Family, Environmentalism, and Hardship.

In the book Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, there were themes that I not only enjoyed reading, but also felt resonated with me sincerely. For instance, a great theme I thought was implemented could be summed up in a quote from Williams that states “We haven’t figured out that time for ourselves is ultimately time for our families. You can’t be constantly giving without depleting from the source.” (Williams 117) I found this to be an extraordinary quote that encapsulates many aspects of this book. Not only that, but it and reminded me of past experiences that I have lived through that are similar to Terry’s.

It is the hardest thing in the world to see someone you love unconditionally be in pain and have to fight for his or her lives. The terror in their eyes when they’ve heard they have cancer, the extraneous procedures every other day, the fear and anxiety of what will happen. Just having cancer can eat away at you mentally just like it is doing physically. My grandmother died about 5 years ago, yet she fought an egregious battle. When we all found out she had breast cancer, everyone in the family was by her side and gave her strength.

Her life source was being depleted from the cancer so we tried to lift her up both physically and in spirit. She started getting better and the cancer went into remission! My grandmother from the other side of the family suggested we vacation to Florida for 2 weeks in order to rejuvenate our minds after all the hardship, yet the doctors advised my grandmother stay in the hospital. By the time we got back from vacation, the cancer spread to her liver and she was in a coma. She died about 3 days later.

Family is an important thing and people who love you and show support really do add to ones “energy source”, in my opinion. For me, time for myself is time for my family, for I feel like I am my most true self around them. My vovó (Portuguese for grandmother) was an immense giver and was the most selfless person I had ever met. The whole concept of you cannot give without depleting from the source made sense, for she gave and gave and barely received much in return. She took care of my mentally challenged aunt day in and day out, cleaned rich peoples houses for 5 hours every day, and had to deal with my grandfather who would always be criticizing her for everything, on top of that all, she was an immigrant that couldn’t speak English well, so people didn’t treat her nicely. Sometimes when somebody gives too much without receiving, it can take a real toll on both body and mind. I can only imagine how tiring that was.

Another way I looked at this quote was in a sense of environmental distress. As much as we see the world in terms of societal progress for economic gain, we often leave out what the cost is of this action. Take a look outside and all around Keene for example, the structures, roads, everything one sees was built at the cost of depleting from the lands original sources. Progress is a natural action to strive for, but there are controversial factors in regards to the process in which how this exactly happens. An extreme example is the depletion of trees in Brazil’s Amazon Rain Forest. Brazil is somewhat of a poor country, so in order to excel their profits they have chosen to monotize on paper products. While this will make them quite a lot of money and will help some people live better lives, the ecosystems within those habitats will be destroyed to smithereens. Animals, plants, and even people will be forced to face their demise with no say or even considerance to the environment and its inhabitants.

Since the industrial revolution up until a few decades ago, much of society has been focused so much on changing the world to their pleasing, we forget that we are not God and there are severe repercussions that will follow. It is extremely important to remember our connection with the natural world and that we have absolutely no right to alter or tarnish anything we have not created ourselves. Terry Tempest Williams telling us about what happened regarding the pumping of the Great Salt Lakes and how some people said they did not try to act with resistance because it was happening and just how it was are pretty ignorant patterns of thinking in regards to the natural world being harmed. It is our social and moral responsibility, in my opinion, to speak up against acts such as these, and if everyone came together to do such, an impact would be made and change would naturally follow. Although we have come quite a long way in this regard of being “green”, we still have a long way to go as humans as far as respecting this Earth unconditionally.



In essence this book was both a memoir, a real dramatic situation with members in her family battling breast cancer, as well as a great social commentary on the environmental dismantling of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Ultimately, this book resonated with me greatly on a personal and intellectual level. Terry’s stories are unique, important, and iconic. For me, this book has made me more environmentally aware, for I had no prior knowledge to this situation of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. I would recommend this book to just about anyone due to its versatile story telling, truth, activism, and overall depth.

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