Terry Tempest Williams

9 Jun

Reading Terry Tempest Williams felt so intimate it was almost like hearing an echo. There I was, there were generations of Mormon women, with our voices combining and splitting, yearning and striving.

I felt heard and understood, seen and embraced.

I wonder what it would be like to read Terry’s words and not be a Mormon woman.

A Mormon feminist woman who grew up in Utah.

She speaks of places I know, people I’ve never met who are familiar all the same.

There is a part in Refuge where she is given a ride back to Salt Lake from strangers. She notes that if she had asked enough questions they would have likely been related several generations back, “the dark side of residency” in Utah.

She and I, with enough questions, might find we are related.

I don’t need to ask them, though.

Refuge is a memoir. A story of grief and death. Terry speaks of her mother’s cancer, the slow decline, holding her mother’s hand, acting as her midwife as she passed on.

Refuge is an environmental treatise. Terry speaks of the Utah landscape, of the Great Salt Lake.

Chapters begin with the Great Salt Lake’s water level. Terry spends pages, chapters on birds, at times the text becoming a scientific journal, one I don’t fully grasp.

When I saw her in person, just days after reading this she said, “My dad can tell you, I had every indication of being normal until I started watching birds.”

I’ve always been a little hesitant to use the phrase “hand of God in my life.”

It’s something we like to say at church, instances where something bigger than ourselves shows up. Grace, perhaps.

I can rarely pinpoint these moments in my life when they’re happening, but this week, after seeing Terry Tempest Williams in person I felt it.

Me reading her words just a week before she was to be in Los Angeles and I could see her. Surely that was the hand of something.

Me sharing that experience with a girl who I feel firmly was brought to me by something bigger than myself, well, that was a hand waving in my face.

Hello!

Hello!

I took a lot of notes at Terry’s talk. It’s hard to describe the energy in the room. You could hear others breathing around you. We were eager to take her in.

Terry is thoughtful and kind. I appreciate that so much.

There was so much talk of her being Mormon!

Terry is no longer a practicing Mormon.

I take issue with that very black and white definition, though.

The book is overflowing with Mormonism. She speaks of it with respect and nuance, recalling a spiritual experience as angels in the room. She speaks of its origins and liking to be connected to something magical and mystical.

She prays over her mother’s sick body.

She carries a few verses of Mormon scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 88:45-47, with her at all times.

45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.

46 Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?

47 Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.

Practicing is a subjective term, isn’t it?

After Terry’s talk, my friend and I stood in line to get our books signed. We were missing another event, but it seemed vital, pressing that we stay. That we see her.

Terry joined the crowd on  her time, smiling and friendly. We introduced ourselves.

We are Mormon.

We met through the visiting teaching program.

She spoke about her love of fast and testimony meetings, of hearing each other’s stories and bearing witness to each other.

She gave us a hug and said, “We share so much.”

Hello!

Hello!

We share so much.

Bookmark and Share

2 Responses to “Terry Tempest Williams”

  1. Chantel June 11, 2019 at 7:25 am #

    Wow. I love this post. Also a Mormon feminist in Utah. Wish I could have been there with you and shared that experience. You described it amazingly!

    • jillianlorraine June 18, 2019 at 8:47 pm #

      Thank you! Mormon feminists unite!

Leave a Reply to jillianlorraine