spiralsThis bit of audio from our Terry Tempest Williams interview has us all mystified. It resulted in this "thought experiment" among our staff, which led to wildly varying interpretations.

Take a listen to this confounding story about the journals her mother left her:

What do you think Williams’ mother was trying to say about herself? To tell her daughter?

What do those pages say about “voice” to the rest of us?

I've told and retold this story to many of my friends and family, and each person has a distinct take on what it all means, but they all ask with a wrinkled brow: Why? Why? Why? I'm anxious to hear your interpretation because I can easily come up with a half-dozen theories.

Share Your Reflection



as an undisciplined journal-writer / collector myself, I can't speak to why they were *all* blank, but I can look at the stack of collected blanks I do have (far more than the filled ones) and see a pile of intended writing now lost to the years. Perhaps her mother meant to write her life at one point and never got around to it, and now it is too late. and so perhaps she meant for Terry to remember her in those journals, to write her mother's journals for her in some respect. Or perhaps she was telling her "don't do as I did. fill these blank pages with the memories of your own life, so that maybe one day you can pass on to your own surviving loved ones what you hoped to find here from me."

Or maybe her Mom was saying: "We all intend to write our life, but in reality any writing, like photography is inherently illusory and insufficient. Life is in the moment, the moments, it's in life, not in trying to capture the moments artificially." Just one possibility.

I think, too, that Terry's mom respected Terry's writing about her own life and experiences. Maybe she intended to write, but hesitated for fear of being judged inadequate or wondered what others would think of her. I hope Terry writes her mother's life as she can. I think that might be the message.

I also have a collection of mostly blank journals for, as you say "intended writing lost to the years". I am almost 70 now and, from that perspective, I think she was saying to Terry, 'you are gifted, able to express your thoughts in way that is meaningful. Don't be silent; do it now'. Many have been able to find a writer or a poet who can say what they feel, believe, or understand. Their journals, then, should be a posting of quotes, notes and references, and a bibliography.

Perhaps she wanted to tell her daughter to fill her own journals - to live life, to express herself. Or, how about this: she wanted her daughter to write her biography. If it were me, I think I would consider filling up the journals with thoughts of my mother and growing up.

I haven't listened to the entire interview yet, I am sure a better guess would be made if you understood the context of both of their lives.

My thoughts, without better context, would be that my mom wished for me to live my life and express myself; maybe in the pages of the journals she left blank for me. Or, perhaps she wanted to capture her biography on those pages. I'll be interested to hear what the On Being staff came up with.

I had to listen to it again...I feel that Terry was left still, painful as it must have been- with little to go on. Listening to her, I sense a longing to know her mother more deeply than perhaps was allowed. Being that the pages were blank, this unexpected discovery just lends to more wondering, a hard gift to accept- and my heart goes out to her. It seems that her mother will remain private and yet...perhaps she was saying, "You won't find me here either...get out and wander as you are apt to do and see me everywhere, still."
And from my way of thinking, in reading much of Terry's work- and absolutely acknowledging the tremendous Beauty she expresses, maybe her mother was much more wise than the rest of us, maybe she knew the best way to grieve her passing might be for Terry to keep on discovering her beyond that seeming end.
I often wonder too, why some things are left unsaid, undone and wholly undiscovered- why not? may be the only ongoing conclusion...The *Vitality of the Struggle is telling in the title- on and on it goes.

I like what you said. I got the impression too that Terry was longing for her mother. I bought the audio version of her book "When Women were Birds" and heard a little bit. Her voice definitely shows that longing. Yes, I think whether intentionally left blank or not, it is now Terry's job to keep discovering her mother.

My first thought was that maybe her mother was trying to say that she had nothing meaningful to say about her life. But maybe she was trying to say that she didn't think or feel she had the skill or right to speak about her life. I think it would be very troubling emotionally for her daughter. Perhaps the handmade cloth coverings are all her mother could communicate?
They're not done in invisible ink, are they? I'm sincere about that, not being smart-alecky.

I thought the same thing-did her mother sew? Marking pen disappears over time (a friend's husband found out when he used one to pay the bills!).
If she in fact did not write in the journals, I think it is significant that she asked that they only be viewed after she passed. Her daughter was a writer and accustomed to putting her thoughts on paper for all to examine and know. Maybe her mother, being very private was sending a message about privacy and not divulging all one's thoughts to the world.
Or maybe she told her daughter about the journals to have her daughter fill in the pages. Maybe she is saying her daughter is the voice she never had the courage be.
There are so many unanswered questions, I guess we'll never know. I wonder what her father thought of the journals?

As intriguing as it is to interpret the passing of these journals on to her daughter, I am also pondering what her mother must have been thinking when she made these journals over the years. I too have not listened to the entire interview yet, so perhaps there is more context that I don't have, but if indeed she made the covers for them in all different fabrics and then didn't fill them, I find it very puzzling. It's one thing to see a journal you like in the store and buy it and then not fill it (I have impulse purchases like that!), but quite another to make one, then another, then another and not fill them. Did she do them all at once, with a plan that she didn't fulfill? Did she make them over the course of years? The answer to that probably has impact on what she was trying to "say" through them.

We are often thankful for the journals discovered that reveal the nuanced moments in history otherwise lost in the passing of time. To me, the lesson here is one of relationship in the present. What is it we gain in the learning of the intimate thoughts of another, through the reading of their journals AFTER they have passed, that could rival the benefits of a relationship so close we have the opportunity to share such thoughts directly with one another?

It's a beautiful story, though with a bit of sadness in it to be sure. I am only taking a guess as to what Terry's mother meant to communicate, and I may be wrong. But my thought is this -- that perhaps for many years her mother had the desire to begin writing, but faced an obstacle in doing so. She created the journals she dreamed she would write in, but never managed to begin the text. Maybe ... she was trying to communicate to her daughter in the end that (1) that she admired how her daughter could write, (2) that she too had a rich interior life, and (3) that she had long wanted to find a way of expressing her inner life, and the hand-made journals are still an expression of her dreams.

I first heard Terry Tempest Williams share this story of her mother's journals on the "Women on the Edge of Evolution" web series. The panel of women, including Williams, was speaking to the role of women as leaders and in how best to use our voice, and our wisdom, in co-creating the future of our world. I wept when I heard her share this story and for me it speaks to the ways in which women have been silenced throughout history. It wasn't so long ago that women were burned at the stake and many fundamentalist religions around the world continue to oppress women. Williams' mother, like mine, was born into an era (prior to the feminist movement) when most women didn't have a voice. So to me, the journals represent the desire to have that voice, to be heard, to share wisdom through the act of writing. I can only speculate of course, but not feeling empowered to do so, she never wrote in them. Having read all of Williams' work, she is the voice for her mother and for all those who are unable to speak out including those within the natural world. I give thanks for that.

I think the intent of the blank journals was for the daughter to use her many memories of the mother to imagine what the journals would have contained given the daughter's knowledge of the mother's personal values, belief systems, interests, habits, schedules, preferences, dislikes, friends, hobbies, travels and so on. This would be a powerful memory jogger that would allow the daughter to construct and retain more complex and vivid memories of the mother that may not have occurred without the blank pages.

I wonder if Terry's mom might be like me. I like journals, I have perhaps 10 journals with just a few "safe" entries in each. I love the "idea" of journaling. Part of me wishes I could write exactly what I think and feel, but I've managed to convince myself that I can't.
Another part of me knows very well I am capable of writing what I think and feel. Furthermore, I realize how cathartic and valuable the journaling process is. But bottom line, I don't think in death I should share those parts of me that I have not openly shared in life. I feel I'd be robbing my survivors of the person they thought they knew, if my journals revealed mysteries like those that Terry half expected to find out about her mother. Dare I die and leave my children and other survivors with a stranger they might feel they never really knew? Somehow, I worry that they would not only lose me, but also lose who they thought I was. Does this make any sense?

Yes. This makes sense. I also have many blank journals. When I sit down to write I realize that writing out my thoughts and having my family read them might be hurtful as I keep much hidden. There is a way of being in the world that looks out more than in. Neither way is better or worse.
I think Ms. Tempest's mother was saying, "Daughter, I know that you write, here are a million pages for you to fill, a small practical gift to you. I lived my life differently, but I honor your path as well."

Wow. I too wept when I listened to this story. Perhaps Terry's mom had an intention to write something a one time, but never converted that intention to that type of expression. Instead, the act of making the journals became the expression. Terry says that her mom was a very private person. Was it private in the sense of not sharing herself in words. Maybe the keeping of these journals was to say that it is the act of my life rather than my words that expresses who I am.

Thanks to Being for the wonderful interviews and ideas and especially for making the shows available online.

When I first heard this, my breath caught in my heart for a moment. Then I thought, well, there are so many ways to have voice......those carefully crafted journals, hidden away as a treasure, is a story all its own. The act of collecting the journals is voice to the experience of her mother. We can only presume the story, maybe it is saying "I am clearing the way for my daughters words" or "Everything I need to say is said by the secret act of collecting these journals, and my offering them to you". The act is rich with possibility, ambuguity, and voice. Sometimes the loudest, most profound things are said through the smallest acts. A blank book is an invitation to the newly imagined, a collected history, prayer, a roadmap of lives. There is an open-endedness to the story of this gesture, the tale that has been told and has not yet been imagined. A leagacy of continuance. Very beautiful.

I just heard the segment on wnyc. I think her mother left her journals so that she could go forward and fill them in with her own life. She may have been giving her daughter a springboard to go forth and live, maybe with experiences that she herself did not have.

A mother told her daughter where her journals were and not to look at them until she had passed. Her mother's blank journals were left for her daughter to fill in.

Perhaps this is a silly first reaction for me to have had, but did Terry check for the possibility of invisible ink?
If children can successfully use lemon juice, then a "very private" adult might certainly have found a way to keep her words hidden from all but the daughter she clued in to the secret.
Failing that, I'm completely stumped as to why the journals would be blank.

At first I thought perhaps her Mother was angry and was making a statement about having nothing more to give. After more thinking about it, now I think her Mother was making a statement about being present...devoting her life to her family, friends, in the moment and not spending hours reliving past events or fantasizing about the future. OR, maybe her thoughts, normally regulated to a journal, were for her alone. What makes this so delicious and intriguing is that we will never know. But would the collective we ever had know? No, Terry would have kept the information private. As it is, her Mom does it instead.

The facts are: She left empty journals. All the rest is the story we choose to make up about why she left them blank. So. We get to choose. Uplifting story? Crashing story? Some combination. This reveals where we are, not her Mom. This is how we, as individuals relate to each other. Can we see the facts, just the facts, separate from our perceptions of the facts? Or are we so blind by the thoughts in our own mind that we perceive the facts through that filter. Can we see our own filters? Are we interested or interesting? Are we centered enough to be vulnerable to the present or do we hide behind the safety of our beliefs because we feel afraid and are off balance internally? Are we aware of where we are inside? What an invitation this situation offers!

The first connection I made was with a famous course on Leadership, where executives were given a hardcover book titled "Leadership" the first day - and it was blank. A blank page given to someone is an invitation to find your voice. I also thought that Terry's mom crafted the journals, with beautiful materials. Handcrafts is something that women were educated for, in her generation, and allowed to do. Speaking up was something different. My own mom started telling me about writing a book nearly 30 years ago. In a symbolic gesture of encouragement, I used to buy her paper, journals, boxes of pens (before computers!) and later a computer. It was only less than a year ago, at age 81, when she decided she would do it. Now, I'm her proud editing coach.

Terry, your Mom left you a Zen puzzle. What a gift! And you're sharing it with the whole world. Thanks Terry and thanks Terry's Mom. It speaks volumes.

I think that asking that the journals not be opened until she had passed away meant that Terry's mother knew that the empty pages would convey deep sadness and a truth that could not be dealt with, but would possibly also convey an encouragement to Terry to fill her own pages, to deal with the reality and break through the sorrow, which Terry has done.

At the moment of listening, just a few minutes ago. Intuitively, as clear as sunlit rain, Terry's Mother has left them for Terry to fill. The journals are not blank; they are not empty; they are waiting to be filled - by Terry.

Having been one of Terry Tempest Williams' readers over many years, I don't think that Diane Tempest left the books blank because she felt silenced or powerless. But in Terry's remark during the interview about going beyond words, that is how I would choose to interpret her mother's actions, and I am okay with the uncomfortable mystery of the blank books. I'd say she did not want to be bound by whatever words she would write, which would more likely reflect that moment than her overall being. I am a journal writer of many years, but would be horrified to be understood by some of my worst journal entries, particularly because journals sometimes allow venting of thoughts one would not wish to have live forever in others' memories - perhaps particularly in the case of a cancer survivor who later succumbed, as Terry's mother did.

This collection of "empty" journals reminded me of a wonderfully enigmatic musical composition by John Cage from the early 1950s. It's titled 4' 33" and involves 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Many people have asked some of the same questions about it for many decades. Of course, what happens in an actual performance of the piece is that the everyday noise of "negative sound" (like negative space) turns into the piece itself and we listen in a new and perhaps more perceptive way to the sound environment. While I am sure that Terry's mother was not thinking of these journals as some kind of odd or experimental art, perhaps she was offering a reflective silence or a kind of mirror for those who are reading it. Indeed, there are valuable and beautiful ways for us to read such an empty journal as this like listening to silence.

Today I listened to Terry's touching account of her mother leaving her all her journals, and I read all the 11 comments below, all of which make good points. What strikes me, is the specificity with which Terry's mom, on her deathbed, instructed her daughter as to where and when to look at those journals. Collectively the journals are a kind of "tabula rasa", and I think Terry's mom may have deliberately bound them and left them for her daughter to fill in... in any way she sees fit, as her gift and as a testament of her respect for her daughter's vision and talent. Perhaps it was a way of contributing to the continuity of Terry's work as it extends into the world, beyond the lifetime of any one individual. Simply put, I think your mom shared your vision, and this was her very intimate way to support you in the future, and be there for you in the present as well. In the end, it seems to me a very loving and motherly thing to do.

The question for me is not, why didn't she write in them, but why did she give them to Terry knowing they were blank and why did she instruct her not to look at them until after she passed? Why did Terry's mother want to leave Terry with the question of "why"? Of course we can all speculate but we don't know Terry and her mother.

Perhaps her mother found words inadequate to express her every day experiences, thoughts, feelings. We cannot adequately capture in words the Spirit which blows through our lives every day. It's useless to try to do so. One might become over-whelmed. Rather let's be happy to welcome the Spirit each day and to await new revelations in our souls. Perhaps it speaks to the quiet, unnoticed (by others) relationship with Spirit we each can have. Not everyone has to write or have their voice heard in writing. Maybe her voice was in her actions so she knew she did not need to write anything and she wanted her daughter to know that. The mother would leave the writing to someone else.

Wonder...about the journals: silence is not only, or merely, the absence of voice, it is also at times, and more often than we recognize, the presence of something else. The void, the sacred space within which voice can exist, a life can be lived. Perhaps Terry's mother's journals...and oh, so many of them, so much silence, so much space...are a testament to the depth and breadth of the life she lived.
and of Life.
As for voice: I was stunned when I "happened" to awaken to hear the last 15 minutes of this interview. Stunned because the last time I heard Terry Tempest William's voice was probably 30 years ago, when she was a keynote speaker at the Institute for Noetic Sciences annual convention/gathering. And today I recognized her voice. Immediately....When first I heard that voice 30 years ago, her story,and her voice, were so compelling that there was absolute silence in the huge room where several hundreds of people had gathered to hear her speak.
Absollute silence......
Thank you Terry Tempest Williams for your voice, and your stories.

As on many an early Sunday morning, I listen to Public Radio and on this day - after re-setting the radio sleep timer - heard the last 10 minutes of Krista Tippett’s interview with Terry Tempest Williams.

First reaction was Wow! As I had that feeling of association with the mother and her departing action of leaving prepared journals - which were to be discovered without any entries.

I understand how that could be… as I like the idea of journaling and have written such. However, now as I re-read and go through my stuff, I find that there is little value to future generations in sharing any family angst or making sure “my spin” or my “facts” on events are left in print for others to reflect on.

My father wrote all the time…letters, memos, notes, etc. and when he died, left a stack of small hard bound journal books as well to which he had compiled during his lifetime. Attached to these under the rubber band was a hand written note for these journals to be destroyed upon his death. Father’s wishes were not followed as his oldest son decided to read these journals, any privacy and confidentiality for such not withstanding.

She - as I and as others - may like the idea of journaling but just hold on to that “intention” as future readers may not truly understand and attempt to evaluate those confidences & private thoughts of times now past….so the journals remain unwritten as the person does not want anybody else to really know or pass judgments on what one may have thought or what one may have noted…now years ago.

It was the gift, a lesson, a reminder of a profound truth about human beings. To be human is to be dense, mysterious, and inexplicable. Any time we think that the characteristics we could list on a 3 by 5 card describe the person, we commit violence. Any time we think we "know" someone and don't grant that they are inexhaustible mystery, we commit violence.

Words can be interpreted in the wrong way. I think that her mother believed that Terry would understand her, her life if she connected with her spiritually.

What Ms. William's mother gave her daughter was what she felt she did not have--VOICE. Her mother may have felt that she was the subject and the journals were her daughter's canvas. It was a wonderful show. Thank you for sharing Ms. Williams with us.

The message from Williams' mother seems very clear--the gift is honoring and acknowledging her daughter's many contributions and accomplishments as a writer, and an invitation for Terry Tempest Williams to fill the journals.

Perhaps she meant for her daughter to fill those blank pages?

At first I thought that her mother might have left blank journals for her to fill, but if so, why tell her to not look at them until after her death? Then I thought: Some types of ink fade quickly. Did the spines creak as if they'd never been opened, or did they fall open as if the pages had been well-thumbed? Were there impressions of a pen having pressed onto the pages, or were they perfectly smooth? If her mother was a "private person," is it possible that she used a common method of invisible writing, such as lemon juice? (The way to make it visible is by gently heating the pages.) Has Ms. Williams taken the journals to be examined by an expert?

Very inciteful. You do think outside the box.

It seems her mother was a prankster.

Without being influenced by other entries, I will write this from my intuition as I heard the story. Journals are hollow and I believe reflect a yearning to stop time and capture something that is fleeting and intentionally impermanent. As the mother of five, I want my children to know me through our every interaction, not written discourse on my interpretation of my own life. Her mother left her blank journals upon which to live her own story and find the truth of her mother through their lasting love, the part of us that is immortal...sharing everyday moments of love and connectedness.

I agree, in part, but the odd thing about this story is the vast number of journals that Terry's mother had collected. Simply put, maybe her mother felt a bit guilty about having squirelled away those blank journals, which she never used, and wanted Terry to have them to dispose of them as she saw fit. That's a rather pedestrian interpretation of what seems like possibly a mystical act. It is a fascinating story. One would have to know a lot more about Terry and her mother before coming to any reasonable explanation. But in any case,I empathize with Terry's great disappointment!

Maybe Terry's mom felt that same love for words that Terry has, but did not feel equip to use them as a form of personal expression. So she may have hand-picked those journals with the intention of giving them to Terry all along, as a sort of legacy, knowing that her daughter, this living extension of herself, had both the internal and external force to fill the pages.

