Composing a Life: Life as a Work in Progress

Book Review by

Composing a Life by Mary Catherine BatesonComposing a Life: Life as a Work in Progress

Author Bateson, daughter of anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, looks back on her life, reflecting on the roles women are called upon to play: wife, mother, artist/author. She weds an enlightened feminism to her deep respect for traditional roles as she describes the challenge of refashioning her life on several occasions following her husband’s career-related relocations.

Though I last read this book over ten years ago, I am still struck by the precision of her central metaphor. She compares the construction of a new life in a new place to the process of piecing a quilt – making something new and useful and beautiful out of the scraps and pieces of cloth that are available.

Bateson’s metaphor is apt, for all of us. Change is a constant, and rather than resist it or fear it, it is well to move into it with curiosity and aliveness, alert to the creative possibilities that will be revealed, ready to reassemble life into new and useful and, yes – beautiful patterns, no matter what the texture or pattern or color of the scraps we are given to work with.