Posts Tagged ‘Terry Tempest Williams’

Please, please, please treat yourself to this Talking Writing interview, “Silence is Where We Locate Our Voice,”  by Lorraine Berry with Terry Tempest Williams.  I consider myself quite lucky to have met Terry Tempest Williams at a pivotal point in developing my voice.  You can read about that experience in this blog post, Birdsong.

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Several years ago I attended a national conference sponsored by a major environmental organization.  The conference was held in a lovely out of the way place in a southern state.  I and a colleague had petitioned our company to pay for our attendance as part of our professional development.  When we arrived and began to mingle amongst the other 498 guests, I noticed something immediately but I didn’t say anything to my colleague.  However my colleague quickly pointed out the unspoken:  that I was one of just three brown people at the multi-day event.  As I attended the various sessions, I listened as people discussed how to save rainforests and wildlands, and contemplated strategies to bus minority children out of cities to visit green spaces.  I understood the intent behind the words, but I was troubled.  As the days progressed, I felt something building inside me until …

… near the end of the conference, I sat in a small group session.  I don’t remember the session’s focus.  But I remember the look on a well-meaning person’s face as she all but called me “you poor thing” when I admitted out loud that I had never seen the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone.  As someone else went on to raise how do we (as in environmentalists) get more African Americans interested in the environment, I snapped.  Let me tell you, I was much more shy then than I am now.  So it was a big deal for me to open my mouth in that group and give them a piece of my mind about labeling and having narrow views about who was interested in the environment.   Afterwards I raced to the restroom.  I was shaky.  I was new to the environmental field.  Many of the people in that room had been working in the field longer than I had been alive.  What did I know?

As I slowly washed my hands, into the restroom walked Terry Tempest Williams, one of the conference presenters and a well-known writer and activist.  I loved her work but at that moment I just wanted to dash right pass her. However, she held me with her eyes.   “Well said in there.”  That’s it.  That’s all she said, but it was all I needed to hear.  That moment, that encouragement has stayed with me over the years and came to mind this morning as I read one of her recent essays, “A Disturbance of Birds.”  It is a beautifully written piece about her discovery of a brain tumor.  Woven throughout her story are the stories of other people.  Dotting this narrative quilt are birds in all forms.

I highly recommend a read of this essay.  Her words greatly moved me.  At first I found myself thinking of loved ones recently lost and then of loved ones who are currently not in good health.  I thought of loved ones traveling who I wish were home.  And then I thought of birds.  The ones I watched with my mom.  The robin described by my uncle.  The blue herons I see with Steve.   The birdsong I cannot photograph but which inspires me so.   And then finally I was filled with gratitude.  I am grateful for the people I have met throughout my life and hopeful for the ones I have yet to meet.  As the sun shines bright today, I know that I have been lucky. 😉

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