Krista's Journal: This Moment of Dynamic, Unfolding Human Change

July 19, 2012

This week's guest, Terry Tempest Williams, is very different kind of voice to add to the list of people we interviewed for our Civil Conversations series: Frances Kissling, Richard Mouw, Elizabeth Alexander, and others.

First of all, she is absolutely formed by the place she inhabits — Utah, the interior American West. And one of the gifts of this interview is how she opens up the contours of geographic difference that we sometimes forget among all of our other differences as a nation, as a people.

This conversation is full of lovely and useful images — from the natural world, from unlikely civic collaborations, and from Terry Tempest Williams' own family, which is a kind of microcosm of American divides. Just as Elizabeth Alexander offered up words and questions from the medium of poetry, for example, Terry Tempest Williams opens up her own mediums of language and idea. Her book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, traces human fragmentation and its antidotes from her experiences in a village in Rwanda to her observations of prairie dogs in the American desert, to a pilgrimage she took to the Italian city of Ravenna to learn the ancient art of mosaic.

Mosaic, she observes, is "a conversation between what is broken." I find this a helpful, and more immediately realizable, aspiration than "healing" for our national and international lives in this moment of dynamic unfolding human change.

Recommended Reading

Image of Finding Beauty in a Broken World
Author: Terry Tempest Williams
Publisher: Pantheon (2008)
Binding: Hardcover, 432 pages

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is the Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. Her books include Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, and The Open Space of Democracy.