Although it was nice to read another perspective of life in the redrocks of Utah, I must say I did not enjoy “Red” as much as I did “Desert Solitaire.” Terry Tempest Williams’ writing style just did not settle with me. I thought the way she described the desert was a little too flowery and poetic. I definitely preferred Edward Abbey’s approach of being direct and honest. I also thought that Williams’ views of nature were a bit too spiritual for me. Every piece of the desert seemed to have some hidden meaning or was symbolic of something in her life. This is not the way that I view the natural world. I just like to appreciate nature for what it really is.
Seeing as Terry Tempest Williams seemed a little bit out there in her writing, I decided to look a little into her background. I found out that she was Mormon (which was hinted in the book but I still wasn’t sure). I definitely do not know much about Mormonism, but from what I have briefly read, this faith would explain her deep spiritual connection with nature. Knowing this definitely made me a bit more understanding when it comes to her intense spiritual writing.
I did, however, enjoy some of her short stories and ideas. For example, I really enjoyed the story of the old archaeologist who would write poems down on a piece of paper and then singe them to make them look old and bury them throughout the desert for others to find. I just found this kind of touching, the image of an old man trying to spread his words to the next generation of people.
I also really enjoyed reading her perspective on the word erotic. In today’s culture it has taken on so many intense sexual meanings, when really these are not so accurate. The root of the word, as described by Williams, is “of or pertaining to the passion on love” (pg. 16). This definition has given me a whole other outlook on the word, for I do understand how one can have an erotic connection with nature. I may not take it as far as Terry Tempest Williams does, but I do have some sort of connection to the wild whenever I am out there.
I also really, really enjoyed Williiams’ message to the public to just slow down a little bit and start to appreciate life. So many people in today’s society race through life to meet deadlines, make appointments, etc. I am a firm believer that a person who is constantly worrying about what they are going to do next is really missing out in life. A person should slow down and live their life in the moment, or they will end up missing out. In Williams’ chapter Ode to Slowness on pg. 141, she really spells out exatcly how I feel about just slowing down a little bit.
Overall, I agreed with some of Williams’ ideals and enjoyed her stories. However I did not really like the style of her writing as well as her spirituality. Her perspective of the desert is definitely different from Edward Abbey’s. It would be cool to see what Abbey would say about her book if he could read it today.
- How do you think Edward Abbey would critique Terry Tempest Williams’ view of the desert?
- What are some ways that you could slow down your life a little bit?
- Do you have a different perspective on the word ‘erotic’ after reading “Red”?