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The Time I Stopped to Read Terry Tempest Williams’ Comments

Connection is a peculiar thing. Especially online. We buzz by so many things so quickly that we often miss these opportunities to learn the art of intimacy.

Case in point, I ran across the photo above that the marvelous writer Terry Tempest Williams posted to her Facebook page a few days ago. The accompanying caption read simply:


I casually “liked” her post and found myself revisiting the image several times. I identified with it, having grown up in a magical landscape of immersive skies and thundering plains. Then, for some unanticipated reason, I scrolled through the comments. And the gentleness of people’s responses drew out this back story from Terry Tempest Williams:

“It is wonderful to share this image and feel your responses. Thank you.

This place is a healing grace. When I am away it continues in me. A blood landscape. We came back to bury our beloved basenji, Rio. Our friends called us and said, ‘The time has come.’

We left New Hampshire where we are teaching, picked him up in Salt Lake City, and please believe me when I tell you, we arrived home in Castle Valley, and Brooke and I took turns holding Rio on the porch from three in the afternoon until six. He perked up; we took him on a walk and he loosened up his old little body, and within minutes, there he was again, Rio of the Desert, with his elegant little prance running through the maze of sage, his feet dancing on the soft red sand.

He had his mischief back, the light in his eyes had returned. He was doing his job, guiding us through the desert. The air become cool with a slight breeze. Meadowlarks still calling to one another from the tops of sage. The sun set behind Porcupine Rim, Adobe Mesa and Castleton Tower lit up like fire, and Rio kept trotting ahead of us as he always has. He stopped, turned around, and sniffed the air.

Brooke and I don’t know what to do. The dog we brought home in the desert to bury has never been more alive. He led us back home through the eroding wash. We resumed our seats on the porch and watched the encore light gather around us until first stars appeared. The Milky Way begin writing its its signature of peace above us as we were held by the night.”

Sometimes we buzz through our social media streams and forget to pause, connect, and read more deeply. This is one I might’ve missed on most occasions if I hadn’t slowed down. When we pause and pay attention, the gift of a story just might present itself more often.

Update (May 4, 2014): I’ve come to learn that Rio had a peaceful passing and was buried on Saturday “beneath the full moon.” Terry wrote:

“Our animal companions are our teachers. Rio remained spirited and wild until the end. His eyes were always focused on the hunt, his nose raised to the wind. Tender at times, impossible at times, intelligent always, soulful often, very amusing, and elegant in his gait running between sage. Whenever he heard ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ he howled.”

P.S. Terry Tempest Williams offers stories of neighborly collaboration that turns into environmental protection, and the value that comes from vitriolic disagreement inside families in this conversation, “The Vitality of the Struggle”:

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