The Healing Power of Words: Terry Tempest Williams


“Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out,” these are very powerful words and they belong to Terry Tempest Williams. Williams is an award-winning author, naturalist, conservationist, and to me personally, a profound influence on my life. She will be speaking at the SBC Conference: Peak Innovation, where she will likely have an influence on your life as well. 

COMM LK blog TerryTempestWilliams 2014I first read Terry Tempest Williams at a time in my life where I myself was feeling fragmented, questioning my role, my purpose. I was living in Chicago at the time, a city not exactly fitting for someone who enjoys wide-open spaces and meandering through the woods. Yet, there I was. Well, physically I was there, but really I had closed myself off to all that was happening around me. I saw things I wanted to change, but I felt stuck, hopeless to make any movement.

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I started reading Terry Tempest Williams’ “Finding Beauty in a Broken World,” and it helped me to do just that, find the beauty. In this book Williams explores the connection between what is happening on a human level to what is happening on an earthly level. The book begins in a workshop in Italy where she apprentices as a mosaic maker, making beautiful art from broken pieces, much as in life, where you need to find the beauty in the daily obstacles and difficulties that occur. This sets the tone for the book and makes the connection for the reader to start seeing the bigger picture. Williams then studies prairie dogs in Utah where studying even the most mundane details, she starts seeing characteristics unknown to her, characteristics unseen when we are moving too fast through life and not stopping to see the bigger picture. Then Williams travels to Rwanda where she helps to build a public art display for healing from the genocide, comparing the plight of the prairie dogs to that of the genocide. She makes the connection that no matter what is happening throughout the world, it can also be happening right in our backyards. We are not immune to anything; we are a part of nature, just as we are a part of each other. Williams reminded me that being removed from a place does not mean it is removed from our consciousness. So even though I was removed from my love of the great outdoors, I needed to find the beauty where I was.

We all have a role to play in this lifetime, whether we choose to recognize it or not, and Williams recognizes hers. She would not sit in a Chicago apartment, questioning what to do, feeling hopeless. She is out in the world being the hope. Terry Tempest Williams is not only a writer, but she is an activist and a voice for the voiceless. She asks every reader to look inward and to make the connections to what we experience on a daily basis to the bigger picture of how that affects a larger picture of the world. I was left to do just that, create beauty in the world I am in, and realize the importance of thinking local as an approach toward solving larger problems.

Terry Tempest Williams’ words have stayed with me since reading them those several years ago. While I still get stuck in a rut from time to time, I try to focus more on the beauty that surrounds me. I hope that you will pick up one of Terry Tempest Williams’ books or, better yet, attend Peak Innovation and start finding the beauty in a broken world.