Refuge (Terry Tempest Williams)

Refuge by

One of the first memoirs I read when trying to decide how to write my own story was written by another author from Utah; Terry Tempest Williams. It was a strange experience, reading her story. The locations and timelines of our tales were so very similar, but the relationship she shared (a loving and supportive one) with her mother was entirely foreign. So, too, was her deep connection with the birds.

Before delving into Refuge I had never known the names of any birds save the Parrot, Flamingo, and Robin. Reading her book reminded me of my bio-mother telling me about the myth of the robin’s redbreast being bestowed upon it by God after a robin tried to remove the thorns from Christ’s head. As a result of this wonderful story, I have endeavored to learn more about the creatures around me, care more for the Earth, and become a part of the world I live in.

Set against the backdrop of widespread flooding in the Salt Lake valley in the ’80s, Terry Tempest Williams tells of her love for wild birds and wild spaces in the valley and surrounding mountains. Her process of grieving the passing of her mother is also woven into the tale of flooding, mitigation, and how it all affects the birds. Though her story shares a time and place with mine, our stories are wildly different. I found it fascinating to read along as she navigated familiar terrain with such a divergent experience. Barely miles apart, she “midwifed” her mother’s passing as I strove to keep mine from suicide.

Definitely worth the read.  If you want to know more about the author, here is her website: