Essay on Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge

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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
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In a sense both Williams and the Sevier-Fremont come of age after the rise in the lake. Furthermore their very existence is threatened by foreign elements.

However the differences between the Sevier-Fremont and Williams reside in their way of living. For both, their existence or way of living is synonymous with their relationship to nature. The Great Basin was the womb in which the Sevier-Fremont developed. However the umbilical cord was never severed as the shores of the Great Salt Lake became their lifeline, their life support. Williams’ history and current relationships with her family speak of close ties with nature. Her Mormon ancestors believed that the Great Basin was the Promised Land. They carved out a life for themselves amid the land’s hostility, declaring it sacred. The basin remains sacred to Williams in many respects. 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. Furthermore for Williams, naturalist in residence at the Utah Museum of Natural Science, the Great Salt Lake is not only the…