In his book, Rust Belt Arcana, Matt Stansberry boldly interweaves the Major Arcana of the Tarot into an exploration of the lives and habits of such denizens of northern Ohio as fireflies, possums, puffball mushrooms, box turtles, skunk cabbage, and Lake Erie.

Stansberry not only consults with naturalists to learn more about these local neighbors, he seeks them out himself, often with his young sons, by prowling around at night in search of salamanders, fishing, and running through a meadow with his face turned skyward to watch Monarch butterflies.
Besides a compendium of wonders, this book is also a kind of eulogy, for any nature lover today knows all too well how imperiled our planet is from climate change, mineral exploitation, habitat destruction, and pollution. In the final chapter of this small book, illustrated by (illustrations by David Wilson) Stansberry addresses his readers directly in a way that closely mirrors the perspective of Radical Joy for Hard Times. After naming some of the many species that are likely to become extinct, he writes:
“Even as habitat loss wipes out individual animals, species, even entire earth processes, we will still be surrounded by some forms of resilient wildlife…. Nature dies hard. It may not be as diverse or beautiful as what existed just a couple of days before, but it is still there…. There is still plenty of time to roll in the dirt in the forest. Stare out at Lake Erie. Listen to the wind. Don’t live separately from the world. Don’t despair.”
— Trebbe Johnson

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

Image Credit:

  • Matt Stansberry: David Wilson

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