I believe it to be a mystical act...what is not there is the point. Taoist philosophy tells us that the unspoken is everything, the absence is the usefulness. If a single empty page causes wonder in a daughter's mind and thereby evokes an image/essence/moment that is far greater than mere ink on paper

Mom prepared the sheets for Terry to fill in. She knew that was her daughters purpose on this plane of existence. Mothers know everything.
Beautiful show....I just wish the tears would stop now.

Loved this. As I was listening to the podcast, before Terry got to the part about the journals being empty, I was putting myself in her mother's place, thinking about what words I would want to leave to my adult daughter if I knew I wouldn't be around, what parts of myself I would want her to know about. And then hearing the revelation that the journals were black, it occurred to me that maybe her mother was saying "You know everything there is to know about me" and inviting her to draw on her memories and experience to envision words on the page.

Again, imagining myself in the place of a dying mother, I can only think of how fortunate I would be if I felt that I could leave this world with my daughter really knowing who I am.

What a rich and imaginative discussion this has sparked. I won’t add to the speculations others have offered about what Terry’s mother may or may not have intended. However, I will say that hearing Terry tell that tale reminded me of something in my own life. Years ago, after lugging heavy camera gear along with me on several backpacking trips, I abruptly decided to abandon the practice. Not only had I grown weary of the extra weight on my back, but I realized that, rather than actually enjoying the views and images I was seeing and the experiences I was having, I was instead crushing them down and processing them through a lens. The camera had become a blindfold to my eyes, a burden on my back, and a wall between me and the joys of the moment. It had made me oblivious to life itself. However, I did not immediately realize all of this. It was only after I came across a particularly remarkable tiny fungus on one of my next trips, and had stared at it with awe for a very long time. Afterwards I chastised myself for not having my camera with me, but I suddenly realized that, by not having my camera and by drinking in the wonder of that image in real time, I had burned it more deeply and vividly into my memory than any camera or piece of film ever could have. Ever since, I have been completely freed to live each moment to the fullest, with no barriers or distractions. And it has never bothered me that I don’t have photos to remind me of my experiences. Besides, a photo can never equal the experience itself. I am at peace with the fleeting nature of the moment.

Good point Bill. I have noticed the same thing in carrying my camera around. The memories are much more important than staring at the pictures after the fact. We try too hard sometimes to hang on to the wrong things.

I also find that if you're known to lug a camera with you, people start expecting you to do that service for their events and love seeing you coming. I can enjoy the event so much more cameraless.

Silence stillness and solitude. I first heard these words from out of a book by Thomas Merton. Yet in reality everything originates from one source, The great creator that is Love. My favourite line from a psalm to meditate and pray on is, `DBe still and know I am God. Peace from Peter G Kimble in England.

I made the decision to stop lugging the camera during travels, also. It is a barrier to life at times. In the last year my parents were alive, they spontaneously started dancing in the kitchen to Dinah Washington; my 1st thought was "where is my camera", but the image is still vivid in my brain.

The point may be that keeping a journal is a noble idea, but filling it is quite another matter.

My Mom did the same thing to me. I had given her journals thru out her life time and never wrote in any of them. My take on this is She lived her life everyday and was a private person even to me on some areas and had no time to sit and write down what she was living everyday. I believe it was her way of saying live your life-your own life and if we talked about things then you have that info on me but I will live everyday and there is no time to sit and write down what I think or did. Only live it.

I was so moved by Terry's words, that the pages in the journal were blank. It reminded me of my grandmother, she used to say, when you leave this earth, you leave evertyhing, and everyone behind, so I suppose Terry's mum wanted nothing in writing, ....We begin our lives with a blank page, and her mum ended hers with blank pages. Her mum's life must have so rich, spiritually and emotionlly, and that in it self was enough, it did not need to be written. Her mum was I suppose saying, live in the present moment. mina

I thought it was an insult. A very hostile act.

People are often angry at that which they cannot understand. See Mina`s reply for more understanding. May God bless you and all your family . Los of love from Peter G Kimble in England.

I think she wanted her daughter to fill them.

i like reading all the thoughtful comments - interesting how the idea of the journals being left for the daughter to write in comes up so often - i thought of that too - i spent some time with my dad before he died , and i am very grateful for that - i'm not quite sure what it is that he left me because he could be such a mystery - i know he loved me and i know he was a mystery - i celebrate both - thank you all for sharing your thoughts and for allowing me to share mine - bye - joe

Knowing the power of Terry Tempest Williams words, I think her Mom left those empty journals for her. I believe her Mom knew Terry could put into words what they had talked about, what she remembers, what her mother meant to her and after all, isn't that what matters?

I heard just about 15 minutes of the program today...but my heart was moved to the core.
As a Mom, myself, at 65....I thought....without doubt....this Mom was telling her daughter....no one knows me better than you....my love....you are part of me...always...and I am part of you for Eternity....take each of these journals...and turn the pages slowly...and listen with your heart...and you will hear and know every word I intended to write you. Our thoughts transcend the written word...our hearts are forever in tune....and you know better than I what would be on these pages.... with love....Mom

Knowing the power of Terry's words, I believe her Mom left them blank so that Terry could use them for her artistic use. Her Mom knew how gifted Terry's writing style is, so she provided a blank page and a blank voice to allow for Terry's interpretation. Marcia

I agree with some previous commenters that mom clearly wanted her daughter to start a journal of her own. I imagine that may be because mom had always wanted to, always intended to begin hers, but neglected to do so. At 60, I wish I'd started one when I was a teenager, there is so much I'd like to look back on now, but alas, it's too late. So that's the message I'd like to think mom was sending--start a journal now, to appreciate later, and for your children to appreciate some day.

Wonderful mystery! I think of the many things that are hidden in plain sight, waiting only for the right eyes to notice them. We are surrounded by such.

Were the journals her mother's Zen dope-slap? Are the words written in invisible ink? Or like the many journal-books I've received as gifts: too elegant and precious for my cramped handwriting and less-than-immortal prose?

I guess that before I speculated on what Terry's mom might have meant by leaving the journals, I'd want to know a lot more: were they obviously collected over a long period of time or did they seem roughly similar in age (that is, from the past few years)? were the pages, as one commentator asked, crisp and clean or care-worn and aged? what was her mother like? Terry said that her mother was "a very private person," a very telling statement. But did she feel like she knew her mother well or was she looking forward to this revelation into her mother's inner life? How did her mother relate to her career as a writer, speaker, visionary? for me, with my training, albeit novice, in mental health, the revelation was shocking, even disturbing. Three shelves is a lot of journals. And that they were all perfectly blank says something more than good intentions to write never fulfilled. I did think about invisible ink. But in the end, Terry is the one among us who knew her mother best, and her thoughts have run to the question of voice. What is it to have a voice? Which is louder: thousands of words or silence? Can a Mormon woman of her mother's generation ever possibly hope to speak her truth except with this one act of stunning silence? And what does one's interpretation of such an act (particularly Terry's in this case) say about one's voice? For isn't a reframe an exercise of voice? And hasn't that been what Terry has done so beautifully for years: to take the broken pieces and place them into shining whole by which we are all made whole. I'm very interested in where she goes with this.

May Terry's mom was wishing that someday she might get around to filling the books up, but life got in the way so she passed the empty books to her daughter so that she could start anew!!!!

I was more impressed with the fact that the mother had so many journals for her long and storied life. The fact that they were empty says to me that living her life was more important than writing about it, and the legacy she left was in not words on a page, but in the memories that her daughter, and others, had of her.

I don't know Terry or her Mom, but when I heard this story it made me laugh! I think her Mom had a great send of humor! Especially telling her not to open them until after she had died! I think her Mom must have known that Terry had lived by her Mom's wishes because no one opening all those empty journals could keep quiet about it.... ;-)

It also reminded me of a time in my own life when I was visiting a friend who was dying. He called me to him to listen and said, "I have a favor to ask you." My reply was that I would do anything for him and expected some task that I could complete just for him. What he said was, "Please don't tell anyone I'm in the hospital. I don't want them to see me this way." I felt awful for imposing a visit on him that he really didn't want, and it has made me careful now to always ask before visiting anyone if that is something they would like. Sometimes expecting an outcome that turns out very different not only adds a bit of mystery to ones life, but teaches us as well in some deeper way.

I like the idea that Terry's mom's request was a practical joke of sorts--perhaps to point out that she had always had intentions she never fulfilled, or to emphasize that journal-keeping was too much of a chore for her. It does seem odd, however, that she placed so much emphasis on them when she was dying.

Krista and Terry's conversation was invoking a deeper way of being\; the journal mystery also begs to be understood in a different way for we will never think our way to the truth. Our rich interior life is God Himself. Like crystal clear rain is His grace. His insight is our moment of knowing. We can just "ask" when we're stumped, about anything. The answer won't be what we expect and it will certainly surprise and delight. "You ask, I respond," is the covenant. We make our children, parents and ancesotrs into gods but there is no god but God Himself. Everthing is from Him, He tells us in the Qur'an.

Add my vote to those suggesting invisible ink as used by a very private person whose clever padlock is opened only with a certain wavelength light or some wet solution. Alternatively, as Katy asks @ 5:31 PM, what are Terry's mother's personality traits? Truly empty pages (no ink of any kind) could be the equivalent of creating (or collecting) the containers with intent to fill, similar to a behavior hallmark of disorders like obsessive compulsive personality (DSM-IV 301.4) with various degrees of hoarding. Some parallels here with Brook Downs's admission @ 4:27 AM about "intent to write". If Terry's mother was a perfectionist then, as Emenbensma says in reply to Brook, would not express herself for fear of her writing being "judged inadequate". Or this, some words unspoken, mother to Terry: "My journals you will find empty. I am such a private person, I would be too embarrassed to have to tell you in person why I did not write in them. Please, spare me the embarrassment, promise to look at them only after I am gone and discover for yourself they are empty."

