Recently, an active member of the RadJoy network who lives in England expressed discouragement that so many of the people she tries to talk to about our practice of finding and making beauty for hurt places simply don’t want to hear about it. When gas fracking pierces farmlands, when highways cut close to ancient stone circles, when climate change mutates the seasons and brings wildfire and flooding… why, our friend wondered, won’t people acknowledge their fear and sorrow?
Who wants to confront the sad, the ugly, the polluted with a view toward finding something beautiful there and giving something beautiful back? Truly, it takes guts to do this work of Radical Joy for Hard Times! And yet, there are those among us — including those of you who read this blog — who are not afraid to face the hard places on the Earth and in people’s hearts. You know that we humans are deeply attached to our places and that, when those places are hurt, we hurt too. You are willing to face that hurt, even to open up to it, for you know that, in that process, other emotions arise: gratitude for what you have, courage for what you are willing to do, a glimpse of beauty in some surprising way, and newfound compassion and connection with friends and former strangers. There is also the unmistakable sense that the place you are visiting is alive, that it welcomes the creativity and care you give.

It is said that any person who is an adherent of the Chinese goddess of compassion, Kuan Yin, is willing to keep the cries of the world alive. The sadness of broken places pervades the Earth. Those who are willing to face those places, to offer them love and attention, to make wild, spontaneous acts of beauty for them are of this lineage.

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:

  • Strickland GEx Gas Tanks: Christi Strickland

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