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For week ended November 28, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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'Halflives' reveals author's wild center

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

'Halflives' reveals author's wild center
Deseret News 28Nov99 A2
By Diane Urbani: Deseret News staff writer

"Halflives: Reconciling Work and Wildness" is a story of Brooke Williams' journey from plumbing supplies salesman to accomplished author and revered naturalist. Through a series of trying events, Williams managed to marry his love for the wilderness with his need to work.

Williams is a Salt Lake native and the great-great grandson of Brigham Young. As a young man his father brought him into a successful family business, Rex W. Williams &Sons. Surrounded by his family's hopes, Williams soon felt his life splitting in two.

"One winter, I found an orange in my ski pack that had been there since spring. The peel was brittle. The fruit inside had withered and shrunk to something hard and lifeless," Williams writes in his new book. After graduating from college, Williams met and married Terry Tempest, his self-described kindred spirit. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1975.

Williams always admired his father's work ethic, but disliked being a business man himself. He felt suffocated by the suit, computers, the car. Yet, he stayed with his job until middle age. He lived to ski the Wasatch: "After a snowstorm, I feel like the first person who's ever been there." He rushed into the mountains after work. Recreation, not relaxation, was a physical craving.

"Recreation....the word doesn't accurately explain what I feel at the end of an eight-hour hike in the Uinta Mountains, nor does it explain my exhilaration after a week of living in a sandstone cave," Williams writes. "Not recreation but creation: Life itself."

Through the 80's Williams tried living a double life. One afternoon he took off skiing, making it back in time for a business dinner. Halfway through the business meeting with his client, a sizable twig fell out of his beard onto the white tablecloth. By 1991, Williams summoned the courage to leave his family business. "I still get edgy when I talk about the job I left and what I gave up," he writes. "In our culture, what I did seems ludicrous, irresponsible, and just plain stupid."

At 47, Williams and his wife life in Castle Valley between Moab and the Colorado border. He continues to write and teach. He has authored "Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place" and "Desert Quartet." His wife is the editor of "New Genesis: Mormons Writing on the Environment" and "Great and Peculiar Beauty: A Utah Reader."

Williams runs Confluence Associates, a consulting firm, and works with people in rural communities who try to care for the environment while sustaining small businesses. He talks with entrepreneurs about river trips, log-cab motels, custom-made fly rods and low-impact grazing for better beef.

"The deeper you go, the more you see that inside, we all know each other. You have to surround (the story) with your basic personal truth so that people can say, 'OK, I'll go with you on this.'"Williams hasn't gone to church in years but senses God in Utah's landscape. "I guess I can't imagine any place more beautiful than this planet."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information