I think her mother was saying each life is a tabula rasa, a blank tablet. The journal she kept was the life she lived. It was a living journal, written in her heart. Her heart was ever and always open for others to read. What she leaves behind is her heart. What she "wrote" is what remains in the hearts of those whose lives she touched. Here was a woman so engaged in the living of her life she did not keep a journal of words but experience and perception. She was ALIVE! That is her legacy and her last lesson to her cherished daughter.

I've collected a lot of journals because they were so beautiful, and not written in them. Perhaps that's what she did. Or, like the other Marcia said, she wanted Terry to have them so she could write in them, something she wasn't able to do. Or....she may have taken out everything that she wrote, and left just the blank pages for her daughter to start anew. I have interviewed Terry Tempest Williams as well, and consider it one the highlights of my life. She sees the future in the present.

I think the blank pages could be exactly what her mother wanted her daughter to see. Essentially, her daughter would (not necessarily literally) fill in the blank pages with memories that she had of her mother. A person exists to those who really matter in memories. Her mother, perhaps wanted her daughter to always remember her how she was during life, not how pen on paper describes her life. I hear her saying, "remember my actions, not my words."

I don't have a reason for your mother's empty journals, but I have a reason for mine. Though all my journals are not empty there are many days that are are. I have Not recorded so much of my life that I should have and wanted to and thought about but when I put the pen to the paper the words would not and do not come. I might be sitting there crying, with emotion and unable to express what I'm feeling through word. I tell myself I'll remember to write it later or that it was such a powerful experience how will I ever forget it. But I do, eventually and it goes unrecorded.
Words and thoughts are such distant relatives. Thoughts take on emotions and lives of their own without language. Words are so defined and finite. Words are a frightening way to summarize the magnificence of being.
I journal - or rather I try to - but I find I am journaling the mundane and everyday activities of my life, not the monumental moments that make it memorable to me. And really who wants to read that? My heart holds the deepest part of me and the combination of letters, words and sentences just never seem to convey my feelings.
As I write this I am crying with an ache to express what I feel, your story touched me in a way I am still exploring. If nothing else it will encourage me to be a better journalist of my own life and passion.
Thank you.

"There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly...
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." -Frederick Buechner

Two thoughts came to mind when I heard this. The first wasn't a thought, it was a burst of laughter and I'm surprised - and a little dismayed - that Terry couldn't find the humor in it, too. Guess what guys? It's all for naught, this life, her mother was saying.
That said, having sat by a few deathbeds of my own friends and family, I've learned that the dying are often very focused on ... themselves. After all, it's they who are leaving the party early.
Maybe Terry's mother was saying, "The reason why I never 'let you in' on my personal thoughts are that I had none.'" Or, more radically, "'Life as a Mormon woman has left me voiceless and thoughtless. Flee, child, flee!'"

My mother passed away 8 years ago this coming weekend of multiple Sclerosis. Id like to think that those journals are a metaphor for keeping someones memory alive. I continue to have a relationship with my mother, remembering her history and understanding her past perhaps more so since she has gone. Who better than a writer to give a blank page to? History shows that we can understand someone, and appreciate them more once they are no longer here. As an Agnostic it's my view of heaven in a way.

As a mother who has kept journals for over forty years I was shocked and saddened by Terry’s story. My own mother kept journals too and self published them for her children and grandchildren. I was eager to read them but then very disapointed because all I read were descriptions of placesof weather and meals, of events. Where were her thoughts about herself. What was her inner life like? Perhaps that’s all it was. Her life was her husband and her children, her close friends on the farm where I grew up. But I wanted more. I wanted her feelings about things. I wonder if Terry’s mom was telling her,”I don’t have a voice, but you must, for me and for yourself. You tell my story and yours.” I do remember times when I couldn’t put into words what was in my heart, when I felt my words were inadequate for what I felt, that my language was too simple, that I sounded stupid. Maybe looking at that open book with blank pages was just to overwhelming for her. Or maybe they were meant to be a present for Terry all along, blank, for her to fill in. What a puzzle. It is achingly unsolvable.

Because my mother always said exactly what she meant in the most concise language, my guess is that Williams' mother meant for her to put the empty journals to use, as if to say, "Fill the pages with your life, for mine has been expressed in living."

Her intent was clear. She ha things she wanted to say. Perhaps, probably she did, to herself.
My mom talked to all of writing her history, her autobiography. Immediately after her death, I searched her papers, her computer. Nothing I could recognize was there. It was a disappointment to many, as she was so well thought of. I hoped she had enjoyed it all, her own way. I wanted more from her, of course. Though she had already given me so much ... Thanks for all your efforts on our behalf. Best to you, Susan

Having lived in Utah for years and spent a great deal of time among Mormons, I am struck by the silencing of women. This is something that they internalize without knowing it. Many of my women friends are very private people (like Terry's mother) who are terrified of revealing themselves. So I interpret her mother's bequest as an acknowledgment of her daughter's ability to do what she could not: speak her truths. With "Refuge," Terry broke the taboo. I think her mother was encouraging her while also acknowledging the absence of her own voice (i.e., the blank pages).

I propose an explanation for why Theresa Tempest Williams’ mother kept and then gave volumes of vacant journals to her daughter. Note: my hypothesis is given in the manner of collapsing the wave function: Schrodinger (physics) in which a measurement - in this case, my hypothesis - provides one of an infinite number of possibilities.

Here is my measurement, my hypothesis:

A woman longs to write her story. She yearns to tell herself and, perhaps, the world what she thinks, feels, observes, does, wants, hopes, fears, loves, hates, resents, believes. But she is terrified; she simply cannot say any of it. The most she can do is to make, collect and hide the journals (handmade, one by one, added methodically, secretively, lovingly over the years) that would hold her inner life if she only had the courage to pick up the pen and write the first word. But she cannot. Someone has terrified her, paralyzed her ability to have her voice made incarnate by pen on paper. She longs for it though. The volumes are testimony to this longing.

Whatever terrified her was cruel. It was probably a person; it almost always is; it almost certainly was.

She is dying. The cruelty that terrified her and made her mute is too much to bear and she shrugs it off onto the heart of her daughter, who only wants to know her mother and knows, in the most excruciating way now that her mother is about to die, that she does not. The mother is well aware that she has been aloof, that her daughter longs to know; the mother knows she can never say who she is, or even that she is. But the mother knows that the daughter desperately hopes …

The mother merely inhabits a body, makes noises and movements that align with all the rest. She can never reveal herself. She knows that and holds that at the same time she knows her daughter’s desperate need to know her. She is terrified to reveal herself, and this is the result of some human cruelty which she can bear no more, especially now on her deathbed when it is all too clear that the daughter wants to know her.

(Shakespeare could not have done a better job crafting a plot at this point.)

Like a forward pass, the mother hands off the cruelty that was foisted upon her to her daughter by promising her - and this promise occurs as they both are lying in the mother’s death bed - the secret knowledge when she knows, by design, that the empty journals will be a perpetuation of the cruelty of silence, the cruelty of no voice, the cruelty of infinite silence forever - passed on to her own daughter!

This was a bad thing to do. Now, it takes great strength and courage to see the cruelty of what the mother did, to accept the cruelty of it for what it is: evil. But here is the gift of it, as I see it: we can hardly know ourselves well, even after decades trying. Can we really know anyone else? Would filled up journals have helped all that much, or perhaps muddied the waters further?

What the daughter, Theresa, can do is to begin to write in those journals herself! Fill them with memories of her mother, of her own childhood. Do what her mother could never do. Do it! Take those journals and rewrite history.

And while you’re at it, poke around in the family archives and find out what the historic cruelty was, and who did it. Write that into the journals.

And then re-write the story: you find the journals that your mother has so kindly finally left to you as your rightful inheritance and they are all filled with stories and memories about you, the daughter, Theresa. The journals are all about you. Write beautiful stories about yourself. From what little I have learned about you, listening to the interview with you today, I know those stories are magnificent and myriad.

Do what your mother could never do. Do it for her and for yourself.

And that’s what voice is.

There are things I don't tell my daughters because I want to protect them. Things I don't tell them because I think they won't understand. Things I don't tell them because I think they won't care. But really, there are only things I don't tell my daughters because I am afraid of being judged by them. And this often-disguised self-protection really only serves to keep my daughters and I from being as deeply connected as we could be.
There are many things my own mother, a wonderful, open,creative, spiritual person and my greatest role model, still doing her creative, spiritual and intellectual work at 83, has never shared with me. And it has only been in hearing this story of the empty journals, and reflecting on what it means to me, to all of us, that I have gotten in touch with how sad I am at not really knowing my mother's heart and not sharing mine with her.

Those empty journals made me ache for that connection to my own mother, and for Terry's connection to her mother. Why have we, as strong, articulate, activist mothers and daughters, kept our wisdom from each other? Do we still not trust our own voices?

As one who journals (and speaks) less often and less openly than I used to, I find myself incredibly challenged by those empty journals. I hope that Terry's story,and her willingness to share it publicly, will give me the courage to open my heart to my daughters, and to ask my mother to open hers to me. Thanks.

Perhaps Terry's mother collected these journals (or accepted them as gifts, or both) in the same way that people keep adding to their collection of cookbooks, each one seen as the first act in realizing the dream of producing all those wonderful dishes for family and friends.

But what makes it so difficult to understand is why Terry's mother would ask Terry to promise not to look at the journals until after she had died. Embarrassment, perhaps? It's certainly plausible that she would have been embarrassed about collecting so many empty journals, but still felt that Terry, as a writer, would finally make good use of them. Maybe it didn't occur to her that Terry would feel such anguish at finding each one empty.

Or was she under the delusion that she had actually written in them?

