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1 Beaverton Nature Studies- Natural History

Finding Beauty in a Broken World

by

Finding Beauty in a Broken World Cover

 

 

Excerpt

We watched the towers collapse. We watched America choose war.

The peace in our own hearts shattered.

How to pick up the pieces?

What to do with these pieces?

I was desperate to retrieve the poetry I had lost.

Standing on a rocky point in Maine, looking east toward the horizon at dusk, I faced the ocean. “Give me one wild word.” It was all I asked of the sea.

The tide was out. The mudflats exposed. A gull picked up a large white clam, hovered high above the rocks, then dropped it. The clam broke open, and the gull swooped down to eat the fleshy animal inside.

“Give me one wild word to follow . . .

And the word the sea rolled back to me was “m o s a i c.”

Ravenna is the town in Italy where the west arm of Rome and the east arm of Constantinople clasped hands and agreed on a new capital of the Roman Empire in 402 AD. It was a pragmatic decision made by a shift in power, the decline of Rome and the rise of Byzantium. A spiritual history of evolving pagan and Christian perspectives can be read in a dazzling narrative of cut stones and glass.

Eloquence is spoken through the labor of hands, anonymous hands of forgotten centuries. With eyes looking up, artisans rolled gold tesserae between their fingers in thought, as they searched for the precise placement in domes and apses where light could converse with glass. Jeweled ceilings become lavish tales. I want to understand these stories told through fragments. I am an apprentice in a mosaic workshop.

Her name is Luciana. She is my teacher. Her work is unsigned, anonymous. Like the mosaicists before her who created the ancient mosaics that adorn the sacred interiors of this quiet town, she conducts the workshop in the traditional manner outlined centuries ago.

The tools required: a hammer and a hardie. The hardie is similar to a chisel and is embedded in a tree stump for stability. A piece of marble, glass, or stone, desiring to be cut, is held between the forefinger and thumb of the left hand, placed perpendicular on the hardie. The hammer that bears two cutting edges, gracefully curved, is raised in the right hand. With a quick blow, a tessera is born, the essential cube in the crea- tion of a mosaic.

Her name is Luciana. She is a mosaicist in the town of Ravenna. She has no belief in invention or innovation. “It has all been done before,” she says. “There are rules.”

1.The play of light is the first rule of mosaic.

2.The surface of mosaics is irregular, even angled, to increase the dance of light on the tesserae.

3.Tesserae are irregular, rough, individualized, unique.

4.If you are creating horizontal line, place tesserae vertically.

5.If you are creating a vertical line, place tesserae horizontally.

6.The line in mosaic is supreme; the flow of the line is what matters so the eye is never disturbed or interrupted.

7.The background is very important in emphasizing the mosaic pattern. There must always be at least one line of tesserae that outlines the pattern. Sometimes there will be as many as three lines defining the pattern as part of the background.

8.There is a perfection in imperfection. The interstices or gaps between the tesserae speak their own language in mosaics.

9.Many colors are used to create one color from afar. Different hues of the same color were always used in ancient mosaics.

10.The distance from which the mosaic is viewed is important to the design, color, and execution of the mosaic.

11.The play of light is the first and last rule of mosaic.

Luciana will tell you once that you learn the rules of ancient mosaics, only then can you break them. She places a gold piece of glass between her finger and thumb on the hardie and holds the hammer at the base of its wooden handle. Ting—she strikes the gold smalti into the exact shape she desires.

“You can learn this technique in fifteen minutes,” she says. “It will take you a lifetime to master it.”

A mosaic is a conversation between what is broken.

The very language of tesserae tells us that this harmony is only achievable through the breaking and then rediscovery of the mosaic fragments.

NATASCIA FESTA, Nittola

You will see that the vibration, the movement, the tremor, the shimmering of that lapidary colour, of that colour of stone or enamel tessera is obtained also by staggering the connection between one tessera and another, by not putting them at the same level, often by making one protrude in respect to the one next to it so as to obtain effects of marginal refraction that give a value of vibration to the entire colour.

GIULIO CARLO ARGAN, Mosaico damicizid fra i popoli

A mosaic is a conversation that takes place on surfaces.

A mosaic is a conversation with light, with color, with form.

A mosaic is a conversation with time.

