in a Depression. Nothing stopped the young adventurer from writing poetry and painting water colors while exploring and experiencing the vast and desolate landscape. Not limited financial resources, not the lack of supporting companions, nor the hardship that came with the rugged terrain and the extreme desert climate prevented him from spending months at a time as a teenager away from his family.
Some historians claim that he was one of the youngest traveler, writer, and painter of all times. He left us with a rich portrait of a lone traveler in the wild, wild West. Everett cites the beauty of the wilderness as the reward for all the suffering and sacrifices he lived through during his journeys. A  beauty he could not really share with any one. A beauty he was willing to die for.