RadJoy Beauty for a Place with a Heavy History

Tom deBree (center), Sasha Daucus (right), and participants in their RadJoy Practice near Rocky Flats, Colorado. Nuclear weapons were produced at this site for 40 years.

On Monday, August 12, Sasha Daucus and Tom deBree did the RadJoy Practice at Rocky Flats, Colorado, a place with a toxic past, a complex present, and a perplexing future. From 1952-92 Rocky Flats was a nuclear weapons production facility. In the years since it was closed, declared off limits, and completely avoided by humans, it has become a refuge for wildlife. And on Saturday, September 15, the land was reopened to the public with newly blazed hiking and biking trails.
Sasha writes: We gathered on a beautiful clear morning. The blue sky and sparkling water of Standley Lake, which borders the eastern side of Rocky Flats, made for an idyllic view. It was hard to imagine that under this almost fantastically beautiful landscape lay land that was contaminated by plutonium.
People who came to the Earth Exchange were from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences related to Rocky Flats. This made for a very interesting and compatible group.  After short introductions, we all left to experience the land. We came back together to share our experiences. It was noticeable that people were feeling better after this experience of connecting with the land than they had at the beginning. After sharing we began to create the RadJoy Bird.
It was during this process that something really lovely happened. A park ranger came to ask what we were doing. He was glad to talk about his perspective, answer questions and listen to us. As the group left, people felt uplifted and happy that they had come. I would rather that places like Rocky Flats didn’t exist, but they do, and I feel an increased sense of courage and stability in my life when I take some time out to notice and connect.
Tom adds: A hawk was flying overhead as we arrived. And after the event was completed and the group disbursed, Sasha and I hung out talking, gathering up supplies and cleaning up our meeting site. The Park Ranger returned. His reason was to tell us that he had read through some of the materials we gave to him and was very grateful for our dialogue, information and what we were doing. That was a treat!

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

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