Someone asked me the other day how to find joy in these hard times of the coronavirus.
And I had to say that experiencing joy in such times is less the result of “finding” it than of being open to it.
As I face this pandemic with every other human on the planet, I ricochet between fear, grief, hope, love of the quiet, nostalgia, gratitude for my loved ones, anger, the urge to escape …. All are real. None is permanent.
If I set out to find joy, I might be disappointed. I might try to snatch at instants I think might be joy, only to discover that they just don’t penetrate very deeply. And then I might get discouraged and think, well, there really is no joy in hard times. It’s just plain hard and miserable.
But if I am open to dark emotions, acknowledging them without taking refuge in them, then I find I am cracked open wide enough to be flooded with radiant emotions as well. I feel sadness, but also wonder, joy, sweetness. The smallest thing can move me deeply.
Today, for example, on a gloomy, back-to-winter day, when the aisles of the supermarket were almost empty and people were keeping their physical distance while greeting each other with smiles of we’re-all-in-this-together, and all the headlines on the newspaper stand screamed a worsening situation…. I did not find but was found by some little pansy plants. And they are giving me joy.

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:

  • Pansies: Owned by the author


  • IMG 5758

How Is It Possible to Love a Hurt Place?

Shortly after meeting in Cazenovia, New York in 2009 to design our new organization, Radical Joy for Hard Times founding member Noah Crowe experimented with the practice we’d devised to find and make beauty in [...]

  • Mind The Heart Copy

How to Fill a Hole

What do you do with a big hole? Do you negotiate around it? Do you figure it’s beyond repair and try to ignore it? Or do you take the RadJoy approach and fill the hole [...]

  • Joanne At Shell

Reimagining the Unimaginable

Author and educator Joanna Macy has taught that there are three positive ways of dealing with a difficult situation: 1.     Fight to save what matters 2.     Work to create new, positive alternatives 3.     Change consciousness Sometimes, if we’re [...]

More Revealed



Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.