Terry Tempest Williams

Terry Tempest Williams

Past Event: Tuesday, October 7, 2008

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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Literary Arts

Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts with support from North Cascades Institute.

A writer of careful grace and lyric language, of impassioned thought and thoughtful deed, Terry Tempest Williams toes the line between the page and the world. “Writing,” she says, “is saying the things we do not want to say.” In other words, it is saying the things we must. Sometimes it is also saying the things we want deeply to say; and sometimes it is circuitous, simply allowing us to figure out what it is we meant to be saying all along. Williams hits every note.

The author of six books, including her latest Finding Beauty in a Broken World, Williams has stuck consistently close to themes of community, conservation, faith, and art. The drive behind her work: a question. Her breakout book Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Placedefined her style, presenting the story of the cancer that afflicted her community and family alongside the Great Salt Lake’s flooding of migratory bird refuge wetlands. “In Refuge the question that was burning in me was, ‘How do we find refuge in change?’ With Pieces of White Shell, it was, ‘What stories do we tell that evoke a sense of place?’ And in A Desert Quartet the question that was burning inside me was a very private one: ‘How might we make love to the land?’”

These questions and her personal connection to them are often subjects in and of themselves, and Williams doesn’t shy away from exposing her process. She takes a lesson from Joan Didion’s playbook: “I had better tell you where I am, and why,” Didion wrote at the beginning of In the Islands. “I tell you this not as aimless revelation but because I want you to know, as you read me, precisely who I am and where I am and what is on my mind. I want you to understand exactly what you are getting…” As Williams describes birds as creatures that connect heaven and earth, so she crafts her sentences: darting between fact and emotion, self and community, between what is and what might be.

A bold adventuress, Williams is deeply connected to her home roots of Utah, her Mormon ancestry, and the natural world around her. She has traveled to Alaska and South America for articles on energy conservation and wildlife preservation; she spent years studying Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights at Madrid’s Prado Museum for her book Leap; and her recent travels in Rwanda were material for Finding Beauty. Still, she is quick to note the power of staying put. She espouses the practice of observation in all things, at all times; knowing the names and patterns of the things in our immediate vicinity—trees, birds, clouds, neighbors—the things that keep us connected to our communities.

“At the heart of all [Williams’] work—as a writer, a naturalist, and a crusader for protection of the nation’s wilderness…the common theme is restoration: restoring our connection to the land, to the sacred, and to each other,” the Utne Reader said of her. The recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lannan Literary Fellowship in creative nonfiction, she lives with her husband in Castle Valley, Utah, and Wilson, Wyoming.

Excerpt from Finding Beauty in a Broken World (2008)
The procession: They walk. They walk with the memory of the genocide. They walk in remembrance of those who died, their loved ones among them. We walk. We walk with them. It is a river of solemnity winding through the roads of Rwanda.

It is April 7, 2007, the thirteenth anniversary of when Hutu extremists turned simple machetes into sabers of war and filled stadiums with young men whipped into a frenzy, waving their farm tools, crying ‘cockroaches’ and ‘snakes.’ Machete Season. April. May. June. The people walk with their memories. Eyes straight ahead covering familiar ground.

We stop. A particular family is remembered. Here. This house. See the burnt foundation. Still. The names are read. A silence is held. We walk. We remember.

The procession of people gathers in size as men and women and children, the young and the old, enter into the respectful flow of feet walking together to mark the National Day of Mourning. We walk. We stop. We remember. The names are read. The soil is red. A silence is held. We walk and we walk and we walk together. This is storied ground.

Selected Work
Finding Beauty in a Broken World (2008)
The Open Space of Democracy (2004)
Red: Patience and Passion in the Desert (2001)
Leap (2000)
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (1991)
An Unspoken Hunger (1994)
Desert Quartet: An Erotic Landscape (1995)
Coyote’s Canyon (1989)
Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland (1984)

Children’s Books
Between Cattails (1985)
The Secret Language of Snow (1984)

The Politics of Place: Scott London interviews Terry Tempest Williams
Terrain.org: We Leave Our Doors Wide Open, an interview with Terry Tempest Williams
Video: The Open Space of Democracy
The Progressive: Terry Tempest Williams Interview
Work for The Progressive

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2019/20 Season. For digital streams of online events, all pre-recorded and live online events will have either open or closed captioning.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at boxoffice@lectures.org or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, you may select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

Gender neutral restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at boxoffice@lectures.org, or Monday-Friday from 10:00am – 5:00pm at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to lectures.org/accessibility. If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.