I unfortunately think that it's possible that Terry's mother always intended to write in the beautiful journals that she had so lovingly created, and that as she was dying she imagined that she had recorded her most personal thoughts and feelings therein. I'd take the gift of the journals as a sign of love, any way Terry might look at it.

I think that the Mom's urging to read her (blank) journals after she has died, demonstrated the sorrow of all the lost voices of relations, nature's inhabitants, our ancestors, and voices for compassion and collaborative work aiding and supporting all beings who live amidst one another. I quietly wept for the voices I wish I could hear of my dead ancestors and loved ones and for wolf, whale or bird or pets. Especially for wise grandmothers and grandfathers to talk via journals. Theresa's mother's voice is gone for whatever reason, but she wanted her daughter who can write and love to continue her work. Oh the sorrow of our lost voices for us today. What a poignant symbol her mom gave to her and to me and to us.

maybe...well...maybe her mother, for whatever reason, couldn't find the voice to fill those journals. And maybe prompting her daughter to 'read' them after she was gone was a way of leaving a legacy...find your voice, daughter, fill those pages in a way that I couldn't.

Her mother begins to become a writer, a historian of the family. Funny how the journals in the above image do not match the image from the podcast. I imagined numerous cloth covered, clean paged journals all the same size, the size that you buy in the Hallmark stores, 7x9 or a little smaller.
As a parent you try to write. Getting the day finished, with children and a husband and a deathly landscape that they live in, how can that be written about unless there is a distance, that allows clarity. Maybe she didn't have the time.
Terry becomes a writer, and her mother feels relieved that the books will go to "good use". But to speak about the books before she dies, would require an explanation. Journals arrive as gifts, and all with fabric covers (correct?). Fabric, that would reference much of her day. Clothing her family.
She knew Terry would use them, in whatever manner, and being a private person, the mother simply let the gift be an new opportunity. Not the past, but the future.

It is hard to really know what to make of the story of the empty journals without knowing more about Terry's relationship with her mother and more about Terry's mother herself. Terry described her mother as very "private". From listening to Terry's "voice" during this program, she seems to be a very insightful and observant person. It appears that she has spent a lot of time considering her closest relationships and their dynamics. She would know more about her relationship with her mother than anyone else, (I guess that seems obvious!), so, if she feels confounded and hurt by the fact of the empty journals, she may well have reason.

So, I would like to carefully offer my impression, with all respect to Terry and her incerdible openness in sharing this very personal story with us.

It wasn't clear in the telling of the story if the journals were hand made or purchased, or some combination, (ie. she bought journals which she then personalized). I am not sure if this makes any difference, but it seems to me that such a large collection of journals indicates a great affinity for journals or the making of journals. If she bought/made a journal with the intention of writing, it is hard to believe that they would all be completely empty. It makes sense to me that she would have at least attempted an entry at some point. And, if one empty page seems intimidating, how much more intimidating would be hundreds of blank pages? It just makes sense in my mind, that the intention here probably never involved actually writing in them.

I admit it is confusing that she directly instructed Terry not to look inside them until after her death. I didn't get the impression from Terry's conversation that, as has been suggested here, that her mother was a jokester, but perhaps she was. I am thinking that perhaps she was generally a very practical person and felt inside herself, that it was frivolous to have a collection of anything, much less a collection of journals, never intended to be written in. I get this idea from the fact that Terry had no knowledge of this collection and that she kept it hidden in her closet. But it seemed close to her heart, because she kept it protected. And in passing this to her daughter, she was bestowing her very private and treasured secret. So, maybe that is why she didn't want Terry to know, because it made her feel frivolous and this embarrassed her.

But additionally, knowing how Terry loves to write, maybe it made her mother feel connected to Terry, to provide a blank template for Terry to feel her mother's presence for years to come, while engaging in an activity that is so close to Terry's heart; to think of Terry writing in her treasured items long into the future. And how perfect a complementary activity it was, to enjoy collecting/making empty journals, and to have a daughter that loves to write?

I have learned so much from listening to Terry this week, (and Krista every week!). Thank you both for sharing, and I wish you peace.

In his poem "Missed Time" the novelist and poet Ha Jin offers what seems to me the only way to understand blank pages:


My notebook has remained blank for months
thanks to the light you shower
around me. I have no use
for my pen, which lies
languorously without grief.

Nothing is better than to live
a storyless life that needs
no writing for meaning--
when I am gone, let others say
they lost a happy man,
though no one can tell how happy I was.

As I heard this story, I was reminded of a short story at the beginning of Eknath Easwaran's book "Your Life is Your Message": in it he speaks about how Gandhi was getting on a train and was not speaking, a practice he would do to save his voice. Someone asked him a question and he responded by scribbling the note "My life is my message." I believe Terry's mother was telling her daughter that her life was her message. No thoughts written down, no letters received from others, no clippings from newspapers would provide any greater understanding. It's up to each and every person who knew her to weave the quilt, form the mosaic that comes together and represents her life- her words aren't needed to help form the work of art that is her life. She was too busy living to stop and write. These are my thoughts without reading other comments. Thanks for a wonderful program Terry and Krista.

As an active mormon who seeks to stretch outside of the box I feel the pressure of ecclesiastical conformity. I can imagine how it would feel every time I recieved a lesson in Sunday School on journal writing, that I would feel the pressure to start writing in my Journal. 2 nephi 4:15 "And upon these I write the things of my soul,...." Each new journal was new attempt to fullfill that commitment. Each day is a new attempt to bring myself closer to God and each night is a check on my limited success. A continual 4 steps forward to 3 steps back. God as not interested in the speed of my of my arrival but in the constant effort and direction.

I don't know. Without knowing Terry's mother I can guess, but add little to what is expressed above. However I would like a) to join the conversation and b) suggest that it has taken me a long time to find my voice. And that I see my son, at 23, moving far beyond me. So it would seem logical and reasonable to conclude that Terry's mother was saying 'Here are my journals. Fill them. You are my legacy."

It seems that Larry's first sentence - "I don't know." - will always be true. Beyond that I think we are all the recipients of the enigmatic blank pages that Terry received from her mother, and we're all filling them with our own reactions. At first I thought the fact that she asked that they remain unopened until she had passed signified a secret so dark that it could not be expressed, but now I imagine that perhaps the artisanship in the construction of the bindings was the main thing, and that the pages when opened are blank is Terry's mothe's way of laughing at death.

This was my second reaction to Terry's mother's charge to Terry. In a very simple way, perhaps her mother was asking Terry to use the journals as she herself had never used them. Maybe her mother even wanted Terry to interpret her (the mother's) intellectual and spiritual heritage for others.

Terry's mother is telling her that silence is more powerful and more meaningful than words. She learned how words can twist and distort reality, how they are in the end, incapable of conveying the profundity of life, of Being. This is a powerful lesson, one that she wouldn't have been able to convey with language to her daughter (if for example Terry had asked her about them while she was still alive). Terry would have to discover it on her own. That's the beautiful message of her journals, of her life.

I agree with Larry, and he has stated more eloquently than I could have the first thought that came to my mind. Furthermore, a while ago I stopped keeping mediculous journals because I began to feel that the example of my life would last longer and be more meaningful than any words I might leave behind. To live in the moment.

As a spiritual being who happens to be amongst many things, an artist; I see your mothers journals as being many things. They reminded me of a favorite line from a psalm, Be still and know I Am God. They are an art work of love in mystical way.May God bless you and all your family . Lots of love from Brother Peter G Kimble in England.

It is hard to make a comment without knowing more about the mother;s history. The fact that she owned journals is that she meant to say something. The fact that she didn't write anything tells me that either she has not much to say or that she was not confortable saying it. For me silence works when there is a person to share the silence with. When the journals are empty I can safely assume that she didn't have the courage to sharemit. When you leave it up to people to figure out things, we the people usually mess up the interpretation of the stories. You must be clear when you want to say something, otherwise others will end up saying things you might not intended to say.

As I listened to the story of the journals, I was struck by the devotion and care Terry's mother demonstrated in creating "sacred" books. One does not invest time and attention into a project like this unless it resonates at a very deep level. I realized Terry was looking at her mothers prayers. The books themselves are a simultaneously real and intangible - so is prayer. It is a profound gift, showingTerry the depth of her spiritual Self.

Ah, I think the gift of the empty journals offer the story of a life that is beyond words. Yet, she offers Terry the gift of telling stories that should be on those pages. It's a special invitation to have Terry use her gift to write memorable stories using the blank slate that imagination offers. I also feel some sense of tragedy of when we don't leave behind the stories we don't tell before we go there's enormous loss.


Maybe she used invisible ink. Take them to a lab.

I have many possible interpretations of Terry Tempest Williams' mother's journals and I'll share a few here. Williams' mother is from a generation of women that were discouraged from working and expressing themselves. I speculate that her mother aspired to fill those journals with her thoughts, dreams and experiences, but she did not. Perhaps she would have done so, had she not died so young. Perhaps she infused the journals with her thoughts but never made the time to commit them to paper. Perhaps for a woman of her generation, it was an achievement to aspire to keep a journal. Perhaps by giving the blank journals to her daughter, she was telling her daughter how proud she was of her daughter's accomplishments.

Regardless of her mother's intentions, perhaps there is a gift in these blank journals that is reflected in Jewish culture. Jewish tradition teaches that originally there were two Torah's - oral and written. The written Torah more or less comprises the Hebrew bible today and the Talmud is constitutive of the Oral Tradition. But for thousand of years the oral tradition was just that - an oral memory of stories, tales, interpretations and life experiences.

