The other day I drove over to the farm of my neighbors a few miles down the road, because I needed some maple syrup, and they have been tapping their own trees and maple sugaring for decades.
After I bought the syrup, the woman and I stood outside the sugar house by my car. It was a beautiful day, with a deep blue sky, and the trees here in northeastern Pennsylvania were at their autumn glorious peak.
My neighbor and I talked not about the weather but about grief. My husband died two months ago. Hers is very ill, and she isn’t sure he will recover. We talked about how hard it is to witness the suffering of someone you love so much and feel so powerless to help. We talked about how painful it was for me to walk into my house for the first time the morning after Andy died and how her husband had fallen the night before and she’d had a very difficult time getting him up and back to bed.
Suddenly she exclaimed, “Look at that tree!” Across the road was one of their sugar maples, flashing its brilliant golden foliage against the cerulean sky.
We just stood there together for a minute and reveled in the beauty of the tree.
This neighbor and I have always politely liked each other, but we’ve never had a serious conversation. I know that we’re voting for different candidates for president next Tuesday. But there we were on that autumn afternoon, sharing both our deep sorrow and our celebration of autumn’s extravagant beauty.
In the midst of this time of immense grief, I felt 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.

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