I delivered what was probably the last of my Utah Humanities Council’s Public Square/Stegner talks in Escalante, Utah, on September 25th. My venue, the Escalante Arts Festival/Everett Ruess Days, seemed a fitting close to my tour–in the year when we just might have found the remains of Everett Ruess, six decades after Wallace Stegner first wrote of Everett’s disappearance in Mormon Country.
As always, I found wonderful connections to the network of Stegner and Southwest literature aficionados in my audience. Kay Bonetti told stories of interviewing Wallace Stegner for the American Audio Prose Library in 1987–and generously gave me a cassette of the now-hard-to-find interview. David Roberts and Scott Thybony spoke of the latest Everett Ruess findings. I ran into my old artist and writer friend Tryntje Seymour, who won Best of Show at the Arts Festival this year with a drawing of a canyon wall.
My year as a Wallace Stegner Fellow was rich in such connections. It seems fitting to close the journey the same week that Ken Burns’s series on America’s National Parks brings Stegner’s name back into the news, for Burns borrows his subtitle from a 1983 Stegner essay about the parks–“America’s Best Idea.”
I sum up my year with Stegner in a piece for Isotope Magazine: “Participating In Home: Following Wallace Stegner into the Heart of the West.”
It’s been a joyful journey. Thanks to all who made it possible, most especially to Wallace Stegner himself, whose words continue to teach us how to come home.