Many within Jewish culture call these tales the white letters of Sacred Scripture. They provided adherents of Judaism a certain freedom and energy to read between the lines. Terry's mother has given a journal of white letters minus the black ones. The gift is energy contained in the oral memory of the times they passed together - something that might be disabled in part should they be written down. Perhaps the best thing Terry could do with them after she has thoroughly read them is pass them on as is to her next generation at the appropriate time

My wife, Janet, who was raised in Ogden Utah about the same time as Terry, instantly knew what the blank journals meant. It was an expectation of Mormon women at that time to keep a personal journal of their life experiences and especially their thoughts and feelings. They were to make the actual journals as attractive as possible, in keeping with the importance of them. However, the contents of these journals were expected to keep within the strict church's dogma, and they were not allowed to contain "heretical" writings. Thus, the reason for the blank journals. Obviously Terry's mother was not/did not feel free to write what was really on her mind and heart as they were outside the teachings of the church. She must have been a rather radical and free thinker for her days in the church.

this makes perfect sense from a utah mormon perspective, i totally agree

Words are not the only means through which to have a voice. Visually Terry's mother's voice created what an be seen, if the books are laid out in a rectangle as a beautiful quilt, or as a visually interesting line, stack, or pattern if teh books are set on a shelf or, as a wonderful sculpture if teh books are piled anywhich way one on top of the otehr, like a child's building blocks. However one imagines this it can be a never ending constantly changing work of art. And, if Terry chooses to fill the pages with words or drawings what a wondeful collaboration with her mother.

Without having read any other comment, just want to speculate that perhaps her mother was using those journals as receptacles of her love and her emotional life experience. Although we may not be capable of expressing it, the emotional life of each of us is as profound in its own way as the lives of those who do find their voice. Can picture her mother holding those journals, meditating, feeling, and willing those feelings to somehow be transmitted through the mere contemplation of those white pages -- as Terry says, bearing witness to having been here. For when this planet has one day vanished, her light, her vital spark, will be renewed, just as Terry's will, just as we all will be. Language, in the end, despite its majesties, is not capable of attaining immortality. The most moving poetry ever written will suffer the same fate. The important thing is having deeply experienced life. So she was encouraging Terry to continue to use her voice, to bear witness for her and for us all.

I see the carefully chosen varied blank journals of Terry's mother as her mother's way of handing her daughter the baton. It is her legacy, her inheritance, her imperative to give voice to her mother and all of those (so many) who cannot speak.

I think of my grandmother who was one of the first women to get a masters in bio-chemistry (but who did not practice her discipline) whose presence in our lives was mostly critical, negative, and full of judgment (we were the children of her shamefully divorced son)

I wrote letters to her briefly when I was young. Her letters back to me were so mysteriously full of joy, affirmation, and
Interest.... (If only she had kept a journal!)

When we speak, we speak for not only ourselves...but also for others who for some reason cannot

We can speculate as to intention, or motive but we will really never know the truth. The real question is "What are we (you) going to do going forward?". The musical note is defined by the silence between. Words have meaning but silence is equally meaningfilled. Her mother's silence speaks loudly about what was, is, and could be. To give a value-filled voice to the silence her mother wrote is the challenge. To ignore that challenge is to be silent, but with volition those words could move the world. Courageously, move forward, Terry, with your mother's words.

I'd tend to hope that she would have left her the journals for the literal and practical reason that she simply wanted her daughter to use them, write in them. Why else would she have bought them over the years if not to use them? Maybe it was a regret for her that she didn't, and maybe she wanted her daughter to make up for it somehow. Parents so often do want their children to do what they themselves always wanted to do but couldn't. Then again, has she checked for invisible ink?

this story glimmers, in the way a small candle does in a darkened room at night, of that penumbral moment of recognition, just before or after some one loved dies, when one yearns for what should have been said, one to the other.

I am inclined to think it was a gift of love, not something unfinished or left undone. that will be for whatever way Terry chooses to take it, of course. for myself, I can picture her mother saying "here, Terry, these are yours now. do with them what you wish, and remember I love you."

I was amazed to hear this ending. I was poised for some 'answers'...even hoping that her mother's writing might shed light on my own Mother's thoughts and experiences. I caught my breath, waiting, even thinking "what if my mother had left a trail, a place for me to visit her now?" Like Terry, I was in bed with my Mother, sharing her last moments.

O.K. What if it is the simplest answer: a gift for Terry to write in these blank books? To say all that she possibly may, that her mother could or did not?

I'm grateful to Diane Dixon Tempest and for her need in her final hours to give these to her daughter. Yes, they were blank. But are they really?

I stopped in my tracks when I heard Terry recite this story, and held my breath, waiting to hear the finish. My own mother, a wonderful writer but deeply depressed, filled many journals. She eventually lost her sight and couldn't write anymore, and I moved her to assisted living. Cleaning out her apartment I found her journals –– with almost all the pages torn out. It filled me with an indescribable grief. When I summoned the courage to ask my mom why she'd done it, she said, "I didn't want you to remember me that way." I thought of all the sadness, disappointment and loneliness she must've poured into those pages. But it didn't, if you can believe it, occur to me until listening to this that she hadn't simply thrown out the journals -- they held some truth about her life, and by extension ours, she wanted us to know.

Sometimes the thing or things that we want most in life, insights into our parents and family, wisdom and visits from beyond the grave, are not tangible. I, too, had all the letters my mother had carefully saved that my father wrote her while overseas while he served in WW II. I also waited for the right time to read them. It seemed somehow an invasion into the intimacy of my parent's lives, but months after my father's death (my mother had been gone for years) I began to read them in chronological order. I haven't finished them and I may never finish them.

Not because of some awful truth or overwhelming sadness, but because of the temporal nature of those words. As Linder Asher so wisely stated, "Language isn't enough!" I would give this advice to others and maybe even my own family about words that linger around the harddrives and blogsphere after we pass...THIS THINGS WERE SAID IN THE CONTEXT OF THE MOMENT! When I read my father's thoughts on the petty indignities of his deployment, I was reading something that passed between them. As he talked of the lack of privacy, colds, and poor food, I realized that I have no context to relate to them. I wanted amazing insights on war, courage and life, but I got compliants about spam and bedding. I have since wondered if I should have even read them as they gave me only a glimpse of the unhappiness and loneliness of my father in a troubled world and time. I longed for some time to be able to read my mother's letters, but I know now that they might disappoint, as well.

My father's letters didn't capture his dry wit, his love of magic and the supernatural, or his intellect. Words do fail us, as Terry and Krista both note. Like in the making of the mosaic, it is the areas between us that make the differences. It is not what my father said or even the intend of his words in letters or words spoken to me in the anger and fear of his illness and aging, but it is the action that I take with his legacy. Do I ponder on the hurt and disappointment of my relationship or my father's relationship with my mother or do I take the lessons from our relationships and the lessons from his with my mom and use them to make my life and my children's better in some way?

What I have learned and regret is that I should have spent more time talking and listening to my parents and their stories. I can recall only a few such precious visits with my mother as the person she was melted into a person with dementia who lost her words. My father and I had a contentious relationship that grew harder as time went on. I treasure the pleasant moments between us now. We have our memories and photos and puny words to recall those who have died, but it is up to us to elaborate on their accomplishments and importance. I only have the traces and edges of their lives and words, like the outline of a fallen sparrow trying to fly through to the other side on my window. It is far too little, but it is there.

1. an artistic expression requiring a lifetime for the mother to tell the daughter, "We can see that language is not enough...."
2. a presentation of zen nothingness, a shocking assist from a master
3. the finger that points is not the moon
4. the word "love" is a metaphor for every act in every moment
5.knowing her student, the mother needed to be this present
6.her mother searched a lifetime for the gate to show her daughter and oneness, often the easy one,wasn't
An awesome story.

As a mother, I've wondered what I can leave behind for my children, to inspire and give them hope. Having lost a parent at an early age, I've experienced moments of wisdom and comfort when I remember how my father had confidence in my abilities. Terry's mother gave her an enormous gift in the form of a koan - along with the individual hand-picked journals, she prompted her to wonder, look for insight, and use her talents.

I am writing because it is so easy for me to empathize.
Not with Terry, but perhaps,-- perhaps, --with her Mother.
I lived with years, decades really, of blank journals or ones with only a few brave, though mostly vacant, cryptic lines.
Then came the day--the many growing days---thanks to living mentors who showed the way and would not relent--professors in a Master of Writing program...when I dove in, fear and ALL and found my voice, in all of its multi-facets.
I continue to meet the blank page in awe but not so much fear, every day.
Thank you for perusing this question online, though none of us (of course) cannot know...why?
Perhaps Terry's mother's legacy is still so alive in all of us that we will persevere in our own ways, to reach for answers in our own writing.

She lived in hope that she could find her voice, but whenever she tried she just couldn't do it. I think she kept buying the journals in an effort to start fresh. "This time I'm really going to write in this journal." But putting things on paper gives them power and that's scary.

I'm intrigued that she kept them all. That would be a constant reminder of failure to me.

I listened to the On Being segment on Ms. Williams, and I must say my dominant impression was that the woman is a fraud. I'm sympathetic to many of her causes, but several of the things she said reallly jangled. The idea that nuclear testing in southern Nevada was "nuking Utah" is a stretch, and the idea that her family in far northern Utah could have been seriously affected is absurd. For a woman who supposedly lives in the outback not to know what a deer stand is makes no sense. As for her mother's journals, I don't see much mystery. She bought them to write in, never got around to it, knew her daughter was a writer, and thought she could use them. She had no "voice" to speak of; most of us don't. Ms. Williams appears to have built a successful career on hyperbole and speculation, an old American tradition

I found this intriguing. Thank you for allowing me to put my two sense in to this conversation.

I have noticed that children often become what is desired but unfulfilled in the parent. On both ends this has been true for me. So, I suspect that her mother bought journals, having a longing for writing but not the wherewithal that Terry has. She realizes late in life that she will never fill the beautiful books......but knows that is the what she is passing on to Terry...the blankness of a page to write on., I love it.

Part Two!

