When Women Were Birds

From The Daily Beast:

BirdsMountain time: Terry Tempest Williams is at home in Utah, and I’m in Los Angeles, flabbergasted by her warmth, even over the phone, by her graciousness, intuition, and intimacy. She is comfortable with distance and interruption; with poor phone connections and tesserated thoughts. Everything Williams has ever written, from her first book, The Secret Language of Snows, written for children in 1984, to her latest, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice, finds its roots in the precariousness and uncertainty of life and grows from there, skyward. It has taken her 35 years to begin to understand and write about what this meant to her. “Honestly, I buried this story,” she says, the wind whistling through the phone; helicopters overhead in L.A. “I did not save or cherish those journals. I wrote in them unceremoniously. It wasn’t until I turned 54, the age she was when she died, that I realized how terrified I had been of my own blank mind.”

Williams has loyal readers. Her lectures and readings—held in far corners and small towns as well as distinguished, big-city venues—are always packed. Why? Because she’s the kind of writer who makes a reader feel that his voice might also, one day, be heard. Why? Because she cancels out isolation: connections are woven as you sit in your chair reading—between you and the place you live, between you and other readers, you and the writer. Without knowing how it happened, your sense of home is deepened reading her work, dug out, the soil pressed down around you as if you were a plant the author promised to water. It’s the strangest thing. Williams was born into a large Mormon clan in northern Utah. Mormon women are expected, she explains, to keep journals and bear children. The author is fond of saying that the only things she has done religiously in her life are keep a journal and use birth control. When Williams’s mother died at 54, she left Terry, then 22, shelves and shelves of brightly bound journals.

Williams opened them. They were blank.

More here.