The other day, I decided I wanted to read again Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams.  I have read most of her books, but after reading her latest When Women Were Birds, I felt I wanted to go back to another one of her books.  So I had Refuge in my pile next to the bed for a while.

The day I open the book, the copy we own, made me think.  In the title page I’d forgotten it was signed and dedicated by Terry Tempest Williams, twelve years ago.  This same month, September, but of the year 2001.  I remember that month back then, was full.  Full of emotions.

It had been 9-11.  Also, was the month my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I had started to read Refuge back then, because Terry Tempest Williams was coming to Portland, to read at Powell’s Books.  I had seen her before, and wanted to see her again.  With no kids back then, I remember going to the bookstore with Mark, and sitting, enjoying the evening, by ourselves.  Taking it all in, enjoying the reading, her conversations, her words.  I remember it was beautiful.

Terry Tempest Williams. Photo from here.
Terry Tempest Williams. Photo from here.

I sat down to hear Terry Tempest Williams that evening, to read from her latest book, Red.  She’s calm, profound, intense, sincere, amazing.  I listened to the comments, questions, and her answers.  I enjoyed her reading.

I had taken my Refuge copy and ask her to sign it.  She writes a dedication in the title page, as I try to understand what my mom is going through with her cancer.  Knowing what Terry Tempest Williams had gone through with her own mother.  She writes: Blessings. Support. Sisterhood.   28 Sept 01.

Just few weeks ago, I am surprised I picked up this book again.  Without knowing, the same month, more than a decade later, almost as a celebration of my mom’s cancer’s remission.  This time, I’m reading it with a different view of my world.  I want to read it differently.  I’m sure I will, as I’ve grown up in these past dozen years.  I’ve become a mom since I last picked this book.  Since I last heard Terry Tempest Williams read.

As I’m starting Refuge,  she dedicates the book to her own mother.  Then, the first page reads a poem by Mary Oliver. Wild Geese. Another beautiful surprise I’ve had since I last read this book.  I’ve read and deeply enjoyed Mary Oliver’s work, immensely since that first time I picked the book.

Now, here I was, on my side of the bed, late at night, with this book in my hand, opened.  As if I had just opened a box of memories.  This is as far as I got that night.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver

As I read Refuge again, it feels all new, again.  I am in a different time, almost seems it is a different life, and in many ways it is.  I’m looking forward to the reading.


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