I think she gave them to Terry to show her that she couldn't even be open with herself, so Terry should understand why she couldn't be open with her. I also think she wanted to Terry to open them after she was gone because she didn't have an answer to why she kept them. She wanted to give Terry a clue to her personality, but she didn't want to talk about it.

Terry, I think your mother left the blank journals for you to fill in. They represent what will be written, and she knew you would be the one to make something of them. Such love and confidence in a daughter. How lucky could you be? I found Refuge, btw, in a used bookstore. I read a few pages and couldn't believe I hadn't heard of it before. I bought the book and devoured it in a matter of days. I often wonder about the person who read it before me. She signed her name in pencil on the cover page. I feel connected now to her even though I have no idea who she is or where she is. I guess she's "my pelican too." People travel through our lives like birds do. It is good to know their names.

A very prolifically wise Mother... In life, those who feel we 'know' the answers on 'living life' continuously find, there is 'one more thing' we wish we had said, advice given, love shared, moment lingered...as we watch loved ones lives unfold...and so, this mother, knowing 'life' ...left behind the best 'discovery' about living life...'none.'. Her apparent feeling ..her living of life had been an open book....that Life as we live it is a blank page, bestt left to the 'wonderment'...'discovery' each moment brings, intermingled with the 'whims' as you will of our universe.

I think her mother had at one time planned to write in those journals, however she got busy with life and may have simply valued the experience of everyday living (being present) more than writing about it. I think by telling Terry she was giving her her journals, she was saying write your own story, but as you write in my journals you will feel my presence.

Terry's mother was of the generation that created through handwork and who had grown up in the Mormon disciplines inculcating that women were to be "protected" by men and who also were of the notion that women were a source of joy to men. However, her mother saw that Terry was "different" and she undoubtedly saw the possibilities of the creative spirit in her daughter were not solely "domestic" and therefore "created" the beautiful handcrafted covers for Terry's creative efforts - journaling thoughts that her mother feared to recognize. PLF

I believe her mother left those empty journals as a legacy......a legacy of purpose. I believe her mother bequethed her the purpose of journaling. She wanted her to begin to write her life.

Assuming that the journals were not written in invisible ink or that her father had destroyed any journals that had been written in or they were not kept blank as a protest against the edict to not write heresy by the Mormon elders (as previous commentators have suggested) , perhaps the beautifully bound journals themselves made by her own hand were the thing that TTW's mother was privately proud of and gave her joy and wanted her daughter to celebrate her handicraft, her personal accomplishment.

Question: has TTW discussed this with her father or other family members? What is their insight?

Yes, Terry, as you thought. She knew that you had found your voice. She did not, and she wanted to tell you how precious it is to have a voice. She wanted to show you that she believed in having a voice and struggled but did not find it for herself. She never gave up. And she knew that you have found yours naturally.
We all know somewhere, very close to the place where reality touches unreality, that there is something that we want to say. In order to say it we have to open up to that state and invite it in to where we have words, and we try our best to be true to this pre-thought knowledge. And if we have the voice, then the meaning that wants to be conveyed comes through everything, the words, the spaces between them, the music that they create and the scent, almost imperceptible, of that state from which the knowledge came. It is a gift to be connected to this because it is the place from which the love of everything comes.
By giving you the diaries she sounded her voice at last, without the words, but everything else that is in a voice was there.

I enjoyed hearing this interview, thank you. The blank journals are a deeply political act equivalent to putting tape over one's mouth at demonstrations. She was screaming her discontent with her state of being. The personal is always political.

Last night, after winning a team tennis match I wasn't "supposed" to win and with a few celebretory beers under my belt, I invited a friend to a glass of wine on my deck.

A little history of this friendship: four years ago this "friend" excluded me from an annual event that we had traditionally attended together. I discovered the exclusion in a round-about way and was deeply hurt on many levels. But the most hurtful was the mystery of the "why?" Several weeks later, I countered with a rejection of her - to an invitation for a hike. Our imperfect friendship ended abruptly - with no words, harsh or otherwise. The split haunted me for a long time.

More to the point of the question, the friendship had long been tempered by a vast political divide - so we were practiced at avoiding issues and our union was often labored - so on some levels the split was a relief. But there was also a level of trust between us that said "as long as it's not political, we can say anything and it won't be repeated." This element registered as my greatest loss.

Last night - with the luxury of time and diminishing memory - we enjoyed several glasses of wine together. At one point, my psyche said "this would be a good time to ask 'why?'" And I didn't.

I still don't know "why" because I was afraid of the consequence of asking. Perhaps Terry's mother was afraid of the consequence of telling. What is to be gained? What is to be lost? The void - or chasm - between those questions fills her mother's journals. And the void of not knowing "why" still haunts me.

I too felt her longing for a clear answer as to why they were left empty. But overall and mostly, I admire her very quiet, calm graciousness in addressing things that leave most of us full of angst and pained conflict. She has become one for me to emulate in my own life and the way I need to accept this world of immediate differences.

I enjoyed hearing this interview, thank you. The blank journals are a deeply political act equivalent to putting tape over one's mouth at demonstrations. She was screaming her discontent with her state of being. The personal is always political.

Perhaps her mom was telling her that her own story is the one her daughter has yet to write. Perhaps, she felt her life story is found in her daughter's life, body, soul, wrods, being. Her life was centered on her daughter and is now hers to write.

It was a gift. Her mother had not been able to find her own voice yet knew the profound importance of it and wanted to leave her daughter the literal and figurative space to find hers. It was brave and beautiful and generous. Thank you for sharing that story. It made me dust off my own "journal" and dig deeper into finding my voice; those inner churning whispering tentacles that guide and color our lives.

I think her mother knew she had something to say but was not "given permission" by those in her life. She knew that it was not only okay but necessary for her to write and share her knowledge, observations, wisdom but did not. She knew because she was making a place for her words, but for whatever reason was not willing or able to put pen to paper.

Her generation, the culture in which she lived may have contributed to her feelings that writing or reflecting was not valued. I feel she did not want Terri to see that she had empty volumes because it would make her sad as it did me. She knew Terri would have tried to help her begin to fill the books but at the end of life the task would be too great.

Terry Tempest Williams

Beloved Terry,

Your interview with Krista Tippett impressed me deeply. You have done well in living your life.

In response to the meaning contained in your mothers ‘empty’ journals, this came through my heart for you.

Those who know
Realize words
cannot contain
it’s wisdom.

In the East
the True Sage
takes sanctity
in Silence.

Your mom was surely a True Sage.

And I feel she recognized in you the potential to be able to understand the truth they contain and give them voice. Perhaps if you hold a journal open on your lap when in meditation something of significance will reveal itself.

Last night I listened to a discourse on this subject. You may also find it significant.

I hope someday we can meet.

Love, Devananda

I would have to know more about her relationship with her mother.
On one hand, she could have left the blank books as a statement, that her mother's life was her own (she said she was private) and that statement was that they were to stay private. Or that she was to make up her own ideas about her mom.
If her mom was cruel, and she knew that her daughter was longing to know her better, then the blank journals were just a big fuck you to her. We'll never know.

Three thoughts: her mother intended to keep a journal and felt her words were not important
Her words were too difficult to write down then later found
She everything she had to say, while alive. a lesson for us all.

Terry's mother was a private person and remained private in her own way. Coming from my perspective there seems to be a flavor of Buddhism in empty pages. And her daughter took on the voice her mother didn"t materialize on paper. Is it that our children sometimes realize their parents dreams?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...

Terry Tempest Williams

Beloved Terry,

Your interview with Krista Tippett impressed me deeply. You have done well in living your life.

In response to the meaning contained in your mothers ‘empty’ journals, this came through my heart for you.

Those who know
Realize words
cannot contain
it’s wisdom.

In the East
the True Sage
takes sanctity
in Silence.

Your mom was surely a True Sage.

And I feel she recognized in you the potential to be able to understand the truth they contain and give them voice. Perhaps if you hold a journal open on your lap when in meditation something of significance will reveal itself.

Last night I listened to a discourse on this subject. You may also find it significant.
The Search, Vol 1

I hope someday we can meet.

Love, Devananda

We tend to equate eloquence with words -- the choice of the right words -- but silence can be just as eloquent, depending on the context. Terry's mother's life sounds like so many "unrecorded" lives that are no less rich for having been left unrecorded. Words can reflect and express, and they can also lie. Think of all the writers whose personal conduct is said to have fallen short of the humanism they expressed on the page. To me, finding one's voice is also about finding the voice to tell a story you feel compelled to tell, that won't stop haunting you until it's shared. Those blank journals could be full of stories Terry's mother didn't feel compelled to tell. Sometimes that's all that separates writers from everyone else.

I think her mother made the Journals for her daughter to write in. Did her mother know her daughter was interested in writing?

I have a brother who is a wonderful writer, athough he has only written a few poems on paper. Yet he writes all the time, (in his head) and he will share his stories with me if pressed to do so. I, too, could imagine that once he is gone, his computer files will be empty. Maybe some things are not meant to make it to paper. Maybe the creation is within our soul, and words are merely superfluous.

I think her mother meant for Terry to write in the journals that she made for her daughter. Did her mother know that Terry was interested in writing?

I don't know why her mother didn't have a voice but I think by telling her daughter that she was leaving her those journals which turned out to be empty she was saying to Terry- write it all down.

Ether she felt her life could not be captured in words or she knew her daughter had the words and abilities to fill in the blank pages!!!

I believe it is the passing ofa journey. Explaining those places that connect the parent to the child. A continuation of 'one' into other.

