I’ve enjoyed Utah-based essayist Terry Tempest Williams since I read her 1991 book “The Clan of One-Breasted Women” (“I belong to a Clan of One-Breasted Women. My mother, my grandmothers, and six aunts have all had mastectomies. Seven are dead. The two who survive have just completed rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.”) about her family’s experience living as Downwinders from the Nevada Desert Nuclear Test Site.
A few weeks ago, at the Artists for Climate Action event in downtown D.C., I heard her speak. She highlighted some work she’d been doing with creative writing students in collecting oral histories from coal-mining communities in Wyoming. It turned into “an unprecedented experiment in the art of listening,” as Alexandra Fuller described it in her New York Times OpEd piece. You can read the students’ Weather Reports and see photos they took during their community listening project.
Terry’s newest book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, is a study of the art of mosaics, which she then applies to examining ecological mosaics in Bryce Canyon and the to the broken land of Rwanda attempting the art of putting what’s broken back together again in a shape that is beautiful.
I saw her at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network demonstration on Monday to close down or convert to solar the Capitol Hill Power plant (which runs on 49 percent coal supplied by Peabody Energy). There was a great line up of Kentucky essayist Wendell Berry, Methodist environmental leader Bill McKibben, head of NASA scientist James Hansen, country music star Kathy Mattea, and Terry Tempest Williams all under the banner “Save Our Mountains.” It was a beautiful sight to see.