on the loose in escalante

a few weeks back I decided to start reading more utah authors.  in my neighborhood library I asked for assistance in finding such creatures, and was given a print-out with 5 books on it.

now I know that we have more than 5 authors who have collectively written a great deal more than 5 books.  but apparently the library catalog hasn’t tagged the authors by state of residence, and it was only a small bit of luck that allowed me a list with even 5.  one of them is not a utahn, and I have no idea how he got on the list. two others did not interest me at all and I couldn’t bring myself to give them a try.  a third was a mystery that I gave a try.  nuff said on that one.  the last one, however, got a full read.

escalante, the best kind of nothing, by brooke williams/photography by chris noble, was book number 5.  it is a collection of essays about the escalante/grand staircase area that not so very long ago was granted national park status, much to the delight of many and the chagrin of more than a few.  and although brooke’s writing is in moments brilliant and in general quite lovely, it is his reference to another book that I consider a great gift of his book.

in his text brooke mentions on the loose, by terry and renny russell, a book published in 1967 by the sierra club, and republished in 2001 by gibbs smith, publisher extraordinaire.  I had never heard of this book which is apparently a classic, and immediately searched it out:  what a beautiful book.  a book of promise, of faith, of trust in the earth.  of sand and water, rock and hill.  of wind-blown rock and fir-covered sloping mountains.

of man’s need to connect with natural space.

on the loose is brief–quotations, photos, jotted thoughts, lyrics, easily read in thirty minutes–but also the kind of book you can keep beside you, revisit, find newness in.  I picture the young writers, I want to visit the vestiges of their campsites and feel the ghosts of what once was.  I want to see with their eyes.  I want to hear the crackle of their campfires and the grunting engine of the truck they drove.  ah, I can.  I can sit in the quiet, in the dark, and be with them, exploring the last lonely western wildernesses, barren spots of rich earth, the best kinds of nothing.