Women in desert raising fists

Twenty Words During Lockdown, Day 12: Woman

By Pam Houston

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These 20 words were assigned to Pam Houston by her friend, the writer and photographer Kyle Wolff, as part of Project 2020 (Quarantine Edition). She gave Pam and others a word most mornings, and the assignment to write to that world and either take or find a photo to go with it. These 20 words and photographs by Pam Houston are appearing daily in Terrain.org through June 20, the summer solstice.

April 10, 2020


The last thing I did in the world before this virus struck was to gather with four women writers (plus Mike) in the desert for a writing workshop. It was the first few days of March. The virus was bearing down on the country. None of us knew exactly what it would mean (not that we do now). But one thing it might mean, if we are particularly smart and lucky and persistent, is that the reign of terror that men like Trump and McConnell and Kavanaugh and Limbaugh (and so forth) have enacted on this country for decades will finally be over. Which democratic countries are doing the best at flattening the curve, at reducing deaths, at getting people tested? Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Germany. What do they all have in common? Female heads of state. With some notable exceptions, for women, I think, life, breath, health, is more important than money. We have now seen how untrue that is for many men. It is likely that we may get this pandemic under control right about the moment climate change starts to kill people (to say nothing of animals, ecosystems) in earnest. It has never been clearer that it is time for women to take charge, all across this country, all across the globe.

Women in the desert raising fists



Pam HoustonPam Houston is the author of the memoir Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, which won the 2019 Reading the West Advocacy Award, as well as five other books of fiction and nonfiction, all published by W.W. Norton. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level on a 120-acre homestead near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. A book co-written with activist Amy Irvine, Air Mail: Letters of Politics, Pandemics, and Place, is forthcoming from Torrey House Press in October 2020.
Read Pam Houston’s Letter to America in Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, published by Terrain.org and Trinity University Press and view a video of Pam reading her Letter to America as part of a Dear America town hall.

Photos courtesy Pam Houston.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.