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Neil Reid, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Neil Reid)
This will serve only to introduce one of many fine books by this author, Terry Tempest Williams. She is a keen observer, and participant, in matters of nature, matters of craft and art, and matters of heart to all of us. Her prose borders poetic phrase. She shares what is pleasing for the eye and as well what is challenging to accept - something of truth about exactly who we really are, as a people, as stewards of purpose too.

Finding Beauty in a Broken World could hardly be any more appropriate and precisely in these times and situations we now live. Shattered stones, shattered lives, shattered nature, all abound. We all know to what measure our lives and world right now teeters upon an edge, already broken some, and awaiting dire more. What simple wisdom shall we seek?

Here is one. And as she begins this book, the very topic itself contains one answer, embracing all just as it is, yet inherent with promise still, and here expressed through her labors learning by experience the craft and art of mosaic. A conversation with what is broken, as she says.

A simply brilliant and just appropriate response! I'll leave the rest for you to discover yourself. Well worth the read even if you stopped after that first experience and near poetic dance.
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Sandy Haechrel, December 10, 2008 (view all comments by Sandy Haechrel)
From one review: Lily Yeh, who 'understands mosaic as taking that which is broken and creating something whole,'...

This is so on the mark, I can't wait to read this new book; the quote also reminds me of "Broken For You", by Seattle author Stephanie Kallos - read it, too!
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(5 of 9 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375420788
Author:
Williams, Terry Tempest
Publisher:
Pantheon
Author:
Williams, Terry Tempest
Subject:
Animals
Subject:
Aesthetics
Subject:
Essays
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20081007
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
432
Dimensions:
9.44x6.40x1.38 in. 1.46 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Natural History » General

Finding Beauty in a Broken World Used Hardcover
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Product details 432 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780375420788 Reviews:
"Review" by , "With hypnotic prose...Terry Tempest Williams inhabits the post-9/11 world wide awake, utterly open, completely feeling. Taking notes in shattered worlds as her own family breaks and reshapes into something surprising and completely beautiful, Williams presets us with an incredible achievement, a beautiful, terrible, wonderful, hopeful witness. The farthest thing from insanity I've read."
"Review" by , "How a book could be this gentle and this heartbreaking simultaneously I do not know. But over a simple trajectory of mosaic-to-prarie-dog-to-comtemporary-genocide, Terry Tempest Williams leads us with methodical accuracy into the devastations and delights of now."
"Review" by , "Scientific in her exactitude, compassionate in her receptivity, and rhapsodic in expression, Williams has constructed a beautiful mosaic of loss and renewal that affirms, with striking lucidity, the need for reverence for all of life."
"Review" by , "A deep-running meditation on reaching for the sublime despite obstacles."
"Review" by , "Williams discovers her way along a path that...leads to an unlikely yet inspired destination."
"Review" by , "The book requires some effort, yes. The mind is not always ready to connect pieces....But Williams fills Finding Beauty in a Broken World with so many glinting surfaces that the mind wants to connect them."
"Review" by , "[A] provocative, disturbing and profoundly important book....Williams' most important, most visceral, most demanding work. It should — no must — be read."
"Review" by , "[A]n ambitious, even audacious, work....It's a comfort to have Williams in our midst, reminding us of the mosaic formed by every creature on Earth."
"Review" by , "[A] resounding hymn to creativity, community and engagement."
"Synopsis" by , "Terry Tempest Williams' tools are words, ideas, sentences, fragments. She uses them to dig into chosen corners of our world, and to illuminate some unknowns in flickering light." — Washington Times

"With hypnotic prose--reminiscent of John Berger in its poetry--Terry Tempest Williams inhabits the post-9/11 world wide awake, utterly open, completely feeling. Taking notes in shattered worlds as her own family breaks and reshapes into something surprising and completely beautiful, Williams presets us with an incredible achievement, a beautiful, terrible, wonderful, hopeful witness. The farthest thing from insanity I've read."

--Alexandra Fuller, author of The Legend of Colton H. Bryant

"How a book could be this gentle and this heartbreaking simultaneously I do not know. But over a simple trajectory of mosaic-to-prarie-dog-to-comtemporary-genocide, Terry Tempest Williams leads us with methodical accuracy into the devastations and delights of now."

--John D'Agata, author of Halls of Fame

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