Where Ancestors and Wilderness MeetA memoir of wilderness, metaphysical transformation, ancestral immigration, and Charles Darwin
Open Midnight weaves two parallel stories about the great wildernessBrooke Williams’s year alone with his dog ground truthing wilderness maps of southern Utah, and that of his great-great-great-grandfather, who in 1863 made his way with a group of Mormons from England across the wilderness almost to Utah, dying a week ...
As Brooke Williams begins researching the story of his oldest known ancestor, he realizes that he has few facts. He wonders if a handful of dates can 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 shamanlike consciousness that accompanies the author on his wilderness and life journeys, and that appears at pivotal points when the author is required to choose a certain course.
The mysterious presence of his ancestor inspires the author to create imagined scenes in which Williams meets Darwin in Shrewsbury, sowing something central in the DNA that eventually passes to Brooke Williams, whose life has been devoted to nature and wilderness.
Brooke Williams’s inventive and 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. The author draws on Jungian psychology to relate how our consciousness of the wild is culturally embedded in our psyche, and how a deep connection to the wild can promote emotional and psychological well-being.
Williams's narrative goes beyond a call for conservation, but in the vein of writers like Joanna Macy, Bill Plotkin, David Abram, the author argues passionately for the importance of wildness is to the human soul. Reading Williams's inspired prose provides a measure of hope for protecting the beautiful places that we all need to thrive.
Open Midnight is grounded in the present by Williams’s descriptions of the Utah lands he explores. He beautifully evokes the feeling of being solitary in the wild, at home in the deepest sense, in the presence of the sublime. In doing so, he conveys what Gary Snyder calls a practice of the wild” more completely than any other work.
Williams also relates an insider’s view of negotiations about wilderness protection. As an advocate working for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, he represents a minority in meetings designed to open wilderness lands to roads and hunting. He portrays the mindset of the majority of Utah’s citizens, who argue passionately for their rights to use their lands however they wish.
The phrase open midnight,” as Williams sees it, evokes the time between dusk and dawn, between where we’ve been and where we’re going, and the unconscious where all possibilities are hidden.
"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
... a complex book.... In a partly imagined biography reconstructed from the few details of William Williams' life that still survive, Williams follows his ancestor's journey from Shrewsbury, Darwin's hometown, to death on the wagon crossing of Wyoming." — Moab Sun News
Brooke Williams' prose is magnificent — lyrical, evocative and encompassing. Readers will see clearly the wild beauty of southern Utah and be reminded of the spiritual nourishment that only comes through nature. 'Open Midnight' is an expanding experience, one that will change forever how readers see life, death and those who have gone before us.” — Deseret News
What history books don't record about his ancestor, Brooke Williams beautifully and thoughtfully invents." — Salt Lake Tribune
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
“Williams has given great and long thought into the state of humans in and out of touch with wild nature. It’s easy to believe by reading 'Open Midnight' that wilderness is vital to our continued survival. For the receptive reader, Williams’ volume will generate much food for thought and instill a desire to head for the hills. Or desert, river, bluff or anywhere where solitude and nature can work their magic and give relief from our fast-paced daily lives.” — Durango Herald
“Williams spent a year alone verifying maps of the southern Utah desert, where he felt a deep connection to the landscape. He wanted to understand that connection, and found an answer in the imagined story of his ancestor William Williams. Nature and wilderness, he concludes in his new book, are part of his DNA.” — Radio West
“If Williams has one familiar narrative in his life that shines through in this book, it is his love of wild places.” — Durango Telegraph
- Association for Mormon Letters Creative Non-Fiction Award
- 15 Bytes Book Award in Nonfiction