Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge Essay

Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge Essay

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Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge


If we bemoan the loss of light as the day changes to night we miss the sunset. In her memoirs Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams relates the circumstances surrounding the 1982 rise in the Great Salt Lake as well as her mother’s death from cancer. Throughout the book Williams gets so caught up in preventing her mother’s death that she risks missing the sunset of her mother’s life. However the Sevier-Fremont’s adaptability to changes in nature inspires Terry Tempest Williams to re-evaluate her response to changes in her life.

The story of the Sevier-Fremont people’s evolution and existence in the Great Basin parallels Williams’ life in Utah during the 1980s. They Sevier-Fremont evolved from the Anasazi people, a Native American tribe indigenous to the Great Basin. The Anasazi had remained in the Great Basin despite the rise in the lake and later evolved into a new people. Following the recession of the lake’s waters, its boundaries flourished, as did the Sevier-Fremont because they relied heavily on the vegetation and animals of the Great Salt Lake. The Sevier-Fremont were a semi-nomadic people who occupied the basin from 650 AD to 1250 AD when they were forced out. The sudden replacement of their artifacts suggests that the Sevier-Fremont were not integrated into but forced out of the basin by Numic-speaking groups. (Masden) Williams also has to survive a rise in the lake as the 1982 rise in the lake is the beginning of a period of change for her—the rise in the lake threatens to destroy the bird refuge and her mother’s cancer returns. Diane Tempest, Williams’ mother, is the personification of her childhood and the Great Basin is the setting upon which her fondest childhood memories were enacted. ...


... middle of paper ...


... adapting. (267)” Williams had been fighting the uncontrollable Her mother’s death is no longer about her is no longer about preventing her mother’s passing or the loss of her childhood but the process of letting go.

What does Terry Tempest Williams’ inability to embrace the process rather than the product of her mother’s cancer say about our society today? Are we constantly fighting losing battles? We read our history of our lives as a tally of wins and losses, and not as the story of our process to weather change. Williams realizes the value of the process rather than the product. When the bird hits the window one day while she is taking care of her mother although “[she wants] to hold the bird, to bring it inside and save it. [She doesn’t] Instead, [she]…return[s] to [her] Mother.(210)” Refuge is the story of Terry Tempest Williams’ process to weather change.

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