[this is a repost from over a year ago, with a few new tidbits. hey, sometimes oldies are goodies. I wrote about Everett Ruess for Alive!Utah magazine.]
Oh, Everett Ruess. Did we ever know you? Did anyone? Such a short life. How many people have revealed all of themselves at 20? I barely know myself yet at twice that age. Yet paeans have been written to the lost poet’s name, songs and laments and glorifications. So many projections have been flung upon this poor young man he’s probably twitching in his grave, wherever that may be.
Everett Ruess, the young writer and artist and dreamer and wanderer, was irrevocably lost into the southern Utah canyons in November, 1934. (On the practical note, let me reinforce that most significant part: LOST in the southern Utah canyons. Disappeared, gone, vanished. So many theories over the years, none of which have yet been corroborated, yet all of which point toward the potential finality of tramping the wildlands of this glorious yet highly unforgiving little section of the world. There are plenty of people who wander all over it at will and are perfectly fine, will die in their beds at home at an advanced age…but there are some who will not. So please remember that this place can just be dangerous, if I must be completely blunt about it. If you enter the canyons, climb the mesatops, hike to the heights of the mountains, be prepared to extricate yourself again, and to save yourself if need be.)
This young wanderer, this dreamy poet, who dared tramp where his feet led and seemed not to care too much what others thought of him, has borne the brunt of many a projection. How on earth to shoulder such a burden? “Excuse me, but your ideas of who and what I am are growing far too heavy for me to carry. Can you please retrieve them and kindly let me on my way, unencumbered by your ideas and ideals of my perfect life?”
Makes you want to say that yourself to people, doesn’t it?
Since it was officially revealed earlier this year that the remains thought to be his are, in fact, not, a new flood of accusations, projections, theories, and dreamy idealizations have been trotted out yet again all over cyberspace.
I freely admit that I am as mildly thrilled as many other people. The mystery still exists. The ghost of Everett Ruess still tramps the desert, beckoning to his fellow travelers, promising an enduring tale that has no ending but for the one we each make up for ourselves.
No wonder some people are happy he’s still missing. His story is a fulfillment of our own wishes. His short life and unknown end are a blank canvas upon which we can splash, caress, throw, even fingerpaint our own masterpiece, create our ending, satisfy our own needs.
Everett Ruess, for my own selfish desires, I kind of hope you stay lost just a little bit longer. But for your sake as well as your family’s, I will instead set my intention toward your remains and your unique story being discovered and deciphered…someday.