TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS
PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRISTINA SEELY
The Gates of the Arctic are open.
We arrived by wings.
An Otter with wings delivered us here —
It was here, a yellow-billed loon called from the lake.
It was here, a circle of white wolves — five on the flanks of the
mountain — appeared.
It was here, an emissary of crowned caribou emerged from a fold
in the land.
We arrived just before the snows.
The tundra was red, gold, and green.
My presence was dark. I had just signed a restraining order
against my brother, not because of him, but because of me. I was
afraid for both of us. My heart had become a violence, a ticking
time box that forgets nothing and holds everything red.
The tundra was red and gold with blueberries.
I picked blueberries with the bears, each of us keeping our distance. There were more than enough to share.
I was with friends and my husband, Brooke, who knew enough
to let me be.
This is wilderness, to walk in silence.
This is wilderness, to calm the mind.
This is wilderness, my return to composure.
There was a mountain shaped like a pyramid. Each day, I sat
before it. Each day, something happened. Changing light from
the changing weather animated the geometry of the slope. A
bear walked by. Cotton grass swayed in the breeze. Down feath-
ers tumbled across the tundra. Morning frost melted quickly.
The mountain was a glorious indi=erence, a repeating grace, a
geologic fortress that softened in the shadows.
I walked toward the mountain. I climbed its talus slope, rocks
wavering with each step. It was arduous. I kept going. My imagination reached the summit before my legs. The view was vast. I
was small. I found relief.
We handed my brother’s gun to the sheri= in Wyoming. What
we didn’t know is that in Wyoming, it is a felony to take another
man’s gun. We took my brother’s gun. We were detained at the
Teton County Jail. Felony charges were pending.
I care about my brother.
I care about wilderness.
To care is to lament.
My brother is a wilderness, unknowable.
Sitting with the mountain, I gain strength. A stability of soul is
Stillness is an abiding presence in the form of a fox watching,
waiting for a hare. The hare is hidden from the fox, also waiting,
watching for the moment to flee. The mountain remains when
both are gone.
What happens when wilderness is gone?
What will remain?
Great pains are taken for those we love: Brother. Wilderness. Fox
To take pains suggests a sustained carefulness, an e=ort to see
that nothing is overlooked but that every small detail receives attention, as to “take pains with fine embroidery.”
Before the Great Mountain this sentence comes to mind: “Weave
grasses together for no reason and you will find god.”
In wilderness, there is no reason, and so I weave grasses.
In our species, there is no reason, and so we go mad.
The grasses I am weaving together remove me from my mind,
my terrible, violent, creative mind. The storm brewing inside
me is passing. I have made a small mat of grass as a resting