The Essence of Erosion and Evolution with Terry Tempest Williams

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Williams asks the central question for our world today, “How do we find the strength to not look away from all that is breaking our hearts?” She looks at the elements of erosion and evolution with regards to all that is shaping the physical landscape of our nation due to climate change as well as erosion we face in democracy, science, compassion, and trust. She confesses, “I will be honest, where I wonder if I can get up in the morning but in those moments, I’m aware of the limits of my own imagination. And imagination shared, creates collaboration, and collaboration builds community and in community I believe anything is possible, even a community of two. That’s what a marriage is; That’s what a friendship is. I see the power of communities all over the world and engagement as a prayer. Things are shifting just at the same time when we wonder if collapse is eminent. . . . I think there’s great participation and awareness happening. That’s the part of what I was trying to embrace when I looked at erosion in the land and erosion of democracy, of decency, of compassion, of science, of all of these things.” She reminds us that love and beauty is felt in chaos, in heartbreak, and in the intimacy of family. She also reminds us that water can crack stone. She encourages us in her avowal: “Who knows the reach of ceremony? What is your story? What is my story? What is our story together? To me the question that I hold ‘Is earth not enough?’ And how do we place our hands on the earth and remember where the source of our power lies? Day in, day out, these are my devotions.” Here we stare down our present situation without flinching but with radical hope. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Terry Tempest Williams is a naturalist, environmentalist, and award-winning author. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and her work is widely taught and anthologized around the world. In 2014, on the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, Ms. Williams received the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award honoring a distinguished record of leadership in American conservation. She currently is the writer in residence at Harvard Divinity School and divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts and Castle Valley, Utah.

Terry Tempest Williams is the author of many books including:

To learn more about the work of Terry Tempest Williams go to 

Topics Explored in This Dialogue 

  • Why Bears Ears National Monument continues to be in the news and in the courts
  • Why we must continue to be engaged in these threshold times of erosion and evolution
  • How Williams saw the Grand Canyon for the first time
  • How erosion is a weathering away of something yet is also associated with both beauty and movement
  • Why we must stand together even in our different viewpoints and disagreements
  • What was a writing exercise for her students called “Weather Reports” that involved interviewing local citizens on “What keeps you up at night?”
  • Why sacred circles that inspire deep listening can be a healing place
  • Who is Willie Grayeyes and how did he stand inside the open space of democracy
  • Why we must dwell in community without anger so that true healing can take place
  • Why grief is a form of love and is necessary in loss and death and even applies to the environment
  • What does it mean to go deeper into all aspects of our lives
  • What was it to bear witness to her brother’s cremation and the healing that comes from “staring it down”
  • What story the Yeibichi dances and the bluebird people brought to Williams
  • Why holding the earth is not enough, we must place our hands on the earth as a source of power
  • How the earth is alive and there is a recording of the sandstone Castleton Tower in Utah of the pulse of the Earth
  • Why we need to go beyond anger to heal; it is a process of eroding and evolving at once
  • Why we must let go of our certainty to come back into a place of communion and communication 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 12/13/2019   Program Number: 3691

Music Playlist

From Album: Prayer For Compassion
Artist: David Darling
2009 Wind Over the Earth #WE2340

Opening Essay: Track 01: Untold Stories
Music Break 1: Track 02: Prayer for Compassion
Music Break 2: Track 03: Stones Start Spinning
Music Break 3: Track 04: As Long as Grasses Grow and Rivers Run