It is a book loaded with gracefully told and skillfully meshed stories; stories of history, of natural beauty, of family remembrances and of social criticism.
Williams, a renown naturalist and environmental activist, explained in a phone interview the reasons for some of them. Canyonlands National Park is near Williams’ home in Castle Valley, Utah.
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is, as the author writes, her “Mother Park … my first encounter of drinking deeply from Hidden Falls with my mother and grandmother, our faces wet with mist.”
Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi allows Williams to discuss the devastating coastal damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gettysburg National Military Park affords Williams the opportunity to talk about slavery, which she finds is a side issue for guides at the battlefield.
Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a reason to discuss incarceration.
Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa gives Williams a chance to focus on the government’s broken treaties with Indians.
The book’s last chapter is on César E. Chávez National Monument in California. Because the monument represents America’s cultural history, it shows an evolving National Park Service, Williams said, and its dedication by President Barack Obama was about “one community organizer honoring another community organizer.”
The same chapter also deals with “the future.” For Williams, clearly, the future is now. “The time has come for acts of reverence and restraint on behalf of the Earth,” she writes. “We have arrived at the Hour of Land.”
In the coming academic year, Williams will be writer-in-residence at Harvard Divinity School.
In the fall semester, she said, she will be “thinking, writing, reading, absorbing what’s there. I’ve never had that time intellectually. In the spring, I’ll have a better idea of creating a curriculum together with students. I’m thinking what are the spiritual implications of climate change and how might we approach climate change as a spiritual issue, not just as political or ecological issues. How to bring this component into the conversation.”
At Harvard, Williams won’t be far from Concord, Mass., where Henry David Thoreau was born 200 years ago this month. He wrote “Walden,” a famous memoir about living the simple life in the woods near Walden Pond. “I want to revisit the Transcendentalists and how they pertain to us (today),” she said.
Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were leading Transcendentalists, who placed spirituality and nature over materialism.
Williams, winner of a Lannan Literary Award, is the author of 15 books, including “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and PIace.”
Terry Tempest Williams talks, fields questions from the audience and signs copies of the newly released paperback edition of “The Hour of Land” at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 22 in the gym at The Bosque School, 4000 Learning Road NW. The event is free and open to the public.