Finding Beauty in a Broken World Terry Tempest Williams Pantheon Books 10/08 Hardcover $26.00 ISBN: 9780375420788 http://astore.amazon.com/all-gadgets-20/detail/0375420789 Terry Tempest Williams is the Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. In 2006, she received the Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society, the highest honor given to an American citizen. She is the author of many books including Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert, Leap, and An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. Williams begins this work describing a workshop in Ravenna, Italy, where she learns about the art of mosaics. She works with the cutting of marble, glass, or stone pieces into cubes using a chisel-like instrument called a hardie. "A mosaic is a conversation between what is broken," she says. Part of the human adventure is to recompose a unity out of what is broken. Williams realizes that she is learning a new language that has to do with light, color, and time. Another language confronts her when she volunteers as an observer in a research project studying threatened prairie dogs in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. These endangered social creatures have been around for a long time and have been labeled a keystone species, meaning they have a pronounced effect on biological diversity in prairie systems. Nearly 400 Utah prairie dogs disappeared in the summer of 1999 at the Cedar Ridge Golf Course in Cedar City, Utah. It is believed they were gassed to death. Elsewhere they are victims of long-range rifles in shooting contests. These rodents are viewed as enemies to agriculture and talked about as expendable varmints. For two weeks, Williams takes copious notes on the prairie dogs she sees from an elevated platform. She watches them rising in the morning, taking naps at midday, and retiring at dusk. Minding the prairie dogs expands her connections to them, and she feels compassion for them and their communities: "To regard any animal as something lesser than we are, not equal to our own vitality and adaptation as a species, is to begin a deadly descent into the dark abyss of arrogance where cruelty is nurtured in the corners of certitude. Daily acts of destruction and brutality are committed because we fail to see the dignity of Other." Williams demonstrates a way of extending our appreciation for community as she opens her heart to the prairie dogs. It is what Albert Schweitzer called a "reverence for life." In the presence of the wild beauty of the prairie dogs, Williams affirms her responsibility for the health and well-being of the other species on the planet. In the last section of Finding Beauty in A Broken World, Williams travels to Rwanda after being asked by Lily Yeh, a Chinese-American artist to join a band of "Barefoot Artists" who are helping to build a memorial in the village of Rugerero to the million victims of the 1994 genocide. The author searches her soul and states: "I came to Rwanda to step over my own fears and find out for myself how a people who carry the history of genocide in their hearts not only begin to heal but move forward in the name of forgiveness and acceptance." The memorial project brings hope to a people worn down by death, disease, violence, and helplessness. It gives hope to the survivors and is a sign that some people outside Rwanda care about their plight. Houses are painted in the village, and beauty nurtures their sense of community. Williams is glad to be part of the healing in this broken place. She returns to America with a surprise that sums up her experiences of making mosaics, watching prairie dogs, and participating in the renewal of one village in Rwanda. This accomplished and daringly spiritual writer concludes with: "The beauty made belongs to everyone. We all bow. "Finding beauty in a broken world becomes more than the art of assemblage. It is the work of daring contemplation that inspires action."