Authors Uncovered: Brooke Williams & Open Midnight, Library 7/12

Do you believe in ghosts?

Is it possible that new life, or better, new perspectives could spring from the shadows of a dead relative?

Brooke Williams would answer ”yes.”

In fact, Williams gives a full-throated response in the affirmative in his latest book, “Open Midnight: Where Ancestors and Wilderness Meet.”

Meet Brooke Williams on Wednesday, July 12,  7 p.m., at Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library where he is the featured speaker in an ongoing series entitled “Authors Uncovered,” co-hosted by the Telluride Library and Between the Covers Bookstore.

Brooke Williams, author, “Open Midnight,” at Telluride Library 7/12.

Brooke Williams has spent the last 30 years advocating for wilderness. He is the author of four books, including “Open Midnight,” plus “Halflives: Reconciling Work and Wildness,” and “The Story of My Heart,” by Richard Jeffries, as rediscovered by Brooke Williams and Terry Tempest Williams.

Williams journalistic pieces have appeared in Outside, Huffington Post, Orion, and Saltfront. He and his wife, renowned, aforementioned author Terry Tempest Williams, divide their time between Utah and Wyoming.

“Open Midnight” is a memoir that celebrates life and nature, with a focus on wilderness, external and internal.

The story, rather two stories, are derived from a rich, spicy stew of ideas that include, but are not limited to, ghosts and how our ancestors might hold the key to the doors to our inner world and collective unconscious – structures or archetypes of the unconscious mind shared among beings of the same species.

The ambitious, lyrically evocative narrative is seasoned with cameos by the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, and his Big Idea, the collective unconscious; Erwin Schrödinger, quantum physics, and multiverses; Charles Darwin and the science of evolution; ancestral immigration; the transformative powers of nature and wilderness.

Perhaps the transformative powers of being out in nature is a giant “DUH,” for those living in Telluride, but we are guessing that conclusion – as many conclusions on the subject to date – is largely empirical and qualitative. It is not based on the study of alpha waves for example. However, an evolving science – nature neuroscience to be exact – focuses on the impact of the nature on our minds and bodies and suggests that regular exposure can now take its rightful place next to kale, aerobic exercise, yoga, and meditation as one of the newest – and oldest – miracle cures, an antidote to the modern malaise of stress and screen addiction and the secret to a longer, happier, healthier, more creative life.

In other words, environmental activists could be asking the wrong question. Reframing, it may not be about saving wilderness; it may be about wilderness saving us.

But just how complementary is the external, perceived wilderness with our internal wilderness?

“Open Midnight” weaves, as mentioned, two parallel stories about the great wilderness—Brooke Williams’s year alone with his dog, ground-truthing backcountry maps of southern Utah, trying to find ways to save the wild from modernization, and that of his great-great-great-grandfather, William Williams who, in 1863, made his way with a group of Mormons from England across the ocean and the American wild almost to Utah, dying a week short of his destination.

The narrative follows two levels of history too, moving from the personal as represented by Brooke Williams forbear, to the universal or collective, as represented by Charles Darwin, who lived in Shrewsbury, England, at about the same time as William Williams and who might  – or might not – have been his friend.

As Brooke Williams began researching the story of his oldest known ancestor, he realized he was armed with only a few facts. He wondered if a handful of dates could tell the story of a life, writing, “If those points were stars in the sky, we would connect them to make a constellation, which is what I’ve made with his life by creating the parts missing from his story.”

Thus William Williams becomes a kind of spiritual guide, a shaman-like consciousness who accompanies the author on his wilderness and life journeys, appearing at pivotal points when the author is required to choose which path to take, often predictably picking the one less traveled.

The mysterious presence of his ancestor inspires Williams to create imagined scenes in which his ancestor meets Darwin in Shrewsbury, sowing something central in the DNA that eventually passes to Williams, whose life has been devoted to nature and wilderness.

Grounded in the present by his descriptions of the Utah lands he explores, Williams’s vivid prose pushes boundaries and investigates new ways toward knowledge and experience, inviting readers to think unconventionally about how we experience reality, spirituality, and the wild.

“Open Midnight” beautifully evokes the feeling of being solitary in the wild, at home in the deepest sense, in the presence of the sublime – and in the company of ghosts.

“For years, Brooke Williams has undertaken a series of extended journey through the magnificent gardens of rock and solitude that stretch across the remotest reaches of Utah’s backcountry, from the edges of the Book Cliffs and the depths of Canyonlands and the back doorstep of the San Rafael Swell. In the pages of his new book, ‘Open Midnight: Where Ancestors & Wilderness Meet,’ a celebration of these physical odysseys morphs with and evolves into an inner journey that involves exploring and grappling with the no less provocative and challenging wilderness terrain inside Williams’ own mind—and, moreover, doing so in a manner that helps to illuminate and enrich both spaces. A  unique and courageously original examination of the ways in which the past and the present as well as the external and the interior can be drawn together around the twin lodestars of beauty and memory to create a swirling constellation of ideas that is as clear and bracing as a starlit winter’s night,” Kevin Fedarko, Author, “The Emerald Mile.”

“Open Midnight is a kind of prayer — for peace, for connection between land and people, and for the future of the species,” Santa Fe New Mexican.

“Brooke Williams weaves together personal and collective history to show how the outer, physical wilderness grants access to one’s own inner wilderness,Moab Times -Independent.

To learn more, click the play button and listen to Brooke Williams’ podcast.

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Susan Viebrock

Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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