Journalist, adventurer and award-winning photographer John Noltner was frustrated with the angry rhetoric of the world. He saw an increasingly polarized public sphere through the consumption of “fear-based” media.
So he set out across the United States in search of something he believes inspires and connects us despite our differences – stories of peace.
On Wednesday, Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace, Noltner will release his second book, “A Peace of My Mind: American Stories.”
The book is filled with a diverse collection of ordinary Americans who share extraordinary stories of transformation, forgiveness and hope, all in response to the simple question, “What does peace mean to you?”
Since 2012, Noltner has driven more than 40,000 miles across the United States, meeting people and following leads, like a detective hot on the trail of peace. Each story is represented by a two-page spread that includes a portrait, a short excerpt, and a mark on the United States map.
Of the 58 points throughout the book, one marks our own, Moab.
It was here that Noltner found two significant pieces for his book. The first is a photograph of a double rainbow sunset peeking through a storm over Arches National Park – the photo Noltner claims as his favorite. The second is an inspirational tale from local resident Taylor Bond.
“I loved the scenery around Moab, and I wanted to go to the Southwest,” says Noltner. “I Googled ‘Moab’ and ‘Peace’ and got the Peace Tree Café.”
Local resident Evan Hallwind was serving at the café, and shared a story with Noltner that can be found on his website, www.apomm.net. Noltner told Hallwind he was looking for someone who climbed, and Hallwind sent him across Main Street to the climbing shop Pagan Mountaineering, an esteemed Moab climbing shop.
Bond was in the middle of a shift there at the time, and Noltner set up an interview with him. Bond’s story of peace is now depicted in Noltner’s new book, among 58 others.
Noltner says he sought out honest stories from survivors of violence, refugees, civil rights activists, artists, ranchers, veterans, ex-prisoners and many others to reveal insights into ways we can work toward common good and create a world that is more just for all.
Noltner began seeking out these stories for his first book, “A Peace of My Mind,” released in 2011. The stories were primarily gathered in Minnesota and are now reproduced as two traveling exhibits that move across the country to engage public dialogue.
South African peace activist Ela Gandhi, who is the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, wrote the foreword to “A Peace of My Mind,” and the book won a gold medal in the Midwest Book Awards. Its success led to the creation of the national collection gathered in “A Peace of My Mind: American Stories.”
Noltner’s peace project has been presented at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, the Gandhi-King Conference and the Sojourners Summit for Change, as well as colleges and community centers across the country.
He is looking forward to his second book’s release, and is gearing up for an international expedition to produce a third book.
When asked what peace means to him, Noltner replies that he believes his definition has changed over the course of his project.
“We are never going to live in a world without conflict,” he says. “Peace is how we respond when we encounter conflict. We always have a choice as to whether we want to make things better or worse.”
New book features local resident’s thoughts on peace
We are never going to live in a world without conflict … Peace is how we respond when we encounter conflict. We always have a choice as to whether we want to make things better or worse.
To learn more about the book, go to www.apomm.net.