On tour through Utah heading west in 2002, I was given a book entitled, "Everett Ruess, A Vagabond for Beauty." I fell in love with Everett story and his wonderful gift for luminous and ecstatic descriptions of the beauty of the Southwest desert and canyon lands. I felt such a compelling story deserved a song.
Shortly after completing this song I was invited to perform for an Arts Festival created in honor of Everett. Attending the inaugural event was Everett's older brother and confidant Waldo Ruess as well as other Ruess family members. It was an honor to sing this song for the family, and to feel in some small way connected to the genius of Everett Ruess.
These lyrics are in part informed and inspired by Everett writings. Here's a link to a live recording of Everett Ruess.
In the spring of nineteen-thirty, at sixteen years of age With a restlessness inside, I hitched out of L.A. I hiked upon the coastline, and under lofty pines By the mournful crash of breakers, my sleep was deep and fine I wondered and I wandered, out to Yosemite Shoe leather on the mountains, I vagabond for beauty, for beauty
In the year of thirty-one, I turned seventeen And heard the desert calling me, from Monument Valley I tramped behind my burros, Pegasus and Pericles With my pencils and my paintbrush, I went where I pleased
Oh the warm and perfect colors, my eyes did behold And the wild raging silence, my heart did enfold, unresisting
From Kayenta east to Shiprock, the scarlet cactus blooms And the smell of sage is sweet, by the Mesa Verde moon My solitude unbroken, I’m roaring drunk with life All the world a riot of sensual delight Here in the utter stillness high on a lonely cliffs edge Where the air trembles with lightning I give the wind my pledge, my pledge
I shall sing my song above the shriek of desert winds Burned and starved and weary, I’ll sing out again I’ll never leave the grace that haunts me everyday On the canyon trail I have found my way, my way
November thirty-four I left Escalante town Something in me knows that I am glory bound Across the Colorado River to the Arizona side All that you will know was that I found my ride My body will expire in the golden burning light A moth into the flame of a starry, starry night
Here in the utter stillness high on a lonely cliffs edge Where the air trembles with lightning I give the wind my pledge, my pledge
By Dana Robinson - July 19th 2003