As I listened to your program earlier today on WABE-FM in Atlanta, I literally felt an ache in my stomach upon hearing of Terry's discovering that her mother's journals were blank. I lost my mother when I was 15 and as I was listening to the story, I thought "what a gift that Terry could get to know her mother so intimately after her passing." I would have given anything to have my mother's written words to learn about her and about myself over these last 34 years since she passed. Upon realizing that Terry didn't have her words, a multitude of emotions washed over me. I was so angry at her mother for intimating this promise of her words, only to leave her no written words. Then I began to wonder if the lesson from her mother was to empower her daughter to fill those journals with her own words?

Empty space "screams" for own filling...

Might leaving a diary with blank pages for your children when passing away not be the most inspiring diary that can be passed on?

I am sure, I would be initially very surprised and likely disappointed when finding empty pages. But I assume I would feel so “touched” that it would motivate me massively to think - the open space "screams" for being filled...

Could her mother ever have written entries into her diary that could be as powerful and (valuable to her) as Ms. Williams own imagination and ideas? In a way, the empty pages can be seen as a motivation to fill the pages herself, with her own experiences, to paint her own picture of the world.
A positive side of losing my father at the age of three was that I got to imagine my father exactly the way I wanted him to be since the passed away. In that sense, I had/have a dream father as in my imagination he became my ideal – that I (unknowingly) set up for myself.
In the same way, Ms. Williams can fill the pages exactly the way she wants. The diary can be exactly how she want's it to be. Can her mother say anything more valuable then to live her own life and go out and discover the world for herself?
At least from this perspective I find that her mother did her the biggest favor she could have for Ms. Williams own life and her own development. She told her to move on, live on, Iive her own life. It is a very modest way of putting the interests of her children above her own.
How much has this experience inspired her thinking, her intellectual curiosity about life? Could any words on these pages have enlightened her fire of curiosity for life more?

OK, this is a real stretch but I'll throw this theory out there.

Terry's mother is either an atheist or she lost her faith over the years. Christians (eg. Mormons, Catholics etc.) believe in life after death. Perhaps her late mother sensed that death is finality, nothing to follow. Terry's anticipation of learning her mother's hidden thoughts turned into disappointment, bewilderment when the journals were empty. Faith has been shattered!

Perhaps Terry's mom was leaving her beautiful, articulate daughter an invitation to write her own journals. Having a daughter myself whose sensitivities constantly amaze me and open my heart and mind to understandings I did not previously recognize I knew, I see great wisdom in this gift. There may be some useful ideas or understandings I can yet impart to my daughter, but honestly: I would not want to think of my daughter spending much time reviewing my experience of my life---Her purpose in this world is her own life, her own learnings---not mine. Terry's mom clearly gave her daughter all the understanding she had of what it means to live and to love. The blank pages are perhaps an expression of Terry's mother's faith that the most valuable thing Terry can do is write her own life and pass on her own love.

Perhaps Terry's mom was leaving her beautiful, articulate daughter an invitation to write her own journals. Having a daughter myself whose sensitivities constantly amaze me and open my heart and mind to understandings I did not previously recognize I knew, I see great wisdom in this gift. There may be some useful ideas or understandings I can yet impart to my daughter, but honestly: I would not want to think of my daughter spending much time reviewing my experience of my life---Her purpose in this world is her own life, her own learnings---not mine. Terry's mom clearly gave her daughter all the understanding she had of what it means to live and to love. The blank pages are perhaps an expression of Terry's mother's faith that the most valuable thing Terry can do is write her own life and pass on her own love.

I haven't yet read the other interpretations about Terry's mother's blank journals. While listening to the story just moments ago, I experienced one of those rare "ah ha!" moment. The opportunity to share in your conversation that brought me to mindfulness and deeply touched my heart as well as my mind, is wonderful. Thank you for it!

I will add that I missed the first 15 minutes of the conversation, but I'm going with this gut knowing. The reason for my "knowing" is because upon her imminent death, Terry's mother meant to teach Terry a profound lesson. The journals were empty because the past is over. We have our store of memories that we carry within. Terry's mother will always be with Terry in Terry's "now." Someone said, "all that's left is love,"--can't recall who, but that was the lesson. Life is to be lived and we can only live it in the present. I've gone on too long, and I haven't adequately worded my "knowing" because it is too newborn.
I now look forward to reading all the previous posts. Again, thank you!

I reviewed Terry's gorgeous memoir for the Boston Globe. Hee's my review. I think Terry said it best when she described those unfilled pages of her mother's journals as "blank tombstones."

Trent Gilliss's picture

Thanks for sharing this link, Judy. Was it supposed to be "paper tombstones."

Here are some notebooks for you to fill in your own thoughts, not to look for someone else's compilation

Once she found the perfect book with the perfect paper, she would write. (I'm curious if she also had a collection of pens) She had so much to say, she didn't know where to begin. She was uncertain of own voice...So much so she couldn't use words to tell her daughter. She tried and tried and tried to tell that most horrible thing that she experienced. She wished she had led an entirely different life than the one she chose. Whatever her reason for the blank journals isn't so much the point as the gifting of them to her daughter. The sadness in Terry Tempest Williams' voice says it all. And her mother spoke of it...in volumes.

Having spent many years in the art/academic world, I immediately thought that because Terry is such a typical example of the many self-absorbed and superficially charismatic hustlers who inhabit that environment, her mother, who may well have been literally sick to death of her, wanted to have the last laugh. Telling Terry that she had secret journals was a clear suggestion that the contents could be mined for future books, lectures, and interviews, thus benefitting her daughter's career, but then it turned out there was nothing. Silence can be eloquent.

Trent Gilliss's picture

This seems to be a particularly harsh assessment, non?

I found this so sad. The anticipation of opening the journals that day to finally get to know her "private" mother better, then finding the first one blank, then the second. My first thoughts were invisible ink, which I'm sure Terry has already checked for, and then the implication that something very bad had happened to her mother which her mother had been unable to talk/write about (which in retrospect is probably far-fetched). I don't really see the journals as a gift to Terry to write in. Why would the mother be so secretive about that and why would she give Terry the impression they were "her" (the mother's journals), which means one thing to most people (journals filled with the author's words). I hope one day Terry can understand this act. Thanks for sharing it with us.

I'm thinking it was a joke, a good-natured, loving mother-to-daughter joke, but more: it was saying what couldn't be said with words. She had said it with her life. It's like what the New Yorker editor-friend said about the limitations of words. Mormon-Zen.

I think her mom may have been as busy as the rest of us and although she meant well in attempting to write in a journal, she just didn't have time. In leaving them verbally and physically to Terry, I think she knew that Terry would find a way to convey what was taught to her by and through her mother to tell us and give her a place on which to put the voice from within. I am looking forward to hearing Terry's voice and what she has to say. I certainly enjoyed what I heard this week on your show! Thank you for sharing her thoughts with all of us.

She might have meant that she didn't have a voice. I think, more likely, It's useless to speak out; no one listens or people hear only their own voices or interpretations/thoughts.

They are like pop-up books. Something is arising from each page...

I was also quite astounded by Terry's story of her mother's legacy of three shelves of cloth patterned journals, all blank. Terry did not say but I imagined the journal covers were hand made, the patterns and fabrics carefully chosen and sewn. Perhaps, even the journals were made by hand. I imagined Terry's mother as an artist, creating a book in the way that she could and that her artistic voice was present in every journal cover she created. As for the blank pages, it would seem that her legacy of colorful cloth blank journals might be vessels to hold the varying rich patterns of her daughter's creative voice. Thank you, Terry, for this moving story.

Maybe the blank journals are a testament of holding: holding handmade journals without giving away as gifts,holding any words that she might have written, holding the collection until after she dies and holding their meaning from her daughter. Was this act so mysterious because it did not fit with a life of giving?

I don't know, but I know it made me feel sad. Say what you need to say to people----don't ask them to guess. It seems to be a thoughtless act before making The Great Escape........"Please read my journals.........ha! They are empty." I'm glad she wasn't my mom. It's difficult enough when people die to move on from the loss.

An un-cracked journal is physical manifestation of endless possibility. The purchase of which is the joy of embracing the essence of the blank page. Maybe this delight was all she desired. The words would only limit her perfect set of books. Words would have the focus change from infinite magic, to the endless derivations of the question “why”. One is a pathway to the infinite, the second a trap for the soul.
Why tell Terry. Surprise. I read her work for the surprises she hides on each page. I love the way she can turn a shard of glass, cold, or a breath into a touchstone to a facet of my heart that I had never paid any attention. Her mom gifted us all by presenting Terry a mystery that she knew Terry would examine. Unearthing a treasure only Terry has the skill to find. Mom wanted one more surprise, with her, just her, in the middle.

i was moved deeply by this show and especially the story of the journals. i am a singer and voice teacher, understanding the voice from its most obvious forms to its most profound - literally finding 'the self' and being able to communicate from that place - is my life's work. for me the story of her mother's blank journals (knowing that i know nothing of her mother's life, so this is conjecture at best, and perhaps projection) is about a generation of women and mothers who sacrificed so much in so many ways - and indeed sacrificed their very selves for motherhood and being a wife. moving beyond what is hard to say into what is impossible to say, i see the making of the journals as her mother's profound movement toward birthing her voice and the 'blankness' of the pages speaking loudly to a paralysis beyond measure. i see her effort to bestow these journals to Terry as a blessing and generosity toward Terry's own writings and birthing of her own voice and self into the world. we stand on the shoulders of many who have come before us, but perhaps this is most true of our mothers. finally, i see the mother's gift as an address of the fierce privacy she held, in the end she didn't share with Terry and other what was in her deepest self, not because of withholding but because of her own struggle to find the words. in a way, i see the journals as an apology and explanation for this (in addition to Blessing Terry's works).

How can I hear the whole interview? I did many searches for the book name, for Terry Tempest Williams name and cannot find it. At the end of this video clip you have here, "This bit of audio from our Terry Tempest Williams interview..." Krista Tippet says we can hear the full interview at "On Being" but we cannot. Is it available somewhere still?

Thank you,