The Edward Abbey Western Wilderness Calendars
These are a great calendar with different authors for each month. Each day has a quote and notes about well known birthdays, deaths and/or other notable events in history. Some events like that of April 11; "Glen Canyon Dam approved, 1956" is marked with a little monkey-wrench.
ROAMING THE WEST
In the mid 1970's I owned a bookstore called The Cosmic Aeroplane in Salt Lake City, Utah. USA. About the time the Monkey Wrench Gang was published I met the author in Salt Lake. Abbey was in Salt Lake often in those days and by the late 70's we had become friends. Abbey and another author, Barry Lopez were in Salt Lake for a benefit for a new wilderness group called the Utah Wilderness Association. Lopez had just published his first book, Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of A Raven.
In 1980 I had started my own publishing company, Dream Garden Press. Abbey and I talked about a calendar based on his works. In the Spring of 1981, Ed called me and said he would be in Southern Utah later in March attending some sort of Spring rites, as he called it, and that might be an opportunity to get together about the calendar.
I had been planning a backpacking trip into the Maze that Spring anyway, so I agreed I would meet Ed down at Lone Rock campground on the vernal equinox. I drove my 1954 Chev truck down to Lake Powell and encountered an unfriendly group of individuals standing around an old Volkswagen bus, with a large, suspicious looking object draped across the bus. No sign of Abbey.
Neither myself or my newfound acquaintances would say much of anything to one another. We basically had an uneasy truce until Abbey showed up later that night. Once my new found pals found out I was a friend of Abbey's, all of a sudden they became downright friendly. Turns out that busload of people were Earth First! and the lump atop the VW was a three hundred foot long plastic crack they intended to drape down the front of Glen Canyon Dam the following morning in a symbolic protest.
The plastic crack down the face of Glen Canyon Dam was duly unfurled early the next morning and Ed Abbey gave a speech out of the bed of my '54 Chev truck. Someone took a photograph of a Park Service ranger getting a book autographed by Abbey and there were also a couple of film-makers present who later produced a video about the event, entitled The Cracking of Glen Canyon Dam.
Abbey gave me permission to go ahead and produce a calendar based on his work. He wouldn't accept any money for it himself, but generously allowed the fledgling Utah Wilderness Association to have all his fees. I later paid to UWA some $2,000 on Ed's behalf. In the fifteen years I knew Ed Abbey, I always found him to be a generous man.
The 1982 Edward Abbey Western Wilderness Calendar was published later in the Fall of 1981 and soon achieved a loyal, if small cult following. That first calendar featured thirteen photographs, I tried to use all the photographers Abbey had published books with: Phillip Hyde (Slickrock) David Muench (Desert Images) John Blaustein (Hidden Canyon) and Eliot Porter (Appalachian Wilderness) and fill it out with other photographs of Abbey places. Only Eliot Porter turned me down, the others were all pleased to be associated with the project. Other photographers used that first year were a Moab high school teacher and part time photographer, Tom Till, who has gone on to a brilliant full time career in photography; Gary Smith, author of Windsinger, John Telford, David Sumner and John P. George.
Abbey wrote an essay for the calendar entitled "The Treasure of The Canyon Country" and the twelve months were filled with quotations from his various books. Jim Stiles did the artwork throughout the calendar, including the back-cover cartoon featuring a giant Ed Abbey looming over hordes of tourists in Winnebago's invading Arches National Park.
In its second year I wanted to keep the concept of the calendar fresh and not just recycle Abbey over and over. But I could not come up with one single other author who I felt could carry the load so I expanded the concept into Ed Abbey and Friends and included Ed as one of a dozen authors featured for 1983. The common thread being that they were all writers who wrote about the wilderness or the west and had strong connections to the land.
The 1983 writers were: Edward Abbey, William Eastlake, Colin Fletcher, A.B. Guthrie,Jr., Barry Lopez, Thomas McQuane, John Nichols, Lawrence Clark Powell, Leslie Marmon Silko, Wallace Stegner, Frank Waters and Ann Zwinger.
Each author had one month each with quotations from their works and the usual assortment of wilderness photography. Two essays in the back pages were on The Mystery of B. Traven and The Legend of Everett Ruess. Artwork by Jim Stiles.
This year Abbey shared the calendar with Rachel Carson, Bernard Devoto, Aldo Leopold, Barry Lopez, N. Scott Momaday, Everett Ruess, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gary Snyder, Wallace Stegner, Hunter S. Thompson and B. Traven. The back pages featured poetry by Everett Ruess. Hunter S. Thompson may have been a bit of a stretch...
Mary Austin, Wendell Berry, David Brower, J. Frank Dobie, Clarence Dutton, Joseph Wood Krutch, John Muir, Simor Ortiz, John Wesley Powell, Everett Ruess and Wallace Stegner joined Abbey for 1985. The back pages featured a poem by Sim Ortiz, A wilderness dictionary and my column Roaming the West.
That year I traveled to Japan and printed the calendars there. Each of the calendars for that year has a small "Printed in Japan" sticker which was hand attached to each and every calendar. It seems the printer forgot to print it on them and U.S. customs wouldn't allow them in the United States without it!
After four straight years, I felt that I needed to give Abbey a rest. It was now 1985 and I was already publishing the R. Crumb illustrated edition of The Monkey Wrench Gang by Abbey that year; along with a collection of essays about Abbey, Resist Much; Obey Little. This marks the first calendar not to use Abbey as an author.
The dozen authors were: Mary Austin, John Graves, Edward Hoagland, Robinson Jeffers, Ellsworth Kolb, D.H. Lawrence, William Least Heat-Moon, Katie Lee, Barry Lopez, John McPhee, Glendon Swarthout and Terry Tempest Williams
The back pages featured poetry by Robnson Jeffers and Roaming the West, explaining Abbey's disappearance that year.
The dozen authors were: Kim R. Stafford, Alfred Lambourne, Claude Barnes, e.e. cummings, Richard Brautigan, Nathanael West, David Rains Wallace, Peter Matthiesson, Ken Kesey, Joe McGinnis, Richard K. Nelson and Ivan Doig. An odd dozen indeed.
The theme this year was A Wilderness of Poets and I published unpublished poetry by Edward Abbey along with poetry by the following poets: Wendell Berry, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, Robinson Jeffers, Simon Ortiz, Everett Ruess, Leslie Marmon Silko and Gary Snyder. The back pages featured Roaming the West, A Poetic Bibliography and poetry by several of the featured poets.
The Abbey calendar was a lot of work and a lot of joy for over a decade. I would personally prefer to ignore its ignoble demise and remember it during its halcyon days. It's time to move on.