Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fragmentation and Mosaic Building

Sometimes a theme seems to repeat itself time and time again in my life, knocking at my mental door saying, "Notice me! Notice me!"

I've been having one of those times over the last few weeks, and the theme that keeps repeating itself has been that of life breaking, things breaking, ecosystems breaking...and the restoration of functional, even beautiful, objects and lives through rebuilding, creating mosaics, and puzzling together the pieces.

Tonight I finished reading Pinhook, by Janisse Ray, a short book subtitled Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land. In it, Ray is telling the story of Pinhook Swamp, an important natural connection between the great Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia and the Osceola National Forest in the panhandle of Florida. There has been a push in recent years to purchase the "land" of Pinhook to complete this connection (in the human, legal "world", that is) and thus to restore a large natural area to some semblance of integrity and intact functioning.

Ray tells her story, ironically enough, in fragments: chapters, with interspersed sections of paragraphs that give ecological or social commentaries. These interspersed commentaries become almost like a voice-over in a television documentary, or like a learned professor pointing out the deeper significance of what we're reading.

Pinhook is a tale of an ongoing attempt to heal fragmentation in our natural world through repurchase and restoration. Terry Tempest Williams' Finding Beauty in a Broken World, which I read recently, explored the effect of fragmentation on prairie dogs and humans and looked to mosaic as a metaphor for healing that fragmentation.

Fragmentation and rebuilding has been appearing in my fictional reading as well. Broken for You, by Stephanie Kallos, is a fictional narrative that explores healing human brokenness through a mosaic of new human ties. Olive Kitteredge, by Elizabeth Strout, builds a portrait of a woman through the mosaic of stories showing how she has affected other lives around her throughout her lifetime.

Bringing all of these themes of fragmentation and rebuilding together into Prairiewolf's and my lives as we settle further into our "new" environs, our days are increasingly being made beautiful through a mosaic of old and new friends, and our land is becoming increasingly healthy (hopefully!) through a slow restoration of the mosaic pieces of native prairie flora and fauna.

Fragmentation of the old. Rebuilding, restoring or simply building something totally new from the pieces of the old. Life mimics art; art mimics life. And so it goes.

1 comment:

treesneday said...

I love Janisse Ray's writing, especially her work Ecology of a Cracker Childhood about her own fragmented childhood growing up in the longleaf pine forests of the south, what was meaningfull to her and esentially how she developed her love for these natural areas. Although I read it many years ago, it is one of those books that I will never forget.

A year or two ago I read, and highly recommend, An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas by Diane Wilson. It is a powerful but determined true story of one woman's fight for truth in the face of fragmentation of habitat, culture, health, politics, big business, and personal relationships.

What both of these books share is also the determination of women, despite the fragmentation in their lives, to pursue their dreams and take action upon what is wrong to make it right.