Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
Terry Tempest Williams
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In the spring of 1983 Terry Tempest Williams learned that her mother was dying of cancer. That same season, The Great Salt Lake began to rise to record heights, threatening the herons, owls, and snowy egrets that Williams, a poet and naturalist, had come to gauge her life by. One event was nature at its most random, the other a by-product of rogue technology: Terry's mother, and Terry herself, had been exposed to the fallout of atomic bomb tests in the 1950s. As it interweaves these narratives of dying and accommodation, Refuge transforms tragedy into a document of renewal and spiritual grace, resulting in a work that has become a classic.
my wisdom.” She reminds him that this year she will be kind to him, that she has not wrapped his presents in black like she did when he turned forty. Steve, Dan, Hank, and I, together with Brooke and Ann, presented Dad with a large cake flaming with candles. He is fifty-one. Great Salt Lake shimmered in the background. It rose another 5′ from September 25, 1983, to July 1, 1984, the second-largest rise ever recorded for the lake. The net rise from September 18, 1982 to July 1, 1984 was 9.6′.
see how things go, then. Diane, I had hoped—” “I know,” she broke in. “I just want to be able to continue in the decision making. I’m not afraid of my own death, but I am afraid of the pain.” She hesitated. “I hope I have the courage to face what’s ahead.” “You do,” he said. “Call me when you think I can help.” Dr. Smith walked us to the door. Mother turned to him and took his hand, “Thank you. You have been wonderful.” We left the clinic. I looked at Mother and asked how she could remain so
it! I am no longer your slave! From now on, I’m doing what pleases me!’ That was the beginning of women’s liberation in this family.” Hank sat on the hearth next to me, the fire massaging our backs. I thought to myself, here is the child who, since memory, has lived with the fear that his mother may die. He could not speak. Dad gave Mother a blessing, to which she added—as the men in the family gathered around her to place their hands on her head—“Someday, I hope Terry and Ann and my
time of year, contains much water of succulence … with each mouthful of food, the plover drinks.” To cool off, the snowy plover stands in the salt water and lets the brackish water evaporate from its body. Another question rises with the heat of the salt desert. Why don’t their eggs bake? Snowy plovers nest in shallow scrapes, open and exposed. Some plovers will use brine fly pupal carcasses for a nesting bed, and then line them with small pebbles and shells. Both male and female snowys
leucophrys Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus Brewer’s Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater Northern Oriole Icterus galbula Cassin’s Finch Carpodacus cassinii House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis Evening Grosbeak Coccothraustes vespertinus House Sparrow Passer domesticus A NOTE