Ashes from a community destroyed by the Santa Rosa fire in 2017.
Photo by Gabrielle Lurie, San Francisco Chronicle

Her home was destroyed when the Santa Rosa wildfire roared through her neighborhood in western California. She and her family were unharmed, but she lost everything: useful things, things that are the keepers of memories, the things you love for no particular reason, clothes, furniture, all those things that were geared toward the future and new plans.
For months, she just concentrated on surviving. Then, gradually, she started returning to her charred community. She would ride her bike through the streets, sometimes feeling disoriented, because everything was so changed. She would stop and weep. The land seemed to hold her and enable her to tap into her sorrow in a way that was more difficult in other circumstances.
She also stopped whenever she encountered another person, someone who, like her, had returned “home” for the same compelling, if mysterious reason. Together, they told their stories, remembered together, grieved together. That shared grieving, they discovered, actually helped them to heal.
Is this Radical Joy for Hard Times? she wondered. Indisputably so. Because just facing the wound is the first act of beauty, bravery, and transformation.

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.

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