Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge Essay

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Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge

Adaptation is the source and story of a species’ survival. Human beings’ journey across and habitation of the earth’s surfaces demanded resilience to change. As a result each race is a product of the land in which they inhabited. We have grown with the land. Our physical traits tie us to a particular region, a particular place, but what of our emotions? Are they another link to our homelands or do they orphan us, forcing us to seek refuge? Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge, is the story of her adaptation to change, her struggle to weather changes. The emotional maturity of her relationship with the Great Salt Lake is a subset of her wider community’s relationship to their homeland. This emotional separation
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Williams wanted her mother to fight the cancer and encouraged her mother to try the various aggressive treatments suggested by the doctors.

Although Williams’ reactions to the unexpected changes in both her mother’s and the lake’s natural cycles are different she wanted them to return to normalcy for the same reason—for her sake. Williams wanted to preserve her childhood. 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. Williams respond to them differently because, as she says in the first line of the book, “the Great Salt Lake is about twenty-five minutes from our home.”(5) The lake is not only physically distant from the home in which her mother resides, but also functions emotionally as a distant relative.

The Great Basin was promised land of her ancestors. For –years, the Mormons have lived in this harsh landscape. They have grown from this land. The Mormons’ relationships to each other are inextricably tied to the relationship to the land. From bird watching and astrology with her mother and grandmother, to marriage maintenance with her husband Brooke, the majority of the familial activities Williams describes have an outdoor element. Therefore Williams must reconnect with the land before she repairs her relationships with her family. However during this turbulent period of her life, the Great Basin is not stable enough to support her.

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